2002 on Broadway

Broadway Theatres (Wikipedia)

Broadway showed signs of early recovery in 2002 despite the dramatic decline in tourist activity since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The Tony Awards presented a New York medley as an act of resilience and dedication to the wonderful city, featuring songs from On the Town, Guys and Dolls and Follies.

Musicals of the season remained light-hearted, with a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s 1988 piece Into the Woods starring Vanessa Williams as the Witch. The production took a glossier look at the musical, inspired by Williams’ glamour and managed a reasonable run and successful cast recording. Directed by book writer James Lapine, the show delivered a new reading of the show with reworked sections of music to give the show a sense of maturity and development.


Thoroughly Modern Millie Poster (Wikipedia)

The return to light hearted entertainment brought Broadway two feel-good musicals, the first Thoroughly Modern Millie which opened at the Marquis Theatre in April. Based on the 1967 film of the same name, Millie was tap-happy and provided New York with exactly the type of show it needed, winning six Tony Awards including Best Musical. The show made a star out of chorus girl Sutton Foster, who took on the eponymous role at short notice, after Kristin Chenoweth left to film a sitcom. She went on to win the Tony and began a successful career as a Broadway leading lady. The show managed 903 performances, closing in June 2004.

The second musical of theyear to be based on an old film was the refreshing Hairspray, written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman which opened in August. It succeeded in winning 8 Tony Awards the following year, and ran for over 2,500 performances at the Neil Simon Theatre. Harvey Fierstein let himself go playing Edna Turnblad in drag, and was joined by the little known Matthew Morrison, who would shoot to fame at the end of the decade in the hit TV show Glee. Broadway legend Twyla Tharp attempted to get on the jukebox musical bandwagon as she presented a danced version of Billy Joel’s Movin’ Out at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in October. The show proved popular with Joel fans, keeping it alive until December 2005.

As part of Richard Rodgers’ centenery celebrations a new production of Flower Drum Song opened at the Virginia Theatre on October 17. American playwright David Henry Hwang decided to bring the show to Broadway despite some political incorrectness that many Chinese Americans associated with the movie adaptation. Hwang was given permission to rewrite the dialogue, although he was not allowed to change any of the lyrics. Robert Longbottom joined the production team to help with rewrites and direct the new show. Critics hated the production, despite mainly positive reviews from audiences. The show was not able to run through the Tony Award period, closing in March 2003 losing its initial investment.

Oklahoma! Playbill (vinylsearcher)

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! opened at the George Gershwin Theatre in March, transferring the 1998 London production directed by Trevor Nunn. Hugh Jackman did not reprise his role as Curly, instead Patrick Wilson put on the cowboy hat alongside Josefina Gabrielle and Shuler Hensley, the only two performers from the London cast. The show featured choreography by Susan Stroman, who went on to win the Tony Award. The production was not as well received as in London, closing after 388 performances.

Another successful revival opened at the Martin Beck Theatre in November. The Man of La Mancha starred Brian Stokes Mitchell and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in Dale Wasserman and Mitch Leigh’s musical based on the epic novel ‘Don Quixote’. The show ran for over 300 performances, featuring the song ‘The Impossible Dream’ Stokes Mitchell was heavily praised for the role, although did not win the Tony Award for Best Actor.

In contrast, a new production of The Elephant Man opened at the Royale Theatre directed by Sean Mathais and starring Billy Crudup and Kate Burton. Based on the life of Joseph Merrick the play did not inspire audiences, closing after 57 performances. Another failure for the season came from Jim Steinman’s The Dance of the Vampires at the Minskoff Theatre, opening in December and closing after only 56 performances. The rock musical was based on the Roman Polanski film and had additional lyrics by Don Black.

2002 was the year of the film musical, with blockbusters such as Chicago hitting our screens, eventually winning the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy). Catherine Zeta Jones was joined by Rene Zellweger and Richard Gere in the classic Broadway show, reaching new audiences and instigating new interest in the musical in both New York and London.

Movin' Out Poster (Wikipedia)

 2002 Broadway Season

Anything Goes – Vivian Beaumont, Dance of the Vampires – Minskoff, Flower Drum Song – Virginia Theatre, Funny Girl – New Amsterdam, Hairspray – Neil Simon, Into the Woods – Broadhurst, Man of La Mancha – Martin Beck, Movin’ Out – Richard Rodgers, Oklahoma! – George Gershwin, Once on this Island – Winter Garden, The Boys from Syracuse – American Airlines, The Crucible – Virginia Theatre, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? – John Golden, The Graduate – Plymouth Theatre, Thoroughly Modern Millie – Marquis Theatre.