2017’s 12 Defining Social Media Moments for Broadway | Playbill

Special Features 2017’s 12 Defining Social Media Moments for Broadway
Which hashtags and trending topics changed the face of Broadway this year?

525,600 minutes. You could measure a year in daylights, sunsets, in midnights, or cups of coffee. Or how about in Twitter announcements, Instagram challenges, and hashtags? Here are 12 moments when the social media spotlight shined on Broadway.

1. The Great Casting Controversy of 2017

It was announced two weeks into Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan’s run as Pierre in Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 that Mandy Patinkin would replace Onaodowan as Pierre. Theatre fans were initially thrilled to see Tony winner Patinkin back on the Broadway stage, but for some, the excitement turned into confusion and onto frustration as they realized that Patinkin’s August 15 start date meant Onaodowan’s run would be cut three weeks short. Conversations exploded on Twitter, with performers and fans alike hypothesizing why Onaodowan was departing early. Was it to accommodate Patinkin’s Homeland shooting schedule, which began in early September? Was it creative differences between Onaodowan and Great Comet’s leadership, since Onaodowan had pushed back his own start date earlier that summer? Or was it simply the musical’s bottom line, falling into the trap of needing a "star name" in order to sell tickets?

Regardless of the true reason, supporters of Onaodowan began tweeting #MakeRoomForOak. Many pointed to what would be later described by the musical’s creator, Dave Malloy, as “the racial optics.” While Great Comet had been praised for its diverse cast, there was a connotation that Onaodowan's blackness was a marketing ploy, and when it didn’t sell enough tickets, there was a pivot back to whiteness. Tony winner Cynthia Erivo and Tony nominee Adrienne Warren voiced their concern about how the situation was handled:

Malloy also offered his thoughts in a series of tweets:

Just two hours after Malloy’s tweets, Patinkin withdrew from Great Comet:

And what about Oak? He posted a message for fans on his Instagram, and played his final performance on August 13.

I always try to speak from my heart with love after listening. I have listened. I'm more than grateful for all the love and support the community and fans have shown me. It makes what we do and deal with as artists easier when you know many people do indeed have your back and that you are valued for your work. In spite of everything, I am grateful to have had the time to bring this character to life with a remarkable cast that truly make the Imperial Theater a sacred place every night. My pops would always tell me to be aware of the company you keep. I'm fully aware of the remarkable talents this cast holds, with Denee at the helm. My work is just a reflection of what they bring, have brought and will continue to bring, be it me, Mandy, whomever is co-pilot to Denee. AUGUST 13th WILL BE MY LAST SHOW! I will not be returning. So make room in your schedule between now and Aug 13th. Come through, have a drink, and let's celebrate the time we have because as always, that's all we are guaranteed. We make the most of the gifts we are given and I'm driven to deliver a defining moment in time, with every line I let loose on stage. #MynameisOak #TheHomiesRollDEEP #TheFansMadeRoom #WeAreTheChange #IPierredAndProspered #MyPierreWillPerish #August13th #OnwardsAndUpwords #KatyPerry #SkateyPierre?

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2. What's Inside (The Box)?

Sara Bareilles also took to Twitter for star-casting news—but the Waitress creator announced the new Dr. Pomatter actor through a series of four videos. She introduced the now-iconic “What’s Inside Box,” from which she would pull out a clue each day to eventually reveal that Jason Mraz was to make his Broadway debut as Dr. Pomatter.

Bareilles employed the same tactic to announce her own return to the musical beginning January 2018.

3. Beyoncé, Meet Broadway.

Beyoncé is no stranger to musical theatre, (hi, Dreamgirls film), but this year she filled our newsfeeds after two visits to New York City’s Theatre District—including Dear Evan Hansen, where one of her biggest fans, Ben Platt, starred in the title role.

✨Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway✨

A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

The same week she visited Aladdin, but was unable to visit backstage.

Aladdin on Broadway

A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

The real excitement came a month later, when she revealed through Facebook (like only Beyoncé can), that she would be starring as Nala in the live-action remake of The Lion King.

4. Dear Evan Hansen, This Year’s Going to be a Great Year, and Here’s Why:

Not only did the cast of Dear Evan Hansen get to meet Beyoncé and take home six Tony Awards, the new Pasek and Paul musical quickly became a favorite among young Broadway fans. The musical’s focus on social media quickly extended offstage and into the lives of the fans. #YouWillBeFound has turned into the show’s main social media touchstone and was the inspiration for a 360-degree music video featuring Dear Evan Hansen fans released in September.

READ: Watch Moving 360-Degree Dear Evan Hansen Music Video Featuring Fans

This wasn’t the only “You Will Be Found” music video Dear Evan Hansen has released. Most recently, the musical showed its global impact by having fans from Japan to Norway record themselves singing the anthem to join an international “virtual choir.”

READ: Watch Dear Evan Hansen Fans From Around the World Sing 'You Will Be Found'

Even at the beginning of the musical’s Broadway run, it found ways to engage with its fans through social media, offering streaming previews of songs to fans who had pre-ordered the cast album or bought tickets to the show.

