From fairy godmothers to lions, witches and outrageous wardrobes, the Great White Way has something for everyone. Here’s your guide to the greatest—and danciest—hits.
New & Noteworthy
Cinderella (by Carol Rosegg)
Cinderella: You know that story where a dowdy (but beautiful) young girl meets her prince charming and gets to rock a pair of glass slippers? The first Broadway production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical has furiously fast onstage quick changes, a flying fairy godmother and two hilarious stepsisters.
Matilda: The Musical (by Joan Marcus)
Matilda: The Musical: Roald Dahl’s story comes to life as Matilda, the bookwormiest kid in her class, discovers she has supernatural powers, bringing the audience into a fun and mischievous world of imagination.
Motown: The Musical (by Joan Marcus)
Motown: The Musical: Think VH1’s “Behind The Music,” stage-style, in this awesomely soundtracked show about Berry Gordy, the man who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.
Pippin (by Joan Marcus)
Pippin: The circus comes to Broadway! Kind of. In this remake of the 1972 Bob Fosse classic, young prince Pippin embarks on a soul-searching journey—and director Diane Paulus has brought some acrobats along for the adventure. Expect tons of high-flying action on top of Chet Walker’s Fosse-inspired choreography.
Kinky Boots (by Matthew Murphy)
Kinky Boots: A straight-laced shoemaker’s son and a flamboyant cross-dresser team up in this ode to unexpected friendships. You’ll love the chorus of dancing men in dangerously high heels belting Cyndi Lauper tunes, plus you’ll learn an important lesson about acceptance.
Jersey Boys (by Joan Marcus)
Jersey Boys: Learn how Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons hit the big time while dancing in your seat to the killer soundtrack, which includes hits like “Rag Doll,” “Sherry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.”
The Lion King (by Joan Marcus)
The Lion King: You already know the Disney story of Simba and his jungle buddies—and the Broadway version doesn’t have a happier beginning (R.I.P. Mufasa). But the cast members in life-sized hyena, elephant and giraffe costumes will blow your mind. Hakuna matata!
Mammi Mia! (by Joan Marcus)
Mamma Mia!: If you liked the Meryl Streep movie, you’ll go dancing-queen–crazy for the original stage version, set to ABBA’s greatest hits.
The Phantom of the Opera (by Joan Marcus)
The Phantom of the Opera: It’s the longest-running show on Broadway and Act I ends with a bang (really): They drop a crystal chandelier from the theater’s ceiling onto the stage!
Wicked (by Joan Marcus)
Wicked: This show is consistently at the top of Broadway’s “most likely to sell out” list, and for good reason: The sets and costumes are lavish, the flying monkeys will keep you on the edge of your seat and the heartfelt tale of how Elphaba and Glinda—the Wicked Witch and the Good Witch, respectively—grew up together just may get you to shed a tear.
Fun for the Whole Family…
Lilla Crawford as Annie (by James Lapine)
Annie: An orphan girl meets her Daddy Warbucks, and suddenly it’s not such a hard-knock life. The cast of cute kids—and a dog!—will get you singing along and beaming from ear to ear. After all, you’re never fully dressed without a smile!
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (by Jacob Cohl)
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark: High-flying adventure, a love story and an original score by U2’s Bono and The Edge? Sold!
The Book of Mormon (by Joan Marcus)
The Book of Mormon: The F-bombs may fly at rapid speed, but the tap-dancing missionaries are adorable and Casey Nicholaw’s choreography makes this 2011 Tony winner for Best Musical unforgettably fun. Just proceed with caution: The show, created by “South Park” masterminds Matt Stone and Trey Parker, isn’t for the easily offended.
Rock of Ages (by Joan Marcus)
Rock of Ages: It’s the ultimate jukebox musical that’ll make you want to sing along—you just may not want to do so alongside your parents. The “small-town girl meets rocker boy” material is mostly PG, save for a few raunchy scenes involving a bathroom stall. We say take your girlfriends—or pas de deux partner!—instead.
Go for the Dancing
Newsies (by Deen Van Meer)
Newsies: Arguably the danciest show of them all, Newsies burst onto the scene last year to rave reviews and standing ovations (plus a DS cover story!). The boys in this cast jump so high, turn so fast and sing with such heart that you’ll be tempted to leap onstage yourself. Hey, seize the day!
Chicago (by Paul Kolnik)
Chicago: It’s sexy, it’s scandalous—it’s Bob Fosse on Broadway. You know the songs and you’ve danced your own version of the “Cell Block Tango”; now it’s time to catch the fishnet-filled original.
