Around the world in four shows
January marks a time of new beginnings and introspection as people around the world welcome the New Year. With that comes opportunities for adventure, the Broadway theatre is one such place you’ll find it. In the glow of the footlights audiences can not only find reprieve from frosty weather but can also be transported to different worlds with exciting stories on the Great White Way. While the musicals The Book of Mormon, Fiddler on the Roof, and The King and I offer soaring scores, belly-busting laughs, and triumphant stories, the play King Charles III transports audiences to an imagined future with musings on the nature of power.
It is a rare occasion that one show can appeal to both fans of South Park and golden age musical theatre, however Trey Parker and Matt Stone with composer Robert Lopez (Frozen) have managed to create one such feat with the musical phenomenon The Book of Mormon. The irreverent and sometimes shocking comedy satire is the story of two Mormon missionaries who travel to Uganda to spread the Gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Amid cultural misunderstandings, including run-ins with local war-lords, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham learn the true meaning of friendship and faith. Fans of South Park and Broadway musicals can rejoice with the laugh-out-loud humor and heart of The Book of Mormon as it lovingly lampoons religion and theatre and everything in between. The winner of 9 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, The Book of Mormon continues to be one of the hottest tickets in town! (Eugene O’Neill Theatre, 230 W. 49th St.)
A different take on faith is the inspirational and beloved musical Fiddler on the Roof, which finds its way to the Broadway Theatre in a rich new revival directed by Tony Award winning Broadway veteran Bartlett Sher. Speaking to the hearts of countless audiences across not only generations but also spanning worldwide, the timeless show is a bonafide classic from Broadway’s golden age. In addition to its magnificent story of family and perseverance, the show’s score including “Tradition,” “If I Were A Rich Man,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” and “Sunrise, Sunset” continues to endear itself to audiences with an uplifting spirit. The musical follows Russian-Jewish milkman Tevye and his five daughters as he tries to maintain his faith and its traditions in the face of changing times and persecution in a small Russian village. Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, The Light in the Piazza) brings a fresh, robust and authentic take to the musical with this production starring Jessica Hecht and Broadway favorite Danny Burstein (South Pacific, Follies, Cabaret) as Tevye. The show’s triumphant and resilient spirit is one light audiences can find warmth in this winter. (Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway)
A 2015 Tony Award winner for Best Musical revival, the Lincoln Center’s lavish production of the beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpiece The King and I is another everlasting classic whose heartwarming story is sure to keep theatregoers warm this January. Featuring such favorites as “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Getting to Know You,” and “Shall We Dance,” The King and I transports its audiences to Siam in the late 1800s where the strong spirited English widow Anna Leonowens travels to serve as a teacher for the King’s children. Amidst cultural differences and despite the monarch’s stubborn strong-headedness, Anna and the King develop a tender relationship that bridges the East-West divide through the connection of the human heart. The sumptuous spectacle is at once romantic and dazzling with its famous “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” ballet in Act II. Kelli O’Hara and Ruthie Ann Miles both earned Tony Awards for their respective and moving performances as Anna and Lady Thiang, design legend Catherine Zuber was also awarded for her opulent period costumes. (Vivian Beaumont Theater, 150 W. 65th St.)
Theatre goers looking for a more contemplative offering this winter can venture to the Music Box Theatre for the West End transfer of the provocative new drama King Charles III fresh off its smash run in London. An Olivier Award winner for Best New Play, the piece by Mike Bartlett is set in an imagined future where Prince Charles’ ascends to the throne following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. With Camilla at his side and Harry, William and Kate looking on from the wings, Prince Charles takes the the throne only to grapple with reigning in the shadow of one of the greatest monarchs in history while asserting his own authority. This success with audiences and critics alike is at its heart an exploration of the British monarchy, the humanity of its leaders, and the moral compasses of one of the world’s most famous royal families. Tim Pigott-Smith reprises his performance in the title role in this astute new drama. (Music Box Theatre, 239 W. 45th St.)
(Photo Credit: Joan Marcus)