A few years ago, there was a discussion about whether Broadway was on the decline, with Off-Broadway shows getting the more consistently positive reviews. It’s not difficult to see why people think this, with more and more perplexing and generic choices being made for shows. Does anybody really want to see a revival of Evita starring Ricky Martin? Especially after that horrible performance at the Tonys?
But, despite the supposed decline of Broadway, I have recently seen two productions– both Broadway plays and both completely different– that are examples of theater at its best. Watching these two plays, one is reminded that Broadway is a place to celebrate excellent and, in the case of these two productions, what is celebrated is the excellence of the ensemble.
The first show is One Man, Two Guvnors (which featured a wonderful surprise performance from my student Sarah Manton– so good to see you, Sarah!). I don’t remember the last time I’ve had so much fun at a show. It featured one of the most committed casts ever assembled and used audience participation brilliantly.
The second show is Clybourne Park, which I just saw this past Sunday in celebration of my husband Craig’s birthday! Once again, ensemble work was at the forefront of an extremely well-crafted play and production. Thought-provoking and entertaining, it stays with me even now.
There’s much more to say about both of these shows than can be said in a simple blog post. But the point is this– here we have two brilliant productions that could not be more different. One is a slapstick farce and one is an insightful commentary on race. And yet both are done to a tee and, given the strong ensemble work on display, somehow work for the same reasons. Both shows are closing soon and I encourage anyone and everyone to try and see them. Either production will silence those who claim that Broadway is on the decline.