Alright ladies, you know who you are: That girl who will forgo comfort for fashion, especially if it means rocking a great pair of heels on the dance floor. (I am, very occasionally, one of those people. But I always live to regret it.)
Really, nothing beats the costumes for Christopher Wheeldon's Cinderella. Helloooo gold pointe shoes! (San Francisco Ballet principal Sarah Van Patten in costume, photo by Nathan Sayers for Dance Magazine)
So let's talk about Cinderella, since I know you all went to see the movie this weekend. She dances, all night, in a pair of glass slippers. Ouch! Can you say blisters?! And do those things have even the slightest bit of arch support?
Fortunately, the smart folks over at Quora set out to determine whether Cinderella's dainty shoes could actually hold up to a night of dancing. Mechanical engineering, meet dance.
Engineer Antariksh Bothale makes several simplifying assumptions, but he determines that the force of Cindy's foot on the glass is three orders of magnitude less than the force that glass can sustain. But, that just means that Cinderella is safe to stand around. What about when she actually starts moving? Taking a few more assumptions into account, Bothale determines that the force of Cindy's step takes her dangerously close to the maximum stress the glass can withstand. He suggests that her shoes be constructed out of a special material called "thermal toughened glass," which doesn't sound very stylish but can apparently withstand greater force.
Lastly, what happens when Cinderella runs out of the palace at midnight? There are a lot of variables at play here, and running will apply three to five times the amount of walking force. But suffice it to say that if Cindy's dress is huge and cumbersome (which we know it is, because have you seen that thing?) and prevents her from taking long strides, she'll still be within the limits of how much stress the shoes can withstand. Bothale notes that running with a "toe-first foot strike" would solve the problem, but I, for one, know that Cinderella isn't some dainty prancing princess. She runs like a real girl and that's the whole point.
Girl with the biggest dress wins. (Still from Cinderella, directed by Kenneth Branagh)
If you're in NYC this month and free at lunchtime, consider heading over to Bryant Park for a special Broadway treat. Each Thursday (until August 14), performers from the hottest shows will come together to sing and dance their hearts out as part of a special summertime event hosted by 106.7 Lite FM.
Last week, performers from Pippin, Les Misérables, Chicago and the off-Broadway show Atomic took to the outdoor stage, and this Thursday, the lineup is even better: Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella, Avenue Q, Piece of My Heart and Bullets over Broadway. Take a look at the complete list of performances—you don't want to miss out, especially when the shows are free!
Can't wait until Thursday? Check out these clips of Chicago's Bianca Marroquin (Roxie Hart) and Amra-Faye Wright (Velma Kelly) from last week's show. Be sure to get to the park early to stake out a spot.
You might expect cutthroat competition among three teenage girls vying for a chance to be on the cover of Dance Spirit. But when our 2014 Cover Model Search finalists came to NYC for three days of shoots, shows and classes, the atmosphere was one of girl-power solidarity. After all, they were bound by one unifying passion: dance. (Oh, and an undying obsession with Travis Wall.)
Clockwise from top left: In Greg Zane's ballet class at Broadway Dance Center, (2) at the Broadway production of Cinderella, in Tracie Stanfield's contemporary class at BDC, in Greg Zane's class at BDC, in Tracie Stanfield's class at BDC, in Greg Zane's class at BDC (class photos by Josephine Daño, Broadway photos by Jenny Dalzell); Center photo by Erin Baiano
As we watched Alyssa Allen, Sarah Pippin and Christina Ricucci work it at their photo shoot, it became clear that these three talented contemporary dancers have three very distinct voices. Sarah may be a cute-as-a-button Southern belle, but she gave off serious sparks on set. Christina, the suave So-Cal beauty, impressed with her luscious lines and commanding presence. And Alyssa, a hilarious comedienne, tested out one unique shape after another in front of the camera. By the time the CMS finalists headed home, the DS editors were left thinking: Can’t they all win?
There are certain iconic roles every Broadway performer dreams of playing: Anita in West Side Story, Mimi in Rent, Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes. The lucky triple threats who snag these parts end up with the best solos and the most stage time—not to mention fully developed characters to sink their teeth into. Dancers in the ensemble, on the other hand, may only be labeled “townsperson” or “party guest”—but their characters are still a crucial part of the story.
Cinderlla party guests in character, including Kristine Bendul (second from right) (photo by Carol Rosegg)
How can you connect with a role that doesn’t have a fully realized identity? It takes a lot of imagination and improvisation, but creating your own character from scratch can be one of the most freeing experiences onstage.
