Getting Excited! The 2017-2018 Season: Musical Revivals
The 2017-2018 season is certainly shaping up to be an exciting one, with new musicals coming out of the woodwork throughout. It isn’t exactly a bad year for musical revivals with three titles (so far) that have us eagerly anticipating their productions. Today, I take a look at the three big musicals revivals that have been announced and explore why we are excited by their return.
Once on this Island
First up is Once on this Island, the musical that debuted on Broadway in 1990 after a successful tryout at Playwrights Horizons. Based on the novel My Love, My Love by Rosa Guy, it tells the story of young girl on a Caribbean Island who, guided by the Gods of the island, goes on a journey to find the young man, with whom, despite his being of a different class, she has fallen in love. The musical features a vibrant, calypso-flavored score by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, and a book by Ahrens. Set to open December 3, the cast will feature Lea Salonga, Alex Newell, Merle Dandridge, Quentin Earl Darrington, and will introduce Hailey Kilgore in the role of Ti Moune.
Why We are Excited: The production will be directed by Michael Arden who is quickly establishing himself as one of Broadway’s most innovative directors. He is promising a unique production with non-traditional instrumentation and found objects. Most importantly, Once on this Island wasn’t given its due the first time around, dwarfed by bigger musicals such as Miss Saigon and The Will Rogers Follies. Time has revealed it to be an enduring musical full of atmosphere, charm, and heart. This revival should magnify that and establish the show as a bonafide hit.
Arguably Rodgers and Hammerstein’s finest musical, their 1945 musical Carousel is certainly one of the more thematically- challenging musicals in their canon. Opening on Broadway on April 12, 2018, Carousel tells the story of the New England factory worker Julie Jordan who falls in love with the rakish carousel barker Billy Bigelow. Their quick romance and subsequent marriage turns into a heartbreaking tale of his losing his job, domestic abuse yielded by his arrogance and fear, and his ultimate need for redemption. Jessie Mueller (Beautiful, Waitress) and Joshua Henry (Hamilton, Shuffle Along) are set to play the leads with Tony winner Jack O’Brien at the helm directing.
Why We are Excited: Carousel is one of the great musicals. It challenges us to deal with imperfect people making bad choices. It is, perhaps, one of the most human of all Broadway musicals, fraught with doubt, uncertainty, and stubbornness. Though it will be near-impossible to top the magical Nicholas Hytner production of the 1990s, the opportunity is always there to see Carousel through new eyes, finding new ways to get at the heart of these flawed characters. And, of course, there is that Rodgers and Hammerstein score, from the pulsing strains of the start of “The Carousel Waltz” to the final soaring notes of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” that take our heart on soaring journey.
My Fair Lady
Our final musical revival is set to open on April 19 at Lincoln Center. Lerner and Loewe, the heir-apparent (structurally, anyway) to Rodgers and Hammerstein, crafted a musical out of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion about how social class is established by patterns of human speech. Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle finds herself at the center of a wager, she will be the guinea pig in an experiment of phonetics when Professor Henry Higgins bets that he can turn this “guttersnipe” into a duchess at the Embassy Ball. My Fair Lady originally opened on Broadway in 1956, quickly ensconcing itself in the books as a Broadway classic. This revival, set to be directed by the always compelling Bartlett Sher, will feature Lauren Ambrose as Eliza and Harry Haddon-Paton as Henry Higgins.
Why We are Excited: The musicals that Bartlett Sher directs in the glorious space at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre have been universally magical and intelligently thought out. He is particularly at his best when handling Rodgers and Hammerstein. Though we were a bit startled by some of the announced cast, we know My Fair Lady is in capable hands and this revival should be an exciting culmination of the forthcoming seasons in revivals.
Keep your eyes open for my forthcoming piece on the NEW musicals of the 2017-2018 season.