New York Magazine

 
 
 

web exclusive
From Hair to Hairspray: A Broadway Timeline
 
BY RON STOKES
 
Spray it on: Hairspray's a smash

Hair
April 29, 1968 to July 1, 1972

"Sodomy, fellatio, pederasty / Father, why do these words sounds so nasty?" They just don't write lyrics like that anymore. Rock music, nudity, flag desecration, draft-card burning, and homosexuality -- these are a few of our late-'60s favorite things.

Company and Follies
April 26, 1970 to Jan 1, 1972 and April 4, 1971 to July 6, 1972, respectively
From the team of Sondheim, Prince and Bennett came Company and the birth of the concept (read: non-traditional book) musical. Follies was Sondheim's musical tribute to the end of the old-fashioned tuner.

A Midsummer Night's Dream
January 20, 1971 to March 13, 1971
The Bard on swings. Peter Brook's landmark Royal Shakespeare production via an early commerce-and-art arrangement with legendary Broadway showman David Merrick. This is the first of what will be known as the "snob hits from across the pond." Among the cast is a young, unknown Ben Kingsley.

Pippin
October 23, 1972 to June 12, 1977
The show may have been only okay, but Madison Avenue took note. The producers of this initially lagging Bob Fosse musical were the first to utilize the all-out television commercial blitz. Previously considered too costly, Broadway TV ads are now the norm.

A Moon for the Misbegotten
December 29, 1973 to November 17, 1974
Highbrow drama alert. Director Jose Quintero and actors Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst become the official standard-bearers for the work of Eugene O'Neill. They later team up for Long Day's Journey.

Equus
October 24, 1974 to October 2, 1977
Peter Shaffer never met a horse he didn't like. This psychological examination of the mind included full frontal nudity above 42nd Street. A London snob hit that takes the Rialto by storm. Hell, even Richard Burton does a replacement stint in this one.

Gypsy
September 23, 1974 to January 4, 1975
Revival she sang. Angela Lansbury broke the Ethel Merman stronghold on the role of Mama Rose, prior to which no one would touch this classic Broadway musical, deeming it the singular property of the iron-clad diva. Tyne Daley and, soon, Bernadette Peters also follow in Merm's big footprints.

'Night Mother
March 31, 1983 to February 26, 1984
Perhaps the first "reality show" was Marsha Norman's 90 minutes of suicide preparation. Kathy Bates is chilling as the girl on the deadly countdown.

A Chorus Line
July 25, 1975 to April 28, 1990
Five, six, seven, eight. The granddaddy of them all, ACL is to musicals what Louis Vuitton is to luxury goods. This chorus wasn't backing up anybody: They were the stars. God, I hope I get it. I hope I get it.

Chicago
June 3, 1975 to August 27, 1977
Its Broadway opening preceded that of A Chorus Line's, but Chicago fell victim to its rival's huge downtown buzz. Hopefully, Fosse is looking down from some rehearsal hall in the sky at his Oscar payback.

42nd Street
August 25, 1980 to January 8, 1989 and May 2, 2001 to the present
Even all-powerful producer David Merrick couldn't have arranged to have Gower Champion, his director/choreographer, die on the day of the show's opening. But he did cause quite a stir when he announced it at the curtain call.

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
October 4, 1981 to January 3, 1982
Marathon Dickens takes over New York. Buttons proclaim "I have been Nicked" and nearby eateries provide the "quick Nick meals" between Parts 1 and 2.

Cats
October 7, 1982 to September 10, 2000
The British pussies are coming! The British pussies are coming! The first of the mega-musicals to cross the pond. "I laughed. I cried. It was better thanů. " Thank God, it's not now and not forever. Meow.

Torch Song Trilogy
June 10, 1982 to May 19, 1985
"And I want to thank my loverů" Harvey Fierstein's landmark play about the life and loves of a drag queen moves uptown. Tony Awards night brings about the first "significant-other thank-you" in a televised awards ceremony. Was that the click of TV's being turned off in Peoria? Oh hell, it's just the Tony's. No one is watching outside of the island of Manhattan.

Sunday in the Park with George
May 2, 1984 to October 13, 1985
Then-Times chief theater critic Frank Rich praised this Pulitzer prize-winning Sondheim tuner so lavishly, the show was dubbed "Sunday in the Times with Frank."

Phantom of the Opera
January 26, 1988 to the present
Oh, to be moved by a falling chandelier.

Six Degrees of Separation
November 8, 1990 to January 5, 1992
Ripped from the headlines, to become a drama forever etched in our minds. John Guare's brilliant examination of the good life (and its racist implications) in our city circa 1990.

Angels in America
May 4, 1993 to December 4, 1994
You didn't have to be gay to love it. Tony Kushner's American Mother Courage.

Rent
April 29, 1996 to the present
Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer-winning pop musical about life on the Lower East Side in the early '90s becomes a mega-hit just three months after its creator's untimely death.

The Lion King
November 13, 1997 to the present
Julie Taymor tames the mighty mouse. Disney learned their lesson from their theme-park Beauty and the Beast Broadway debut. This time out they remember to hire an artist to lead the creation.

Hairspray
August 15, 2002 to the present
More infectious than laughter. Based on the 1988 John Waters film, this joyous and optimistic musical deals with integration in the Baltimore burbs. The show reunites a draggy Harvey Fierstein and an adoring audience.

 




Advertising