13 Gateway Shows That Will Get You Hooked on Broadway
Theater is in a few ways like a drug. It makes you feel invincible; it occupies your whole evening (and sometimes even your afternoon); and it is highly, highly addictive. Unlike actual drugs, however, the only thing that an addiction to theater harms is your bank account, but luckily we’ve got the best prices in town so you can see more shows. Broadway is filled with shows of every type and for every taste, so if you’re ready to get hooked, here are 13 places to start.
After seeing “Aladdin” for the first time, one of your three wishes will probably be to see “Aladdin” again. There’s a reason the Disney films of yore make such spectacular stage musicals; you’ll be chasing the surge in your veins from moments like the levitating carpet in “A Whole New World” until your next fix.
“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”
The music of Carole King is as American as baseball or apple pie. But you may not know that her story is, too. Whether you grew up listening to her deeply-felt music or are hearing it for the first time inside the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, “Beautiful” will make you, too, get up every morning with a smile on your face, which is a musical’s job well-done.
“The Book of Mormon”
The first lyric of the first song of this gut-busting musical from the team behind TV’s “South Park” is literally “Hello!” If that isn’t a warm-enough welcome to the Great White Way, surely a later Act 1 number entitled “Hasa Diga Eebowai” will be. (Just trust us and don’t Google it.)
Murder has never been so fun — or sexy, for that matter. With a frequently rotating (and frequently star-studded) cast that keeps this Kander and Ebb classic fresh as a glass of ice-cold gin, “Chicago” is and remains Broadway’s seminal crash course in jazz hands.
“Come From Away”
Through its story of sheer empathy along with irresistibly knee-slapping tunes, “Come From Away” becomes one of those hymn-like musicals that transports you to a place — literally, but also in your heart and spirit — that you wish you could travel to every day. If that isn’t a pitch to see more musicals, what is?
Yes, you will hear “Let it Go,” but you’ll also hear — and see and experience and feel — so much more. Everything that made the movie “Frozen” a global phenomenon is present onstage at the St. James Theatre. The only difference is that the performance you’re seeing is one of eight that week. Is there a clearer demonstration of the sheer force of musicals?
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”
There’s the magic of the theater — and then there’s just plain magic. It’s no surprise that the literary tour-de=force that has had children falling in love with reading for two decades, naturally, has the same effect for Broadway shows in its stage iteration.
This story about a massively misunderstood gorilla is a perfect foray into Broadway for the same reason Ann Darrow was ultimately enticed: Underneath that harrowing facade is a creature who wants to be loved like everyone else. This animatronic puppet will make you question what can be done onstage and drive you searching for answers in many, many more musicals.
“The Lion King”
When it hit the Great White Way in 1997, “The Lion King” was a total game-changer, and it has remained as such. The first Broadway show to utilize large-scale puppets (you’re welcome, “King Kong”!), Julie Taymor’s remastering of this timeless story will have you clamoring for more the minute you walk out of the Minskoff and back into that other jungle, Times Square.
Who hasn’t lusted after the chance to nab a seat at the popular table? The big screen’s favorite queen bee is wreaking havoc every night on Broadway, and with a book by Tina Fey herself along with director Casey Nicholaw’s splashy song-n-dance, you’ll want to be personally victimized night after night. Just remember to wear pink on Wednesdays. Or else.
“Phantom of the Opera”
There’s a reason this musical and the titular masked mischief-maker now stands as the longest-running show on Broadway. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most famous hit is also his most accessible. Think you don’t like musicals? Listen to “The Music of the Night” and then think again.
If pie is the ultimate comfort food, then “Waitress” is the ultimate comfort musical. With music and lyrics from pop queen Sara Bareilles, this fresh-from-the-oven tuner is a perfect start for anyone who likes sweet tunes, a sweet story, and sweet treats. (Yes, they sell pie in the theater, which also smells like pie.)
Her verdigris aside, everyone can relate to the green girl Elphaba. Who hasn’t felt like the outsider; the one who can’t please anyone, let alone everyone? That’s why, at the end of two high-flying acts, the lyric “handprint on my heart” applies not just to our beloved witches but to every audience member’s relationship to this game-changing musical.