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Broadway Beckons


By Joan Marcus, courtesy Matilda the Musical


There’s no better place for live theater than New York, and the city’s Broadway community continues to mount impressive productions that thrill visitors and inspire the rest of the theater world. The 2012-2013 season brought a combination of classic revivals and new musicals that have proven to be favorite shows for groups, and the 2013-2014 season looks to have a number of blockbusters in the making as well.

Here’s your guide to the latest crop of great shows on Broadway, as well as a preview of what is expected to open this fall and next spring.

‘Matilda the Musical’
When it opened in London’s West End in 2011, “Matilda the Musical” became the most celebrated stage production in the history of British theater, winning a record-breaking seven Olivier awards, including the award for best new musical. This spring, the Royal Shakespeare Company brought the show to Broadway, where it opened in April.

The musical is based on the beloved children’s story by Roald Dahl, which tells the story of the 5-year-old title character who uses her love of reading and active imagination to change the world around her. Eighteen original songs were created for the show. Four child actors take turns playing the lead role, accompanied by a colorful cast of adult players.

Like its West End predecessor, the Broadway version of “Matilda” has been widely heralded by critics. The show received 12 Tony nominations and won four of those awards, including best book of a musical and best featured actor in a musical for Gabriel Gilbert.

‘Kinky Boots’
Perhaps the most celebrated new show to open on Broadway this season was “Kinky Boots,” a boundary-pushing musical from an all-star creative team. Broadway veteran Harvey Fierstein wrote the book, and newcomer and ’80s pop sensation Cyndi Lauper wrote the music and lyrics for the show.

“Kinky Boots” is based on a little-known 2005 comedy film of the same name that was, in turn, loosely based on the real-life story of a shoe company in England. The musical plot follows the young heir of an outdated shoe factory in a small English town as he searches for ways to keep his father’s struggling business afloat. A chance encounter with a drag performer in London prompts him to create a line of “kinky boots” built sturdy enough to suit men, causing an uproar in his conservative town.

Although the show avoids overt references to sexuality, the production’s focus on drag couture and culture may make it a dicey fit for some groups. It hasn’t scared off critics, though: “Kinky Boots” has won wide acclaim in the Broadway community and took home six Tony awards in June, including the awards for best musical and best score, Lauper’s first such theater award. Billy Porter, who plays the lead drag character, won the award for best actor in a musical.