2005 on Broadway

Spamalot wins Best Musical (wikipedia)

After last season’s strong battle for the Tony Award, a host of new musicals arrived for the 2005 Broadway Season which would once again change and develop the face of theatre over the decade. The biggest hit of the year came in an unusual form as Monty Python’s Spamalot hit the stage, opening officially on March 17. The show gathered such momentum during previews that most performances were sold out, giving the show much hype and a fantastic advance, the highest in Broadway history at over $18million. The show described itself as being “lovingly ripped off from” the 1975 film ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’, as like the film the show parodies Arthurian Legends. Eric Idle, an original member of the Monty Python team wrote the book and lyrics for the show, collaborating with John Du Prez who penned the majority of the music. The show received a record breaking 14 Tony nominations, eventually scooping up the Best Musical prize. The show played for over 1500 performances at the Schubert Theatre, grossing over $175million. Tim Curry took the original role of King Arthur, along with David Hyde Pierce as Sir Robin. Original Python member John Cleese was involved with the production, providing the voice of God. Fans of the original film praised the musical, which acted as a fantastic parody of the genre as a whole, with pastiche songs taking a jibe at musicals such as West Side Story, and The Producers. Despite producers always looking on the bright side of life, the show closed in 2009, yet still enjoys successful regional tours.

The Cast of Jersey Boys, Broadway 2005 sesason

Jersey Boys appeared to reinvent the juke box musical genre, opening at the August Wilson Theatre in November, after a lengthy try out period in California. Unlike the successful Mamma Mia, Jersey Boys is a documentary style musical which chronicles the formation, success and collapse of the 1960s rock sensation ‘The Four Seasons’. The story is narrated by each band member, giving a true and honest account of their rise to fame, within which many of their songs feature. The show surprised many critics, who weren’t able to resist the charm and power of the music itself, told in a refreshing style. The show is kept alive by a particular type of audience member, and has gained cult status and followings, who are willing to see the show multiple times.

Whilst theatres were packing in audiences regularly throughout the year, 2005 was the year of the big budget film musical. On the back of Chicago’s commercial and critical success, film adaptations of Rent and The Phantom of the Opera were released, with the latter doing considerably better at the box office. Mel Brooks continued to flog the cash cow, taking The Producers back to the big screen, reuniting Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in their successful roles. All Shook Up a new musical featuring the songs of Elvis opened at the Palace Theatre directed by Christopher Ashley with musical supervision by Stephen Oremus. Set in the midwest, Cheyenne Jackson rocked the stage as Chad, bringing classic songs such as ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ to life in a new story from book writer Joe DiPetro. The show closed after 213 performances.

The transfer of West End hit musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang opened at the Hilton Theatre on April 28, starring Raul Esparza as Caractacus Potts. The show reworked some elements of the London production but added a new song ‘Think English’ in place of ‘Think Vulgar’ sung by Goran and Boris in Act One, the former being played by the original Baker in Into the Woods  Chip Zien. His original Baker’s Wife Joanna Gleason starred alongside John Lithgow, Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott in the new musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels which opened at the Imperial Theatre on March 3. Featuring music by David Yazbek and a book by Jeffrey Lane the colourful show is based on the film of the same name, set on the French Riviera where con artist Lawrence Jameson attempts to tricks wealthy women of their money. On a similar theme, David Mamet’s play Glengarry Glenn Ross opened at the Royale Theatre in a new production by Joe Mantello. Showing the darker side of the real estate industry in Florida, the revival opened on April 30 starring as Alan Alda as out on his luck salesman Shelly Levene. Tennessee Williams was also well represented with two revivals; the first starring Jessica Lange and Christian Slater inThe Glass Menagerie at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, and the second at Studio 54. A Streetcar Named Desire opened on April 26 and starred the late Natasha Richardson as Blance du Bois and John C Reilly as the feisty Stanley Kowalski. The production was praised by critics, with many finding Richardson’s vulnerability adding to the classic role. One of the more interesting revivals of the year came from the Belasco Theatre, as Denzel Washington opened in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Directed by Daniel Sullivan, Washington played an imposing Brutus alongside William Sadler’s Caesar in a modern adaptation of the classic tragedy.


Little Women the Musical (wikipedia)

Adaptations of Little Women and The Light in the Piazza proved to be initially popular but failed to live up to the hype of the blockbusters. Little Women played at the Virginia Theatre and starred Sutton Foster in the lead role of Jo, but even her belting top ‘E’ couldn’t pull in the crowds, and it closed in May after a mere 137 performances. The Lincoln Centre’s production of The Light in the Piazza was directed by Bartlett Sher and featured Kelli O’Hara and Matthew Morrison. It played from April 18 to July 2 and was broadcast on PBS, drawing substantial audience numbers. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of The Woman in White transferred to Broadway’s Marquis Theatre to miserable reviews and lasted a mere 109 performances. The production was affected by star Maria Friedman’s battle with cancer, who was unable to perform the gruelling 8 show a week schedule. Health problems were also the theme for Christina Applegate who starred in a new production of the Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields musical Sweet Charity which opened at the al Hirschfeld Theatre on May 4 directed by Walter Bobbie. The bouncy revival captured the essence of the 60s but did not go deep enough into the darker side of Charity’s life, bubbling around the surface of Applegate’s character. The production failed to display the grittier side of the Fandango Ballroom but managed a respectable run until December 31. Applegate was replaced by Charlotte D’Amboise, and not Brittney Spears as the Rialto chatter had predicted.

William Finn’s new musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee opened on May 25 at the Circle in the Square Theatre directed by James Lapine. The show became famous on the fringe scene due to the interactive nature, as three members of the audience are invited to partake in the onstage spelling contest. This clever one act musical was like A Chorus Line in nature, sharing the lives and stories of contestants at a Spelling Bee in a humorous but sometimes bitter sweet way.

The Color Purple (wikipedia)

The final large musical of the year came in December as Oprah Winfrey’s production of The Color Purple – the Musical opened at the Broadway Theatre after a run in Atlanta. Based on Alice Walker’s seminal novel of the same name the show ran for an impressive 910 performances, recouping its initial investment within the first year, grossing well over $100million to date. Broadway veteran LaChanze played the lead role of Celie, winning the Tony Award for Best Actress the following year. The show quickly achieved a cult following and had a strong audience base as Winfrey was able to publicise the show on her various TV outings, generating free publicity.

Shows opening on Broadway

A Streetcar Named Desire – Studio 54, Absurd Person Singular – Biltmore Theatre, All Shook Up – Palace Theatre, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – The Hilton Theatre, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – The Imperial Theatre, Doubt – The Walter Kerr Theatre, Glengarry Glen Ross – Bernard B Jacobs Theatre, Jersey Boys – August Wilson Theatre, Little Women – The Virginia Theatre, Monty Pyton’s Spamalot – Schubert Theatre, Sweeney Todd – Eugene O’Neill Theatre, Sweet Charity – Al Hirschfeld Theatre, The Color Purple – The Broadway Theatre, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee – Circle in the Square, The Light in the Piazza – Lincoln Centre, The Woman in White – The Marquis Theatre