From downtown to Broadway: How director Alex Timbers became one of theatre’s hottest talents
From Rocky the Musical to Beetlejuice to Moulin Rouge The Musical! director Alex Timbers has perfected creating theatrical experiences and events with shows that are often based on movies. He has roots as a downtown theatre artist with his company Les Frères Courbusier, which gained him acclaim and recognition with their productions of A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant and Heddatron to making his Broadway debut with the emo-rock show Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson that transferred from The Public Theatre to Broadway before Hamilton made that cool.
Now Timbers is a globally recognized and celebrated director, and his work has been seen all over the world. With Moulin Rouge The Musical! reopening on Broadway and launching productions in London’s West End and at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre, here’s a look at how Timbers got to where he is today.
Les Frères Corbusier – 2003
Les Frères Corbusier has been responsible for many of Timbers’s early shows and helped launch his career. Timbers founded the downtown experimental theatre company in 2003 after he graduated from Yale University with his college classmates Aaron Lemon-Strauss and Jennifer Rogien. One of their first shows, A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant, earned the group a lot of acclaim, and Timbers concepted the musical alongside composer Kyle Jarrow. Timbers also directed Elizabeth Meriwether’s Hedda Gabbler adaptation Heddatron in 2006, which also received favorable reviews.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson – 2006
The show that truly launched Timbers’s Broadway career (and was also produced by Les Frères Corbusier) was Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. The emo, punk-rock take on the seventh President positioned Jackson as a petulant rock star with a short fuse, and the musical was written by Timbers and his long-time collaborator composer Michael Friedman.
The show had its world premiere in Los Angeles before moving Off-Broadway to the Public Theatre and transferred uptown to mark Timbers’s Broadway directorial and writing debut. Timbers also received a Tony Award nomination for writing the show’s book.
The Pee-wee Herman Show – 2010
Next up, Timbers directed The Pee-wee Herman Show, starring Paul Reubens. The comedy only played a short run over the holiday season, but the piece solidified Timbers as an up-and-coming director on Broadway.
Peter and the Starcatcher – 2009
Timbers proved more of his theatrical ingenuity and inventiveness with Peter and the Starcatcher, an original Peter Pan prequel based on the book Peter and the Starcatchers. Timbers co-directed with Roger Rees, whose partner Rick Elice (Jersey Boys) wrote the show. The play premiered downtown at New York Theatre Workshop before transferring to Broadway, where it earned nine Tony Award nominations including a nod for directing, and won five awards.
Love’s Labours Lost – 2013
Timbers teamed up with Friedman again for another original musical based on the Shakespeare comedy, which premiered at the Delacorte Theatre as part of Shakespeare in the Park. The lively musical comedy may have only had a short outdoor summer run, but the cast recording is available to listen to any time. We recommend a listen to enjoy the genius of Timbers + Friedman + Shakespeare.
The Last Goodbye – 2013
We’re sensing a Shakespeare trend! Timbers directed this musical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and featuring Jeff Buckley tunes first at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and then at The Old Globe in San Diego. While the show, written and conceived by Michael Kimmel, hasn’t made its way to New York (yet), the modern take on the star-crossed lovers maintains a devoted following to this day.
Here Lies Love – 2013
Timbers took on another epic tale when he joined forces with Talking Heads frontman David Byrne to adapt his concept album about First Lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos. Proving his innovative theatre tactics once again, Timbers reimagined a space at The Public Theatre to create this immersive, concert-like event that earned widespread critical acclaim. The show was extended several times and even returned to The Public in 2014, ahead of making its London debut in 2014 at the National Theatre, where it was nominated for three Olivier Awards.
Rocky the Musical – 2014
A musical based on a boxing movie? Sounds like an odd idea until you get Timbers involved, and he builds a boxing ring in the middle of the show and in the center of the theatre. The adaptation of the Sylvester Stallone classic premiered in Germany (!) and opened on Broadway, earning a Tony Award for scenic design (remember that boxing ring?)
Oh, Hello! – 2016
Comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney know who to turn to when they want to try something out onstage, and Timbers took the lead on their comedic Broadway outing, in which the pair played two old New York friends reflecting on the good ol’ days, chock full of theatre in-jokes. The play premiered off Broadway before moving uptown, and you can watch their antics any time, as the show was filmed and is available to stream on Netflix.
The Robber Bridegroom – 2016
Timbers revived the 1975 Broadway musical, based on a novella and a fairy tale, off Broadway starring Steven Pasquale as the titular robber. The production showcased all of Timbers’s directorial toolkit, from ensemble-led casting to folksy tunes to inventive choreography.
John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City – 2018
Timbers joined his Oh, Hello! collaborator again to direct Mulaney’s Netflix comedy special. The production pulled out all the theatrical stops, and you can stream the special any time you want.
Beetlejuice – 2018
Never underestimate the Ghost with the Most. The Tim Burton movie-turned-musical was primed for the Timbers treatment, and despite a shaky start on Broadway, the show became a TikTok teen phenomenon. Although the musical was set to close before the Broadway shutdown, the show is scheduled to reopen at the Marquis Theatre in Spring 2022, proving that you just can’t get rid of Beetlejuice! Just say “Timber” three times for a bonafide Broadway hit.
American Utopia – 2019 + 2021
Are you sensing a trend here? Timbers certainly loves to work with the same people, and he connected with David Byrne again for American Utopia, for which Timbers serves as the production consultant. Choreographed by Annie-B Parson, the show is a nontraditional theatre experience, starring Byrne performing several hits from his musical career alongside a group of 11 musician/dancers. Spike Lee directed a live recording of the Broadway production, which is available to stream on HBO Max, and the show returns to Broadway in fall 2021.
Moulin Rouge! The Musical – 2019
Welcome to the Moulin Rouge! Timbers finally earned a Tony Award for Best Director with Moulin Rouge! The Musical, a fantastical live take on the iconic 2001 Baz Luhrmann film about a struggling writer and his whirlwind turn-of-the-century romance with a dancer at the titular nightclub. The musical earned 10 Tony Awards, and is scheduled to start performances in London in November 2021 and in Australia after that ahead of launching a North American tour in Chicago in 2022.