7 Shows That Should Be Revived on Broadway
Broadway is coming back and we hope some of our favorite shows will come with it.
I love to see new plays and musicals on Broadway, but sometimes it's nice to see a new production of something you already know and love. With that in mind, here is my list of the seven shows I would love to see on a Broadway stage sometime in the near future — you know, now that Broadway is a thing again.
There is a debate to be had over what exactly counts as a "revival." While London's Olivier Awards categorized Dreamgirls as a new musical for its 2016 West End debut (it ultimately lost the top prize to Groundhog Day), Broadway's Tony Awards Administration Committee regularly designates certain plays and musicals as "canonical," meaning they are so well-known that they cannot be considered "new." That's how Hedwig and the Angry Inch (1998) and Three Tall Women (1991) were both considered in the revival categories during their Broadway debuts.
For this list, I'm taking an expansive view of both the theatrical canon and what it means to be a revival — meaning no previous Broadway production is necessary. Essentially, these are shows I would like to see again, but on a Broadway budget. Even if you hate revivals, take a look, because some of these plays and musicals might be new to you.
Did you know that this beloved Henry Krieger-Tom Eyen musical about a girl group that suspiciously resembles the Supremes has never received a proper revival on Broadway? True, the second national tour was nominated for a Tony for Best Revival when it sat down at the Ambassador Theatre for six months in 1987, but this was still the original Michael Bennett production. In the ensuing three decades (and especially after the groundbreaking revival of Cabaret) Broadway audiences have come to expect a reimagining for revivals — and it's about time Dreamgirls gets that treatment. I'm disappointed that Casey Nicholaw's West End production has yet to make the leap across the pond. I hope that will change once Broadway gets dreaming again.
2. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
This musical about America's seventh president was ahead of its time when it transferred to Broadway from the Public Theater in 2010. New York audiences, still riding on that feel-good Obama high, didn't know what to make of Michael Friedman's emo-inspired score that starts with a number titled "Populism, Yea, Yea!" But 11 years later, after living through the presidency of Jackson's spiritual successor, they might be able to connect with the piece more. I would love to see a new production on Broadway dedicated to the memory of the late composer, who was one of the greatest artists of his generation. While it would be delicious to see this show play at the Marquis, right next to Hamilton — are there two men who better encapsulate the fundamental drama of our republic? — I think a musical like Bloody Bloody requires a more intimate venue. Maybe Second Stage can revive it at the Helen Hayes.
3. The Mystery of Irma Vep
I have long been a devotee of Ridiculous Theatrical Company founder Charles Ludlam. While the late actor-director-playwright is still a legend off-off-Broadway, his work has yet to grace a Broadway stage. It's about time that changes. Since it's still Broadway, I would recommend Ludlam's most accessible play, The Mystery of Irma Vep. This uproarious pastiche of gothic potboilers is performed by just two actors, resulting in a ridiculous spectacle of theatricality. More adventurous producers might also consider Stage Blood, Ludlam's Hamlet-inspired backstager, or Corn, his sendup of Rodgers & Hammerstein. Theatre Breaking Through Barriers produced an excellent off-Broadway revival of Ludlam's final play, The Artificial Jungle, four years ago that I would love to see transfer to Broadway. It would mark not only the belated debut of a great American playwright, but the timely arrival of one of New York's best little theater companies.
4. Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2, and 3)
Suzan-Lori Parks is another great American playwright who has been too seldom seen on Broadway. Her last project was the 2012 revamp of Porgy and Bess, and before that the 2002 transfer of Topdog/Underdog, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize. I think there is no more perfect Parks play to bring to Broadway than Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2, & 3), her epic dramatization of one man's journey from slavery to freedom over the course of the American Civil War. In her gorgeously poetic script, Parks animates the past to speak about our present moment. A lot has transpired around race relations in America since the play debuted at the Public Theater in 2014. The time feels ripe for a new production on Broadway.
Brutal violence in the subway, environmental collapse, and torch-welding neo-Nazis lurking around every corner: No, these are not scenes from 2021 America, but José Rivera's 1992 play, Marisol, about a young Latina copy editor living in the Bronx whose guardian angel comes down from heaven to attempt to enlist her in an insurrection against a senile God. Audiences best know Rivera from his Oscar-nominated screenplay The Motorcycle Diaries, but he has an extensive catalog of stage plays, none of which have ever been produced on Broadway. Marisol would give audiences the opportunity to experience Rivera's fantastical (but eerily familiar) vision of the apocalypse on a Broadway budget. Considering our present age of millenarian anxiety and intractable gerontocracy, there has never been a better time for this play.
6. Here Lies Love
This immersive dance musical uses a nightclub setting and cutting-edge video technology to tell the story of former first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos. It features music by Fatboy Slim and David Byrne, who has already proved himself to be Broadway-ready with his blockbuster concert American Utopia. Audience members learn about the 20th-century history of the Philippines while rubbing elbows with the likes of Richard Nixon and Muammar Gaddafi, just two of the controversial figures Marcos befriended on her trips around the world. The original production starred a pre-Tony-winning Ruthie Ann Miles, and I would love to see her reprise her role for Broadway. If Here Lies Love did move to Broadway, it would almost certainly have to play Circle in the Square, which I suspect will be available in the very near future.
Millennial editorial assistants toil at a prestige magazine in a cramped New York City office. If that sounds boring and terrible to you, just wait, because it gets significantly more thrilling, and so much more horrifying. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, who firmly established himself as one of America's most exciting playwrights with An Octoroon, turns his mercilessly perceptive gaze at Manhattan's bloated media class and the game of thrones it requires to get ahead. Admittedly, this relatively new play is a stretch when it comes to the "revival" category, but it has been six long years since I first saw it off-Broadway and it still haunts my nightmares — so it's canonical to me. Even if Gloria were to be ruled a new play by the Tonys, it belongs on Broadway. The treacherous relationships and shocking events Jenkins portrays are likely to resonate with New York audiences even more as Broadway wakes up from its long hibernation.