NEW YORK – A giant “King Kong” made a big impression on young theatergoers this year. But it hardly ranked as another “Hamilton.”
The 2018-2019 Broadway season, in fact, didn’t boast a single musical that was impossible to get tickets to. Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” came close -- and it was a play.
The year, instead, will be remembered for the number of plays it produced and the interesting new voices it produced.
If there was that must-see new musical in the mix, it was “Hadestown,” an inventive look at the Orpheus and Eurydice story that started as a concept album. Now staged on what looks like a street in New Orleans, it had an infectious score by Anais Mitchell and direction from Rachel Chavkin that deserved notice. The plot was thin, but the acting – and technical aspects – weren’t.
“The Ferryman,” a British import, was the best-written new show of the year. It revealed an Irish family’s secrets during the autumn harvest. While the accents were sometimes a struggle, the three-hour-plus show moved quickly and played with the secrets and lies that have been buried on one small tract of land.
Of the 34 new shows, five had origins in films (“Network,” “King Kong,” “Pretty Woman,” “Tootsie” and “Beetlejuice”; if you want to count “Mockingbird,” make that six), two were tributes to musicians (“The Cher Show” and “Ain’t Too Proud”) and nine were revivals.
More interesting? There were plenty of new plays from new voices. “What the Constitution Means to Me,” “Gary,” “Choir Boy” and “Hillary and Clinton” had great stories to tell in unique ways.
“The Prom” and “Be More Chill” proved ideal for younger audiences; “The Boys in the Band” and “Network” brought big names to Broadway.
While “King Lear” and “Oklahoma!” were staged with change in mind (the former featured Glenda Jackson as the Shakespearean king, the latter was set in contemporary times and even served chili to its audiences), the lure of something familiar couldn’t be ignored. “The Cher Show” and “Ain’t Too Proud” gave fans another chance to delight in the music of Cher and The Temptations. “Tootsie” and “Beetlejuice” let fans see those characters in new light.
The 2018-19 season may not have had a “Dear Evan Hansen” or a Tony-dominating “Band’s Visit.” But it did offer hope. There’s still a lot of life in Broadway. It doesn’t always have to come with a lot of hype.
And for those not in New York? These were the shows that will tour in a year or two. You might not be able to see “The Cher Show” just yet. But don’t worry. She’s got you, babe, and she’s headed your way.
The 73rd Annual Tony Awards airs at 7 p.m. Sunday on CBS.