5. Pasek and Paul got (GG)OT

Within a matter of five months, Dear Evan Hansen's songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul became Golden Globe, Oscar, and Tony winners. While they had already been established in the theatre community (and given a Tony nomination for their A Christmas Story work), their “City of Stars” in La La Land moved them to the mainstream of pop culture—and the Academy Awards. It was during their Oscar acceptance speech for Best Original Song they gave a shout out to arts education, kids who like to sing in the rain, and the moms who let them.

We have only a few months until we know if Pasek and Paul will win a Best Musical Theater Album Grammy for Dear Evan Hansen, and later on in 2018 if they will be nominated for an Emmy for A Christmas Story Live!.

6. #BitOfAYear

It seems every day the Twitterverse awaited news from Lin-Manuel Miranda. From his Hollywood Walk of Fame star to announcing his return as Alexander Hamilton when Hamilton plays Puerto Rico, we hung on his every tweet for new developments. Most recently, he announced that he would release new Hamilton music—collaborations, cut songs, and more—in the form of #Hamildrops, every month for the next year.

Not only did Miranda bless us with new Hamilton music in 2017, he used his influence and already-existing Hamilton music to raises funds for Immigrants We Get the Job Done Coalition through #Ham4All.

The challenge required participants to sing a Hamilton song, donate a Hamilton ($10) to the Coalition, and challenge someone to join them. Celebrities including Shonda Rhimes, Ben Stiller, and NBA star Stephen Curry participated, and of course, Broadway had to show off their skills:


7. Raise Your Voice (And Hashtag)

Theatre is linked to activism, and the Broadway community often uses its art for change. How did Broadway raise its collective voice this year?

January 20, 2017 marked President Trump’s inauguration AND the first Concert for America: Stand Up, Sing Out!. A host of Broadway stars joined Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley for the afternoon of singing, benefiting organizations like NAACP, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center, National Immigration Law Center, and the Sierra Club Foundation. Since the first concert, Rudetsky and Wesley have taken the series across the country, with the final concert of 2017 taking place in Montana December 27 and 28. Even if you aren’t in the city where the concert takes place, the team has made sure to make the performances accessible through Facebook Live.


In April, when the Trump administration’s 2018 budget proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Broadway community rallied on and offline to #SaveTheNEA.

As NFL players took a knee during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality and racial inequality, so did the cast of Miss Saigon during their curtain call on September 25.

Tony nominee Norm Lewis also took a knee in solidarity at the end of his performance of "What's Going on" at Elsie Fest 2017.

8. Moore versus Trump

On October 28, President Trump inaccurately claimed that Michael Moore’s Broadway show, The Terms of My Surrender, was forced to close due to lack of interest. The solo show, which marked Moore’s Broadway debut, was scheduled to play a 12-week limited engagement, and fulfilled its entire run. Moore did respond to President Trump directly on Twitter, and we provided our own fact check analysis:

9. Julius Caesar versus Trump

In June 2017, the Public Theater kicked off its annual, free Shakespeare in the Park season at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park with a production Julius Caesar, directed by the Public’s artistic director Oskar Eustis. The staging featured Caesar as a Trump-like figure, with coiffed blonde hair and a red tie. Outrage soon swelled amongst conservatives and Trump supporters, with calls to boycott and cancel the production.

The day before the opening and leading up until hours before the opening night performance began, American Express, Bank of America, and Delta Air Lines all withdrew their funding. Public Theater responded with statements of unity like #WeAreOnePublic, and Eustis gave remarks at the opening night.

Days after, two conservative protesters stormed the stage and interrupted the June 16 performance. The disruption took place during the assassination scene, where one of the protesters yelled: 'Stop the normalization of violence against the right.' They were quickly escorted out, but supporters of the protest quickly took to Twitter with #FreeLaura. The Public, and its supporters, responded with a simple and positive message: Free Shakespeare.

READ: Protesters Interrupt June 16 Performances of Public Theater's Julius Caesar

10. Indecent's Historic Extension

On June 14, the Tony-nominated play Indecent, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Paula Vogel, announced its final performance date: June 25. After this initial closing announcement, the production saw an uptick in ticket sales, and producer Daryl Roth made the bold move to keep Indecent open for six additional weeks. The announcement was made at the curtain call of June 22, which Indecent released on Twitter:


11. Waitress Pie Challenge

To support Susan G. Komen Greater NYC chapter in the fight against breast cancer, a number of Broadway stars and casts got a pie in the face. Participants had to pledge a donation, take a pie in the face, and challenge three friends to do the same. Here's the #WaitressPieChallenge compilation:

12. Edge of Glory Challenge

What started out as Mykal Kilgore wondering (and Jay Armstrong Johnson giggling in the background) why no singer has optioned up on Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” challenge, soon became Instagram feeds flooded with belting Broadway performers—including Caissie Levy, Cynthia Erivo, a Grizabella, and a post-show Elphaba.

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