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The Broadway stage is no stranger to politics. While dazzling musicals and sidesplitting comedies offer world-class entertainment and escape from the woes of day-to-day life and political controversies, some of the most powerful dramas engage their audiences in thought-provoking examinations of politics. From recounting the mistakes or triumphs of great historical figures or presenting imagined futures where society has taken drastic turns, theatre affords a unique opportunity for audiences to question their own views. Similarly, theatre has the power to inspire action, using the thrill of life performance to forever change how viewers engage with the world around them. Here we take a look at some of the politically charged productions currently running on Broadway, alternatively offering dark takes on the not-too distant future, or hopeful musings on the nature of human iInterconnectivity.
In the wake of a divisive political season, a provocative new stage adaptation of George Orwell’s quintessential dystopian tale 1984 has taken Broadway by storm. The politically geared drama offers a look at an imagined future where an authoritarian regime has come to power. Viscerally adapted by British theatre artists Robert Icke and Duncan MacMillan, 1984 tells the story of everyman Winston Smith who works for the Ministry of Truth, re-writing newspaper articles from the past so that history reflects positively on the ruling party, thereby ensuring their rule.
His world is thrown into disarray when he falls in love with a woman named Julia who shares his distrust of the state. This disturbing and urgent production transferred to Broadway after a smash run on London’s West End. Film star Olivia Wilde makes her Broadway debut with her fearless portrayal of Julia and is joined by Tom Sturridge as Winston. The at-times violent production has been drawing impassioned responses from audiences with its shocking conclusion and intense use of theatrical special effects, making for a powerful evening on Broadway. With its examination of the nature of power, corruption, and free will, 1984 is at once timely and necessary as it celebrates the importance of free speech and warns of the dangers of power that goes unchecked. (Hudson Theatre, 139 W. 44th St.)
A Clockwork Orange
A new adaptation of the controversial novel and film of the same name, A Clockwork Orange, packs a powerful political punch this fall at Off-Broadway’s New World Stages. Another British transfer, this drama is the story of a gang of young criminals who run amok in the near future. Adapted from his novel, writer Anthony Burgess weaves a potent story following the charismatic and cruel ringleader Little Alex as he leads his band of “Droogs” on a hedonistic and ultra-violent spree that leaves an unapologetic look at the human condition in its wake.
Director Alexandra Spencer Jones has drawn critical praise for her contemporary spin on the classic novel. The thrilling new production is vibrantly alive with its pulsating indie-rock soundtrack and impressive physical take on storytelling brought to life by a young, talented, and attractive cast. British actor Jonno Davies makes his American stage debut as Alex and is joined by Broadway favorite Matt Doyle (Book of Mormon, War Horse). A Clockwork Orange is an unflinchingly political look at world where violence reigns and is one of the most anticipated productions of the fall.
(New World Stages, 340 W. 50th St.)
Come From Away
Offering a hopeful and optimistic take on the nature of humanity in the face of grave political times is the critic and audience favorite Come From Away. The new musical finds inspiration for its touching story in the aftermath of one of history’s darkest and most incomprehensible days. From the Canadian writing duo Irene Sanko and David Hein, the new production follows the extraordinary true story of what unfolded in a small Canadian town during and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
When 38 planes were grounded during the tragic events, the coastal town of Gander saw its population double as over 6,579 passengers became stranded at the tiny Newfoundland airport. Come From Away is based on actual interviews conducted with locals about their experiences during the harrowing time. This affecting new musical is about the unexpected camaraderie and human connections that arose from an unimaginable situation. While other shows o er cautionary tales about the dangers of fear during extraordinary times, Come From Away shows the miracles that can take place when human beings bond together despite their differences. (Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45th St.)
Michael Moore: The Terms of My Surrender
Provocateur, Academy Award-winning filmmaker, and activist Michael Moore makes his Broadway debut in his self-written solo piece Michael Moore: Terms of My Surrender at the Belasco Theatre this fall. Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer is at the helm in this passion project for the outspoken political icon.
In Terms of My Surrender, Moore who is perhaps best known for his films Bowling For Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Roger & Me, among many others, examines the state of the nation under the current presidential administration. With his biting sense of humor and unique wit, Moore takes a deeper look at how the United States arrived at its current state of a airs with the aim of inspiring political action. With his unapologetic spirit of activism and engaging style of storytelling, Michael Moore leads this call to arms with the urgency and hysterical insights for which he is known.
(Belasco Theatre, 111 W. 44th St.)