Wednesday, June 26, 2024

At This Theater: The Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

Opening in 1927 as the Royale Theatre, the house was renamed the John Golden for a few years (the John Golden today is one door down now, of course), then back to the Royale for 65 years. That's the name on several Playbills in my collection. Then, in 2005, the theater was renamed for the longtime president of the Shubert Organization: The Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. Home to the plays and musicals of many legends, the theater has hosted premieres of Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker, and both The Glass Menagerie and The Night of the Iguana by Tennessee Williams, among others. Modern classics include 'night Mother, Cactus Flower, Who's Life Is It Anyway?, Speed-the Plow, Lend Me a Tenor and Art. Among the musicals that have left their mark are Grease, Hollywood/Ukraine, and a pair of Andrew Lloyd Webber works: Joseph...Dreamcoat and Song and Dance



Much like its neighbor, the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, there hasn't been a single performance I've seen there that I didn't enjoy. My first was A.R. Gurney's Sweet Sue starring Mary Tyler Moore and Lynn Redgrave, and most recently, the 2024 Best Musical Tony winner, The Outsiders. All told, I've seen 12 productions there. It is one of my favorite Broadway houses.

At This Theatre:
The Bernard B. Jacobs

Number of Shows We've Seen There: 12


The Shows We've Seen There:
13, Almost Famous, An Inspector Calls, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Company (2021), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Once, Parade (2023), Sweet Sue, The Color Purple, The Outsiders, and Triumph of Love

Our Favorite Shows Here:
Of the even dozen, here are our six favorites. We loved each of them so much, it would be impossible to rank them, so here they are in alphabetical order:

Almost Famous
Here's a show I went into knowing very little about it beyond knowing that it was based on a beloved film that I had never seen, and it featured a score by one of my favorite composers, Tom Kitt. What a delightful surprise! I loved every single minute of it. And with it, I was introduced to some of my now-favorite performers like Casey Likes and Chris Wood, as well as reconnecting with other already favorites like Drew Gehling, Gerard Canonico and Van Hughes. I wish I'd have had the chance to see it again.

(2021 Revival): Marianne Elliott
reinterpreted one of my favorite Stephen Sondheim shows/scores, and with a cast full of my Broadway favorites including Tony-winners Patti LuPone and Matt Doyle, as well as star Katrina Lenk. Then there's Etai Benson, Nikki Rene Daniels, Claybourne Elder, Christopher Seiber and Jennifer Simard. And it was an absolute thrill to be in the same room as LuPone singing "The Ladies Who Lunch."

Much like Almost Famous, I went into this one knowing only that it was based on a small independent film. It took all of about five minutes for me to fall completely in love with the love story of Guy (Steve Kazee) and Girl (Cristin Milioti) and their pub friends. Creatively told and with a lovely score, I cried throughout most of it, most inconsolably during its signature song, "Falling Slowly."

(2023): Michael Arden does it again, reinventing and reinvigorating modern classics in such a way as to make them feel brand new. After Spring Awakening and Once On This Island, I couldn't wait to see what he'd do with Parade. I was not disappointed. Ben Platt has never been better with a simultaneously powerful and fragile performance, and Micaela Diamond soared as the tower of strength that was Lucille Frank. Stellar performances from Sean Alan Krill, Paul Alexander Nolan, Howard McGillin, Alex Joseph Grayson and Jay Armstrong Johnson were truly an embarrassment of riches. 

The Color Purple
Here's a show we almost didn't see, but we have Audra to thank for our seeing this brilliant production. I had seen the original production and really didn't care for it, so we got tickets for Shuffle Along. But that day, Ms. McDonald was out, so we got a refund, and scored tickets for this instead. Turns out that John Doyle stripped it down, tightened it up, and assembled a company of actors up to the challenge. We saw the return of Heather Headley in a dazzling turn as Shug, and the supreme privilege of seeing the star turn of Cynthia Erivo - a true performance for the ages.

The Outsiders
I'm still reeling from the sheer theatricality of Danya Taymor's staging, the gritty design of every element, and the brilliance of the earthy and violent choreography of Rick and Jeff Kuperman. For me, though, it is the poetic and rich book by Adam Rapp and Justin Levine, and score by Jamestown Revival that elevated and expanded the already exquisite novel by S.E. Hinton. Then, too, there is the thrill of seeing a crop of new, exciting talent explode on the scene. I expect big futures from Brody Grant, Sky Lakota-Lynch, Brent Comer, Joshua Boone and Jason Schmidt to name a few.

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