Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Finishing What Playbill Started: Musicals With Actors Playing Their Own Instruments

Late last week, Playbill ran THIS  article about 9 plays and musicals that used actors as an onstage band.  For some reason, they drew the line at nine!  And in doing so, they left out two acclaimed recent musicals, not to mention a long-running crowd pleaser that is still running! Here's 5 more from Broadway, and 2 from off-Broadway, encompassing the works of legendary composers, 8 rock and roll legends, and a groundbreaking, inclusive modern classic:

Allegro - Opened November 19, 2014 and closed December 14, 2014 (Off-Broadway at Classic Stage Company)
A revival of the rarely produced Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, trimmed to a 90 minute one act, directed by John Doyle. The production featured  George Abud, Alma Cuervo,  Elizabeth A. Davis, Claybourne Elder, Jane Pfitsch and Malcolm Getz.

Beatlemania - Opened May 31, 1977* and closed October 17, 1979 (5 previews, 1006 performances) at the Winter Garden, Lunt-Fontanne and Palace Theatres
A faux concert of the Beatles oeuvre, never officially opened, but producers agreed with The League of New York Theaters and Producers (now the Broadway League) to set May 31, 1997 as the date for the record.

Into the Woods - Opened January 25, 2015 and closed March 22, 2015 (Off-Broadway at Roundabout Theater Company's Laura Pels Theatre)
The Fiasco Theater Company brought their instruments and 10 cast members to New York for an acclaimed (and stripped down) version of the Sondheim-Lapine classic. The production went on to a successful West End run.

Million Dollar Quartet - Opened April 11, 2010 and closed June 12, 2011 (34 previews, 489 performances) at the Nederlander Theater
Inspired by true events at Sun Records in Memphis, featuring actors playing Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. The latter was played by Levi Kreis, who won a Tony Award for his efforts.

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 - Opened November 14, 2016 and closed September 3, 2017 (32 previews, 336 performances) at the Imperial Theatre
Fans (including me) lament the early demise of this crazy, wonderful show. The original cast featured Josh Groban on the accordion!

School of Rock - Opened December 6, 2015 and will close January 20, 2019 (31 previews, 1174 performances - following today's matinee) at the Winter Garden Theater
This fun show by Andrew Lloyd Webber features an all-kid rock band that is fantastic! Based on the film of the same name, the show has also spawned productions in the West End, on tour, and at a school near you!

Deaf West's Spring Awakening - Opened on September 27, 2015 and closed January 24, 2016 (23 previews, 135 performances) at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre
I am still mourning the closing of this stunning production that eclipsed the original. Not only did the company sign, dance, act and play the instruments, the also performed the entire thing in American Sign Language. Featuring Marlee Matlin, Camryn Manheim, Patrick Page, Andy Mientus, Krysta Rodriguez, Ali Stroker, Daniel Durand, Josh Castille, Sandra Mae Frank and Alex Wyse, it was breath-taking.


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