What’s in a Name?
You may not have a name in the program, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create one for yourself. And choosing a name can help you begin to develop an idea of who your character is. Allyson Carr, in the ensemble of Broadway’s Mamma Mia!, calls her “party guest” identity Jennifer, after her twin sister. In another number, Carr plays an old woman in the town square and envisions her as a Greek Granny named Erma. Having separate names for her two characters helps her transition between roles during the show.
Kristine Bendul, assistant choreographer and ensemble member in Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella on Broadway, plays a role labeled only “fishmonger”—so she decided to have a little fun. “I named her Noodles,” she says. “I imagined my character ‘noodling’ these very slippery fish with her bare hands.” Bendul says that many Cinderella cast members choose funny names for themselves and refer to each other by those names onstage during performances (under their breath, of course).
Allyson Carr (bottom right) with the ladies of the Mamma Mia! ensemble (photo by Joan Marcus)
Once you have a name, choosing a few personality traits will help anchor your character and give some context for your movement. Carr describes party guest Jennifer as “happy and positive,” she says. “I imagine her as someone who wants to go out and meet guys, so she’s always giving 100 percent—and that means I give 100 percent when I dance her part.”
At the start of Mamma Mia! rehearsals, choreographer Anthony Van Laast asked ensemble members playing partygoers to imagine how their characters knew main character Sophie, and why they were invited to her wedding. From there, Carr was able to come up with a whole backstory for Jennifer: She’s a friend of Sophie’s from college and is excited to see her old friends and to get a vacation.
Even if your choreographer doesn’t give you much direction, try asking yourself a few questions about your character: How old is she? What era does she live in? What’s her role within the story? What is she dancing about?
Then use the choreography you’re given to further inform your role. For example, the refined movement and careful partnering in Cinderella’s party scenes allow Bendul to imagine herself as a dignified, slightly snooty woman: “She’s very elegant, which is why she pulls up as she dances,” Bendul says.
In the absence of a story, Joanne Chapman, founder and director of the Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Ontario, Canada, finds visualization a key element to getting her students into character. “I turn on the music and ask them to close their eyes and imagine: How do you respond to these lyrics? What kind of movement do you envision for your character? What is your facial expression?” says Chapman, whose musical-theater choreography has won top national titles at The Dance Awards and JUMP Dance Convention. Allowing yourself to imagine your natural responses to the music will help you make the moves your own.
These Cinderella characters all have names—but you won't find them in the program. (Photo by Carol Rosegg)
Change is Good
Don’t be afraid to switch things up from night to night. After all, that’s one of the most exhilarating parts of live theater. “I’m always Jennifer and Erma on stage, but one night they may be sillier, or more serious, and their quality of movement may change depending on my mood,” Carr says. Ensemble members often play the same roles for years at a time, so experimenting with your characters is the best way to avoid getting bored on the job and to always dance at the top of your game. “A lot of dancers don’t realize the freedom they have to create,” Bendul says, “but it’s what makes the job fun!”
Broadway Week is definitely one of the most magical times of the year. Why? Because through February 6, many Broadway tickets are now 2 for the price of 1. The best musicals ever for half the price? AMAZING. Now's your chance to catch up on the latest and greatest on the Great White Way. Click here for the full list of participating shows. And here are our must-see options with a little video inspiration:
After Midnight. Because Duke Ellington, tap dancing and so many split leaps.
Chicago the Musical. Because you loved the movie, and live is better. (And it's now starring Bebe Neuwirth as Matron Mama Morton!)
Matilda the Musical. Because look at all the cuties!
Newsies. Because it's still the danciest show on Broadway.
Pippin. Because Fosse.
Brace yourselves, bunheads: Season 2 of "Breaking Pointe" premieres one week from today. ONE WEEK! Let the countdown begin!
Actually, you don't even have to wait those seven long days for your next peek at the Ballet West reality series, because it turns out "Entertainment Tonight" got their hands on some footage from the second season. The clip follows the five ballerinas hoping to dance Cinderella in the company's upcoming production of the fairytale classic. Drama! Intrigue! Frederick Ashton's beautiful choreography! Adam Sklute pretending he doesn't already know exactly who will be dancing Cinderella at this point, but hey, he'll play along for the sake of the show!
Feast your eyes—then tune into The CW next Monday, July 22 at 9/8 c for the "Breaking Pointe" season premiere. Eee!