The holidays can be an emotional time, a stressful time, the most wonderful time—it all depends on your perspective. No matter what, it’s important to pause and reflect on the good moments and milestones from 2016 before sitting down to dig in to some turkey. Here are seven moments of this past year the theatre world feels grateful to have enjoyed:
Broadway for Orlando at the DNC
In the wake of tragedy, the Broadway community banded together to produce an incredible message of support through the arrangement and recording of “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” Pioneered by Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley, the Broadway Records recording earned money for the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida in memory of those who died in the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. Stars like Whoopi Goldberg, Carole King, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Sara Bareilles, Audra McDonald, Zachary Levi, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sarah Jessica Parker, Idina Menzel, and Kristen Bell all sang on the record. But what really made the initiative memorable, occurred when it was given a national platform during a performance at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
Grease: Live Won 5 Emmys
The fourth live televised musical event proved that these shows aren’t just a ratings boon for the networks, they’re groundbreaking art. The January special won five Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special to Alex Rudzinski and Hamilton director Thomas Kail, and was nominated for an additional four. The critical acclaim outpaced its three predecessors (The Sound of Music Live!, Peter Pan Live! and The Wiz Live!) and demonstrated the value of the art form.
The Tonys Turned 70
Equal parts humor and heft, Tony winner-turned-late-night-host-turned-Tony-host James Corden gave us one hell of a show to celebrate 70 years of the Antoinette Perry Awards, a.k.a. the Tonys. From his poignant opening monologue and his original and inspiring opening routine, from his carpool karaoke to his Law and Order sketch, Corden was a gracious and hilarious host, proving you can come home again.
All 4 Acting Musical Tonys Were Awarded to Actors of Color
After Hollywood was blasted at the Academy Awards for their lack of diversity (#OscarsSoWhite), the Tony Awards earned praise when their nominations came out. But what was truly historic was that all actors of color earned all four acting Tonys for performances in a musical. Daveed Diggs, Leslie Odom, Jr., and Renée Elise Goldsberry all won for their turns in Hamilton, while Cynthia Erivo won for The Color Purple.
On a related note, this past fall, a benefit concert of Jasong Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years starred Erivo and Joshua Henry. The show illustrated the activism of the community and the first time two actors of color took on these roles in such a high profile production.
Progress for Women Onstage
Broadway witnessed a bump in women-driven stories onstage. While women are still underrepresented behind the scenes, of the 16 musicals that bowed in the 2015-2016 season, eight focused on a woman’s story and of the 20 plays, ten featured female-driven narratives. Snaps for improvement in numbers.
Broadway Works Towards Even More Inclusivity
The 2015 Deaf West production of Spring Awakening began a conversation about Aactors with disabilities on Broadway. Luckily, the discussion continued into 2016 and the Casting Society of America began hosting workshops geared specifically towards actors with disabilities.
The Inaugural BroadwayCon
Fans young and old united at the first-ever convention dedicated to theatre and all things Broadway. Day One featured an original mini-musical, a celebration of Rent at 20 with the original cast and a Hamilton panel; Day Two brought the blizzard and talks with the casts of Fiddler on the Roof, Fun Home, not to mention the Broadway Party Line where we dialed up everyone from Patti LuPone to Jeremy Jordan; Day Three included a surprise live performance from Sara Bareilles, joking around with Christian Borle and Brian d’Arcy James and more. It was an unprecedented weekend of autographs and photos, theatre trivia, exclusive performances, dance workshops, audition prep and more. BroadwayCon 2017 has already booked appearances by Josh Groban and the cast of Great Comet, Chita Rivera, Joel Grey, Kinky Boots’ Todrick Hall, cast members from Anastasia, In Transit and more. (Click here for tickets and information.)