Though Broadway fans already looking forward to the musicals and plays that will be opening in New York in 2017, it’s not too late to look back on the biggest shows of the past year. While 2015 mega-hit Hamilton won most of the Tony Awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and many headlines in 2016, there were plenty of more recent bright spots on Broadway. These five productions that opened on Broadway in 2016 were some of the most discussed shows of the year.
Though it only opened in December, Dear Evan Hansen has already staked an impressive claim in being the musical of the year and is the odds-on favorite for the 2017 Tony Awards. The musical focuses on unpopular high school student Evan Hansen (portrayed by The Book of Mormon’s Ben Platt), who is mistakenly thought to be the best friend of a much more popular student who had committed suicide. The musical’s songs, which were written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land), have been praised for their fresh sound. Its various social media campaigns have made it a hit with younger audiences, which have helped make Dear Evan Hansen a runaway hit at the box office. Dear Evan Hansen tickets can be purchased through Telecharge, where prices range from $69-$175.
The 2016 winner for the Tony Award for Best Play and finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama has had success beyond most typical Broadway plays. The Humans tells the story of the Blake family, who come together to share a very uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinner in a run-down Chinatown apartment. While The Humans opened off-Broadway, in New York in September 2015, it moved to Broadway in early 2016 after that initially successful run. That move to the Helen Hayes Theatre was only the first time the play moved – this past summer it briefly closed and transferred to the Schonefeld Theare (which has almost double the number of seats) where it will run until January 15, 2017. Reed Birney and Jayne Houdyshell, who won Tony Awards for their performances in The Humans and have starred in the play since its off-Broadway run, will be with the production through its closing night. The Humans tickets range from just $39-$147.
Every year at least one notable celebrity makes his or her Broadway debut. In most cases it’s a film or television actor who wants to show off his or her chops, but in the case of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 it is vocalist Josh Groban who is taking his chance on Broadway. Gorban joined this production, which is based on a section of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, after several successful smaller productions in New York from 2012-2013 made the show a word-of-mouth hit. After so much acclaim, the sung-through musical finally made it to Broadway when it opened in November 2016 at the Imperial Theatre. The Great Comet tickets are available now directly through the box office, where prices start at just $59.
Nearly every Broadway season sees one show that closes before its time – and Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed was that production of 2016. The clever concept was part-revival of the titular groundbreaking 1921 play that proved white audiences would see a musical featuring black performers and part-making-of story that explained how that extraordinary musical came to be. Despite very positive reviews, the Shuffle Along of 2016 failed to draw audiences to the Music Box Theatre like the 1921 version. When star six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald announced she was leaving the show early to go on maternity leave, the production closed.
Waitress is one of those small-town slice-of-life musicals that Broadway so rarely does right, except this team – the first all-female creative team behind a Broadway musical – absolutely nailed this heartwarming story about a desperate, heartbroken waitress in a small-town diner. Though pop stars often have difficulty utilizing their talents on musical theater songs, singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles has earned rave reviews for writing the music and lyrics of Waitress. They are perfect for the voice of Jessie Mueller, who is fast becoming one of Broadway’s biggest stars. Waitress tickets are on sale, and can be purchased through Ticketmaster.