2003 on Broadway

Wicked the Musical (Wikipedia)

“Something Wicked this way comes…” In 2003 Broadway was ready to accept the global phenomenon that would be Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked as it moved into the Gershwin Theatre in October, after a tryout production in San Francisco. Based on the 1995 novel ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’ the musical challenged the story of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, by telling audiences ‘a lot happened before Dorothy dropped in…’ Starring the spunky Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda, Idina Menzel as Elphaba and Joel Grey as the Wizard the show was a critical disaster. Audiences however said otherwise, and the show became an instant success, making household names out of the performers and standards out of the challenging score. The show continues to ‘defy gravity’, mounting numerous international productions and continuing to play to packed houses.


Avenue Q (wikipedia)

In direct contrast to the multi-million pound mega musical, it was a smaller off-Broadway show that was catching the critics (and eventually the Tony Awards committee) eye. Avenue Q, the ‘full frontal puppet nudity’ musical had humble beginnings off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre from March – May, before transferring to the John Golden Theatre on July 31st. The production was directed by Jason Moore and featured puppet design by Rick Lyon. The production grossed over $117million and played 2,534 regular performances, before moving back off-Broadway in 2009. The show received mainly positive reviews, with many praising its satire and fresh approach to the musical genre.


Bernadette Peters (starone39)

British theatre Director Sam Mendes set out to prove he could conquer Broadway after achievements at the Donmar Warehouse, reviving the classic show Gypsy in May at the Schubert Theatre. Bernadette Peters was chosen to step into Ethel Merman’s huge shoes, and was met with much praise from book writer and original director Arthur Laurents, who described her performance as ‘brilliant’. Laurents was less that impressed with Mendes’ production, feeling it was ‘misconceived’, inspiring him to revive the show himself later in the decade before he died. The production did not recoup its total investment, closing in May the following year, and didn’t transfer to the West End as Bernadette had hinted on many occasions.

The other contender for Best Musical came from Australian Hugh Jackman in the premiere of The Boy from Oz, a jukebox musical based on the life of Peter Allen. The show had its world premiere in Australia in 1998, and opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on September 16th. The show ran for over 300 performances and was popular with critics, with many praising Jackman’s performance. Revivals were well represented with a new production of Nine starring Antonio Banderas, Chita Rivera, Marni Nixon, Rebecca Luker and Laura Benanti, providing an excellent female ensemble. The show ran for only 283 performances but earned a number of Tony Award nominations for performances.

Rosie O’Donnell was determined that the transfer of Boy George’s musical Taboo would be a success, investing millions of dollars of her own money. The show was not met with general applause, instead it was kept alive by a core group of fans. Donna Murphy starred in a revival of Bernstein’s epic musical Wonderful Town, and was replaced later in the run by Brooke Shields.


The 2003 Broadway Season

A Day in the Life of Joe Egg – American Airlines, Avenue Q – John Golden, Big River – American Airlines, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Music Box, Chess – New Amsterdam, Gypsy – Schubert, Little Shop of Horrors – Virginia Theatre, Long Day’s Journey Into Night – Plymouth Theatre, Nine – Eugene O’Neill, Taboo – Plymouth Theatre, The Boy From Oz – Imperial Theatre, The Play What I Wrote – Lyceum Theatre, Wicked – George Gershwin, Wonderful Town – Al Hirschfeld