The month of November in New York City sees a brilliant autumn give way to the start of a wondrous holiday season. In the spirit of the gratitude-filled holiday Thanksgiving, in which Americans gather with friends and family to celebrate the joys of life, this month we take a moment to honor the shows that give us the chance to see our favorite stories come to life onstage. The American theatre has a grand tradition of adaptation, from turning some of literature’s greatest works into powerful dramas to giving characters from our favorite movies the opportunity to sing their innermost desires in dazzling musicals. Here we express our own thankful spirit as we take a closer look at some of the brightest adaptations on the Broadway stage.
A Bronx Tale (Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St.)
The new musical A Bronx Tale is based on two sources: the iconic one-man show by Chazz Palminteri and the now classic film that was also inspired by Palminteri’s solo show. A Bronx Tale follows the coming of age of one young man in the Bronx during the 1960s. With the turbulent decade filled with racial tension and organized crime as the backdrop, the story of family, respect, and love centers on the young man’s struggle over whether to follow in the footsteps of his honorable father or the mob boss he idolizes. The new musical features an original Doo-Wop-flavored score by Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken and is directed by screen legend Robert De Niro and Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks with choreography by Tony Award winner Sergio Trujillo. The show, which lands somewhere musically between Jersey Boys and West Side Story, is sure to be a hit with those who loved Palminteri’s show and the hit film.
Matilda (Shubert Theatre, 225 W 44th St.)
Inspired by the beloved Roald Dahl novel, the Tony Award-nominated musical Matilda instantly endeared itself to audiences and critics alike when it opened at the Shubert Theatre in 2013. The musical is the triumphant story of the spirited Matilda Wormwood, who navigates a fantastical world filled with valiant heroes and scheming villains including her lackluster parents and cartoonishly cruel principal, Miss Trunchbull. With a knack for storytelling, mischief, and even magical powers, she inspires those around her to overcome their fears and stand up for what they believe in. Imaginative and whimsical theatrical effects bring the magic of the world created by Roald Dahl to life with the help of Tim Minchin’s soaring score including the songs “When I Grow Up” and “Revolting Children.” From swinging dancers to flying students and disappearing cakes, Matilda is certainly something to be thankful for!
School of Rock (Winter Garden Theatre, 1634 Broadway)
Another hit with critics and audiences alike is the rollicking rock and roll comedy School of Rock. The high-octane new musical follows the same plot as the hit lm starring Jack Black. Looking to pick up a few extra bucks, down and out rocker Dewey Finn pretends to be a substitute teacher at a prim and proper prep school, where he decides to throw out the curriculum and teach what he knows best: rock and roll. In the creation of a student-led rock band, zany high-jinks ensue, all the while teaching the transformative power of music. The rocking score featuring hits from the movie as well as new music from legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Weber, a book by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, and a star performance from Alex Brightman and the ensemble of talented youngsters who make up the school’s rock band.
Waitress (Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 W. 47th St.)
With original music and lyrics by Grammy Award- winning singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles and directed by Tony Award winner Diane Paulus (Hair, Pippin), the new musical Waitress draws inspiration from the celebrated 1997 indie-hit film of the same name. At the heart of the musical is Jenna, a small- town waitress stifled by her surroundings and a loveless marriage. When an opportunity arises to put her passion for pie-making to use while offering an escape, she must choose between her dreams and her commitments. Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller stars as the show’s heroine Jenna, making a triumphant return to Broadway after her star-making turn in Beautiful, The Carole King Musical. Diane Paulus, recently selected for the 2014 TIME 100, Time Magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, directs this new musical which champions motherhood, friendship, and re-embracing long-but-not-forgotten dreams.