I am ready to confess that I have always been unashamedly a huge fan of musical theater. From my high school senior play, The Music Man, to seeing PippIn, the first play I saw on Broadway, I’ve been entranced.
For me, this has been a banner year for seeing some of my favorities live, starting with a phenomenol performance of My Fair Lady at the Lyric Opera. Each year, the Lyric reserves part of the month of May for a virtuoso production of a Broadway musical. My husband and I have made a bit of an annual tradition out of going with some friends to see a Broadway show done spectacularly at the Lyric. We are never disappointed because the Lyric’s stock in trade is being entrusted with producing iconic works; they are used to taking precious care with every detail. I think I’ve seen this classic live at least four times over the years and, by far, this Lyric production was the best.
Next we saw the current darling of musical theater, Hamilton, a show that can only be described as a masterpiece in its conception, its writing and its performance. Derived out of Ron Chernow’s historical biography about Alexander Hamilton, the orphaned flawed genius who was a principal designer of our federal government. When I told my husband, who takes history very seriously, that, yes, on stage Hamilton’s story unfolds in fast paced rap cadence, he had no comment, not sure if he wanted to see it or not. I too was skeptical: I knew little about Hamilton and had not read Chernow’s book. Would I be able to follow and enjoy the story when told this way? Would it do serious justice to the story of the man who is arguably “the most important figure in American history who never attained the presidency.” Also, think about it, Hamilton had the potential to be a real sleeping pill: it’s about the visionary who developed America’s banking, tax and budget systems, the author of The Federalist Papers, and the Customs Service. Is it finger popping time yet??? Anybody still awake out there??? No! But Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton, the play, indeed turned all that into poetry. He did a masterful job of synthesizing the vast story into a beautfiully executed, wildly entertaining night in American theater. In my opinion, telling the story with the hip, edgy cast enunciating in rap actually enhances the experience. It is truly a show that will be seen and enjoyed, continuously in venues across the country, for many years to come. My history curmudgeon husband, our son, daughter-in-law and I were truly awestruck.
In the next two weeks I will see Aladdin which I hope will live up to the hype and that my grandkids will enjoy it. I can’t comment since we haven’t seen it yet but I’ve heard nothing but raves so I’m looking forward to it.
Hello, Dolly! with Carol Channing premiered on Broadway in New York in 1964 and became the hit of the year, eventually going on to win 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, a record that held for 37 years. Everyone sang the praises of the telling of the story of matchmaker, Dolly Levi. My 16-year-old self was vaguely aware of the exodus of people of a certain age going from my hometown to New York to see the play. Good for them, not for me. In the summer of ’64, I was too busy securing tickets to see The Beatles in Atlantic City; I had no time for Dolly Levi. My full on grudge with her however ensued when Louis Armstrong’s rendition of the title song of Hello, Dolly! came along and kicked my beloved moptops off the top of the charts. The Beatles had first arrived in the United States in February 1964, and they had held first place on the Billboard chart for many months. There was no other rightful owner of that Billboard spot, in my mind. When Armstrong’s song took first place, I was enraged and staged a one-person boycott of even having a thought of seeing Hello, Dolly! at the time.
But alas, the time has flown by and here I sit, having watched the Tony Awards last Sunday, and ready to visit my mother-in-law in two weeks’ time. And she lives just 75 short minutes from Manhattan. If only there were a show that both she and I would love with a headlining star that I would give my eye teeth to see. What’s that you say? Bette Midler has just won the Tony for best female perfomer in a musical revival? I am overjoyed because I love Bette Midler. What, now? The show she has brought back to life is Hello Dolly!, itself winning the award for the best musical revival this year? That’s it, let’s let 53-year-old bygones be bygones! We’re going! Got on my Stub Hub site and scored two tickets while we are back East. I’ll be going with my mother-in-law since my husband has no interest.
And that, folks, is my year in Musical Theater ———so far.
See you next time….