Best and Worst of 2017 in Theatre

2017 was a year that was full of highs and lows, particularly when it came to the the world of theatre. Here are the moments that, for better or worse, remain most memorable as we review the past year. 

Best of

Dear Evan Hansen became the Little Musical that Could
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Following the record-shattering success of Hamilton in 2016, it seemed no new musical could garner the type of critical and commercial acclaim in 2017. That is, until Alexander Hamilton met his match in Evan Hansen. Dear Evan Hansen became the year’s must-see production and earned six Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Actor for Ben Platt. It was met with wide critical acclaim for its music (which also won the Best Original Score Tony) and portrayal of mature themes like mental health, drug use and suicide, and continues to churn out impressive figures from the box office even after Platt left the starring role in November.

The Lion King reaches roaring milestone

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When Disney’s 1994 animated smash The Lion King was proposed as a Broadway musical, many were skeptical the story wouldn’t translate well from the screen to the stage. Luckily, director Julie Taymor’s creative vision for the feat paid off in a big way, and The Lion King became a stunning spectacle that just celebrated 20 years on Broadway. It now not only serves as the highest-grossing show on Broadway but also the second longest-running, trailing The Phantom of the Opera. And with a star-studded live-action remake of the film due out in 2019, the story remains as beloved as ever, so it’s safe to assume plenty more years of the Broadway production are in the cards.

The Boss belongs on Broadway
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Bruce Springsteen threw quite a curveball when he announced plans for a special Broadway series aptly titled Springsteen on Broadway. What was originally scheduled to be an eight-week stint has exploded in popularity and caused the rock legend to extend the series twice already, with shows now promised through the spring of 2018. The show has not just been a smash hit commercially—as the intimate Walter Kerr Theatre is packed for every performance—but critically, as well, with many praising the raw sincerity The Boss puts in to his music and the stories that inspired it.

Worst of

The Great Comet‘s Controversy

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 began its short-lived run on Broadway as a promising production with a vibrant score, interesting story with a historical basis, and talented actors at the helm, including recording artist Josh Groban in his Broadway debut. The show picked up two Tony Awards among its 12 nominations in the spring, though its achievements would soon be quickly forgotten in the wake of a controversial casting decision. Fans fumed when it was reported that Broadway veteran Mandy Patinkin would replace Hamilton actor Okieriete Onaodowan in the role of Pierre in a decision that many viewed as racially biased against the black Onaodowan. The widespread public backlash led Patinkin to drop the project and the show closed weeks later.
Cats closes its curtain
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The curtain will close once more on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, which will give its final performance at New York’s Neil Simon Theatre on December 30. The current production opened up last year to more buzz than most revival shows, however, the magic could not last in the long run and the show announced over the summer it would be ending after 17 months of performances. The musical’s original Broadway production was a Tony-winning smash hit, which currently stands as Broadway’s fourth longest-running shows for it’s 18-year run. While Cats may soon leave Broadway, there is good news for fans: a 2019 North American tour is already in works for the production.