Monday, February 12, 2024

At This Theatre: The Music Box

Despite having over 1000 seats, when I think of The Music Box, I remember it as feeling both intimate and grand at the same time. Over the years, I've had seats all over the theater, and I think the view is pretty great everywhere. One of my favorite things about it is the iconic green lit marquee. Even though it was updated with a digital screen, the powers that be were smart not to change the famous cursive signs that adorn it.

Opening on September 22, 1921, the venue was designed specifically to house Irving Berlin's Music Box Revues. The last 100+ years, the Music Box has been home to many long-running plays and musicals, and several infamous flops as well. On the hit list were such productions as Of Thee I Sing (the first Pulitzer Prize-winning musical), the Kaufman and Hart classic, The Man Who Came Dinner, Sleuth, Deathtrap,Blood Brothers and the Tony-winning Pippin and Dear Evan Hansen. Marlon Brando's Broadway debut was here in 1944's I Remember Mama. Most recently, the Shubert-owned house played host to Dancin', Purlie Victorious, and soon, Suffs.

At This Theatre:
The Music Box

# of shows we've seen there: 11

Shows we've seen there: Blood Brothers (1993), Dancin' (2023), Dear Evan Hansen (2016), Deuce (2007), In My Life (2005), Lend Me a Tenor (20 10), One Man, Two Guvnors (2012), Pippin (2013), Purlie Victorious (2023), State Fair (1996), and Swinging On a Star (1995).

Our Favorite Shows Here: The eleven shows we've seen here (so far) represent some of the best shows and individual performances we've seen on Broadway. We've some of the greatest stage talent at this theater. On the negative side, the Music Box was home to one of two shows I've left at intermission - Swinging On a Star. But on with the positive. Here are our five favorite Music Box productions, from 5 to 1:


5. Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch
This delightful revival does what any really good play does: it speaks to us across the generations, provokes thought and emotion, and thoroughly entertains. An entirely top-notch cast included outstanding performances from Leslie Odom, Jr., Kara Young and Noah Robbins.

4. Bob Fosse's Dancin'
Bob Fosse's legacy not only lives on, but it thrives as evidenced by the young, gifted company of dancers who did him proud. An exciting thrill ride that held the audience in captivated awe, broken only by rapturous applause after each breathtaking number. The company included some of Broadway's most gifted up and coming dancers: Peter John Chursin, Dylis Croman, Tony d'Alelio, Manuel Herrera, Kolton Krouse and Mattie Love.

3. State Fair
One of the better film to stage adaptations, this charming show with a joyous Rodgers and Hammerstein score was brilliantly designed and flawlessly executed by a cast of Broadway superstars. Among them were John Davidson, Kathryn Crosby, Andrea McArdle, Donna McKechnie, Ben Wright and Scott Wise. Old-fashioned in all the best ways, it's a shame that impresario David Merrick's last Broadway show didn't enjoy a much longer run.

Asking me to choose between these two shows is like asking a parent to name their favorite child, so...

1. (tie)
The rare revival that I feel was better than the original, this Diane Paulus re-imagining of the 70s classic now set in an eerie circus was exciting for its big top thrills and aesthetic. Another case of brilliant casting (and re-casting) elevating a show that much more, the company included a heady mix of Broadway veterans and New talent: Terrence Mann, Charlotte d'Amboise, and Tony-winners Patina Miller and Andrea Martin along with Matthew James Thomas, Erik Altemus and future Tony-winner Rachel Bay Jones.


1. (tie) Blood Brothers
Here was a thoroughly British musical melodrama about the ravages of Thatcher's Great Britain on the classes with a mostly unconventional score and lengthy periods of dialog. On paper, not much about it would seem to make me even a little interested, but a friend took me to see it, and the rest is history. I saw all four primary casts, headed originally by the late Stephanie Lawrence, Con O'Neill, Marl Michael Hutchinson and Barbara Walsh. Later, Petula Clark, David and Shaun Cassidy broke my heart, and it was a privilege to see Carole King and the late Helen Reddy. Along the way, I got to see the debuts of no less than Kerry Butler and Brian d'Arcy James.

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