Our Culture Unveiled On Stage
This summer, NYC visitors and natives are flocking to Times Square and the Theater District to partake in an activity that is unmatched anywhere else: Broadway theater. As the streets and sidewalks sizzle under the hot summer sun, the cool refuge of an air-conditioned theater is the perfect respite from shopping and sightseeing. Since July is the month Americans celebrate their independence and culture, consider seeing a production that celebrates the American Dream – the idea that, with hard work and determination, anything is possible.
Rocky is a classic American tale that, for over 35 years, has inspired people from all walks of life to never give up on their dreams, no matter how difficult they are to achieve. The story follows Rocky Balboa, a small-time down-on-his-luck boxer in Philadelphia who gets a shot at the heavyweight title against the champion, Apollo Creed. It’s a moving underdog story written by and starring Sylvester Stallone, a man who – at the time – was an aspiring actor, living in near poverty, with only a handful of film credits to his name. The American Dream materialized for Stallone. Rocky was a smashing success that spawned five sequels, made Stallone a household name, and is now a riveting musical that can be experienced live, on Broadway, for the very first time. (Winter Garden Theatre, Broadway nr. 50th St.)
Motown is another musical that puts the American Dream on stage, although in the case of Berry Gordy, the journey begins with boxing and follows with a life as the legendary music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, and many others. Motown is a genre of music that calls to the soul, and it is particularly known for helping shatter racial and social barriers during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. Its transformative power is contagious, and the musical is an exhilarating non-stop display that both adults and children will adore. Full of medleys and classic Motown hits, you’ll hear songs like “My Girl,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and more performed by a talented ensemble cast. (Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 46th St. nr. 7th Ave.)
For Rocky Balboa and Berry Gordy, the American Dream is achieved through hard work, determination and sacrifice. Such is the case with Jack Kelly and his fellow newsboys who famously went on strike in 1899 to protest rising distribution costs that failed to match demand. With catchy music by Alan Menken (Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast), outstanding choreography, and a book by Harvey Fierstein (Kinky Boots), Newsies is the story of a pivotal moment in American history that helped give voice and equality to the young and poor, ensuring that the American dream was achievable by all. Based on the 1992 film starring a young Christian Bale, Newsies features memorable and catchy songs like “Seize the Day,” and “Santa Fe” performed by an outstanding cast of young performers. (Nederlander Theatre, 41st St. nr. 7th Ave.)
Lastly, there is perhaps no greater illustration of the American Dream than that told in Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck’s timeless novella, Of Mice and Men. Set in the 1930s, the story follows two friends – an unlikely pair of poor laborers in California’s dusty vegetable fields – who cling to the dream of one day settling down on their own piece of land. Whereas Newsies is most effective in highlighting the collective dream of a group oppressed, Of Mice and Men illustrates a more personal dream, but one that many share individually. In the new, limited engagement Broadway revival, Hollywood sensations James Franco (127 Hours, Milk) and Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, “Girls”) team up to play the two dreamers, George and Lennie, marking the play’s first Broadway revival in 40 years. July is your last month to see this extraordinary production, so get tickets before it’s too late. (Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St.)