June 5, 2015

New To Broadway? Start With These Must-See Musicals

By Erica R. Hendry

The marquee for Les Miserables is seen May 27 near Times Square

The marquee for Les Miserables is seen May 27 near Times Square

Broadway ticket sales are higher than ever. But with so many options, and such high prices, where does the uninitiated Broadway viewer start?

New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley gave us a starter list of shows to get acquainted with iconic character and styles.

  • “Oklahoma!”: This musical from Rodgers and Hammerstein debuted in 1943, and would become the model for the next four decades of “organic” musicals, shows in which song and dance seemed to spring naturally from the story line. (In the same vein from the same composers, Rodgers and Hammerstein, try “Carousel” and “South Pacific.”)
  • “Gypsy”: The best musical character portrait ever created (meaning the ultimate stage mother, Momma Rose) and possibly the most perfectly integrated musical of all.
  • “West Side Story”: Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim put us in the 1950s world of two teenage gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, in the Upper West Side – a social conscience, a heart and a libido, all in one swooningly operatic package
  • “Chicago and Cabaret”: A social conscience is at work, too, in these two urbane musicals from the songwriting team of  Kander and Ebb, but in a far harsher way. These musicals are strictly for grown-ups.
  • “Company”: This 1970 musical comedy is one of the first of the so-called concept musicals, in which story-line was secondary to theme. It’s also the show that made Stephen Sondheim its greatest proponent.
  • “The Phantom of the Opera”: The longest-running musical in history, and the template for the British poperetta that ruled Broadway through the 1980s and early 1990s.

Seen those? Here are Brantley’s top picks on Broadway now:

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