Newsies, photo by Deen van Meer
The end of spring marked the close of the traditional Broadway theater season, and last month’s Tony Awards honored the best of the new productions that premiered last season. But the real winners of this most recent Broadway year were the audiences, who found a refreshing variety of shows.
Past Broadway seasons have brought crops of shows that have hit many of the same notes: sometimes somber, sometimes irreverent, sometimes dripping with nostalgia for 20th-century pop culture. But this season defied that trend, with producers mounting shows to appeal to a more diverse set of theatrical palates.
For groups, the greater diversity presents the likelihood of finding one or two that will apply to a particular demographic of travelers. And the season of shows set to open this fall should continue to give bank travel managers a greater range of choices when they are planning trips to New York.
‘One show for every group’
For companies that sell theater tickets in New York, the diversity of this theater season has proved a welcome development.
“I think that one of the interesting things about the theater this past season is that when you look at it, there’s going to be one show for every group,” said Dennis Martin, group sales director for Broadway.com and Group Sales Box Office. “We’ve had seasons before that were light on family fare, or there were no comedies, or everything was edgy. This year, we sort of got the gamut, and there’s a good surviving show for everyone.”
Even among shows that have won Tony Awards, travel planners can find productions to suit their individual demographic profiles.
“‘Once’ won the Tony for best musical, and it was one of my favorites, but you’re not going to want to take the kids to it,” Martin said. “‘Newsies’ is very family friendly, and the score is rousing. ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’ is a modern reworking of an old-fashioned Gershwin musical that older audiences will really like. And ‘Ghost the Musical’ is the ultimate date musical; the score is new and youthful.”
“Once” was the big winner at the Tonys, racking up eight awards. Based on an Oscar-winning film of the same name, the show follows the friendship and romance of an Irish musician and a Czech immigrant as they spend time together writing songs.
Several other popular shows were based on films as well. “Newsies” enjoyed huge success as a screen musical in the 1990s, telling a story loosely based on the 1899 paperboy strike in New York. The Broadway show won the Tony for best score and includes many of the popular songs from the movie, in addition to six numbers newly written for the stage.
“Ghost” also made the transition from screen to stage. The stage version was adapted from the 1990 romantic drama that starred Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. Producers added an entirely new score to turn the drama into a musical.
The legendary Gershwin brothers also had a great year on Broadway. A new version of their classic show “Porgy and Bess” won the Tony Award for best revival of a musical. And a number of their famous songs were repackaged into “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” which won two awards for best performances by an actor and an actress.