Four events that made 2015 a landmark year for Broadway

Hamilton Richard Rodgers Theatre
HAMILTON – 2015 PRESS ART – Richard Rodgers Theatre – Pictured: Phillipa Soo, Rene Elise Goldsberry and Jasmine Cephas Jones – Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

2015 was undeniably an incredible year for live theatre. This past year saw legends, such as Kristin Chenoweth and Chita Rivera make their returns to the Broadway stage, as well as the rise of those who could one day be legends, such as Sydney Lucas, the 11-year old Tony nominee, who brought audiences to tears with her performance as Small Alison in the musical Fun Home. In 2015, Broadway shows were playing to fuller houses, and making higher grosses than they ever have before, proving not only that the theatre scene is alive, but it is thriving.  Here are four events that helped cement 2015 as an iconic year in Broadway history:

  1. Fun Home wins the 2015 Tony Award for Best Musical

Fun Home is a musical adaption of lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir of the same name.  Fun Home is centred on Bechdel’s relationship with her closeted gay father, and her efforts to learn more about his life, leading up to his suicide. The musical also deals with Bechdel coming to terms with her own sexuality throughout the stages of her life (in the show she is portrayed as a young child, a college freshman, and her adult self, who narrates the show).  It is also the first Broadway musical featuring a lesbian protagonist.

After opening Off-Broadway at The Public Theater in 2013, Fun Home premiered on Broadway at The Circle in the Square Theatre on April 19, 2015, where it proceeded to win the 2015 Tony Award for Best Musical. Fun Home was the first musical written and composed by an all female writing team, Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, to take home this award, adding to the Broadway history this little-show-that-could has made.

See Fun Home’s Tony Award acceptance speech here

  1. Hamilton “Rises Up”

If you follow any celebrity on Instagram, in all likelihood, you’ve seen a picture of the Hamilton playbill or marquee. After wrapping up a sold-out Off-Broadway run at The Public Theater in early 2015, the show opened on Broadway this past August, not only to great critical acclaim, but to massive, widespread hype. Hamilton tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, the “ten-dollar founding father without a father,” and takes the audience through the events of his life, from before the Revolutionary War to his final duel with United States Vice-President, Aaron Burr.  Written and composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who also stars in the show), Hamilton uses hip-hop to tell Hamilton’s, and essentially America’s, story.  Additionally, all of the principle actors in Hamilton are people of colour (including Renee Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo and Jasmine Cephas Jones, pictured above), with the exception of Jonathan Groff, who plays the  antagonistic King George III.  In Hamilton, minorities are the majority, and history belongs to those who are typically excluded from its telling.  This makes Hamilton especially poignant in a time where racism is such a prominent social issue.

Watch clips from Hamilton here

  1. Deaf West’s Spring Awakening paves the way for more accessible theatre

It can generally be said that deaf people are not among the target audiences of Broadway musicals.  However, Deaf West Theatre, a theatre company based out of Hollywood, is striving to break that mold and prove that live theatre can be accessible to all. This past September, Deaf West’s production of Spring Awakening transferred to Broadway, where it was met with positive critical and commercial response.  The cast was made up of both hearing and non-hearing actors, and was presented simultaneously in spoken English and American Sign Language.  None of the characters in the canon of Spring Awakening are deaf, however in this production many of them are being portrayed by deaf actors, with other actors playing their “voices”.  Broadway is no stranger to beautiful, tragic, wheelchair bound characters or “comical” caricatures of disability, all of which are usually played by able-bodied actors. However, having disabled actors playing characters who were written as being able-bodied brings a true awareness to the issue of ableism. That newfound awareness, as well as the opportunities being given to talented disabled actors, is what made this particular production noteworthy.  Spring Awakening closed on January 24, 2016 after its limited run at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, however given the success it achieved, hopefully there is more from this company on Broadway in the future.

Watch a performance from the cast of Spring Awakening here

  1. Kelli O’Tony

Kelli O’Hara’s status as a Broadway leading lady has been cemented for a very long time.  O’Hara has also been referred to as “the Leonardo DiCaprio of musical theatre”* for quite some time as well. For every production she’s been in since 2005’s The Light in the Piazza, O’Hara has been nominated for a Tony Award, and every year, she has lost out on winning the statue.  However, at the 2015 Tony’s, O’Hara finally won the Best Leading Actress in a Musical award for her portrayal of Anna in The King and I. Theatre fans everywhere rejoiced as O’Hara delivered a funny, touching speech that has been ten years in the making.

Watch Kelli O’Hara’s Tony Awards acceptance speech here

look how precious tho

 

*: Leonardo DiCaprio has since won an Academy Award. Atta boy Leo.

Sydney Grant is a full time student at Humber College, studying Public Relations. She enjoys theatre, the colour pink, and changing this by-line

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28 thoughts on “Four events that made 2015 a landmark year for Broadway

  1. Emily March 3, 2016 / 7:34 pm

    Love this! Yay Fun Home. Yay Hamlet.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bethany Larkin March 3, 2016 / 7:46 pm

    Your writing is lovely, Sydney!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Laura March 3, 2016 / 7:47 pm

    Now I’m crying about Fun Home. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Alexa March 3, 2016 / 7:51 pm

    I’m so glad both Kelli and Leo got their time to shine :’)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Steph March 3, 2016 / 9:48 pm

    I love all of the events that you picked to showcase here, and I really love your writing style Sydney.

    Like

  6. Maggie March 3, 2016 / 9:54 pm

    I’d toss in the Daddy Long Legs livestream for a round 5. Theatre for all!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Krysta March 3, 2016 / 10:09 pm

    YAY Hamlet! Great article 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Beliefiisms March 3, 2016 / 10:16 pm

    Fun Home! Most things is Theatre this year were wonderful. I’ve made a plan that I want to go read Fun Home.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Tessa March 3, 2016 / 10:19 pm

    I love this! Great article!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. laurenashbrook March 3, 2016 / 10:50 pm

    YES to all of these!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sydney March 3, 2016 / 10:52 pm

    this is all great but what about scarlett strallen

    Liked by 1 person

  12. layla March 3, 2016 / 10:53 pm

    THEATRE IS ALIVE! loved the article!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Jojo March 3, 2016 / 11:35 pm

    What about GGLAM closing that was pretty traumatic?

    Liked by 1 person

    • sydneygrantx March 3, 2016 / 11:37 pm

      haha, it really was!! but it didn’t officially close until 2016, so I had to leave it out!!

      Like

  14. Al G. March 4, 2016 / 12:11 am

    Great recap of 2015

    Like

  15. Margaret March 4, 2016 / 1:13 am

    Nice article! You really hit all the highlights of the year.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Sakina March 4, 2016 / 2:02 am

    Why did you have to bring Kelli O’Tony back and make me cry? So freaking proud.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Gina March 4, 2016 / 3:09 am

    This is great! I love how the inclusion in Broadway shows really showed up in 2015.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Rhiannon March 4, 2016 / 3:42 am

    Key points, lovely wit, and a beautiful writer!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Marina March 4, 2016 / 4:01 am

    fantastic article! I love it!!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Marissa March 4, 2016 / 7:29 pm

    Wonderful article! I loved it very much!

    Like

  21. Abby March 5, 2016 / 12:15 am

    You picked awesome events to highlight! Nice work!

    Like

  22. Lucy March 6, 2016 / 10:48 am

    I didn’t know about the production of spring awakening, but I will definitely check it out now! great article!!

    Like

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