The Top 10 Best Broadway Moments of 2020 (yes, there really were 10): PART I
Boy oh boy was this blog an exercise in how to find a bright spot (or 10) in the darkest of all times.
Broadway shut down in 2020. Something it has never done. Like ever. How could there be ANY “best” of Broadway when its stages were dark?
Well, that’s the thing.
What we learned this year is that you can turn the lights out on Broadway . . . but the light never goes out on Broadway.
Thanks to the ingenuity, imagination, and a Braveheart-like refusal to give up of TheaterMakers and their fans (see #3), the theater is still alive . . . and kick-ball-changin’.
From streaming shows in living rooms, to drive-in theater, to board room shakeups and crowd-sourced musicals, this was a helluva active year for a year in which we couldn’t act.
And years from now, when we look back at this elongated intermission, I predict it will be one of the most important and impactful years in our history.
What stood out as my 10 favorite moments? The moments that made me smile, made me proud, and make me want to double down on this biz, rather than give it all up? (Because be honest – who among us didn’t think about throwing in the make-up towel at least a half a dozen times over the past year?)
Here are my 10 Best Broadway moments of 2020 in no particular order:
1. Hamilton hits Disney+
The film and theater industry were still buzzing about the $75mm Disney paid for Hamilton . . . when the studio announced the mega hit would go straight to Disney+.
“But what about the Academy Awards? What about all those people who might not see the show live? Is it too early in the show’s lifecycle to put it out there?”
I’m sure the players debated those questions like the founding fathers fought at the Constitutional congress. But they released it anyway. And not only did it make the show accessible, and keep it and Broadway top of mind, but it officially made streaming a thing. Because when the popular kid does something, everyone else follows.
Expect more streaming shows (finally!) in the next five years.
2. The Broadway Advocacy Coalition Forums
Like many industries, the theater had a racial reckoning this year, taking a deep long look at itself in the mirror . . . and not liking what it saw. Because we’re a liberal and progressive art form, it’s easy for us to say, “Oh, that’s not an issue here.”
Thanks to the many organizations and individuals who had the courage to step up and say, “Stop talking and start listening,” we now know this issue, like the coronavirus itself, is everywhere.
And it’s time we take serious steps to eradicate it.
And the second was the Broadway Advocacy Coalition Forums, especially their “Day of Listening.”
I’ll never forget co-founder Britton Smith’s opening remarks . . . his passion . . . his authenticity . . . honesty. It was one of the best displays of leadership by a change agent I have ever seen.
And then there were the stories that followed from Britton, Amber Iman, and others, that all shocked me to my center.
See, I’ll admit. I was one of those people who thought I understood this issue a little better than most. Since starting my career as a company manager, I worked on several “diverse” shows on Broadway that dealt with race. Two of my shows even won diversity awards. So, yeah, prior to this summer, if you asked me how much I knew about this issue, I’d say I was like a 6 or 7 out of 10.
And Broadway Advocacy Coalition helped me realize . . . I didn’t know a @#$%ing thing.
I was so grateful for these forums. And I knew the 5,000 other people who tuned in are too. Because I know more now. And I also know I have a whole lot more to know. And I vow to keep listening, learning and taking those steps.
If you haven’t seen the forums, click here. And I recommend bookmarking them and rewatching them whenever you have a free moment.
3. The TikTok Heard ‘Round The World
“The world’s gonna know your name . . .what’s your name, man?”
Forget Hamilton. Forget Roxie. The name on everyone’s lips and in everyone’s feeds . . . is Ratatouille!!!!!!!!!
There are so many amazing elements to the Ratatouille story. A single TikTok video of a young woman making up a song for a hypothetical musical, was like a butterfly flapping its wings in cyberspace. And it caused a musical tsunami.
It united a generation of musical lovers and future TheaterMakers, who all joined in . . . and crowdsourced a musical.
But they didn’t just make the music. TikTokers made costumes, puppets, choreography and more. I couldn’t help but join in on the fun, and offered a few tag lines (this original video of mine has been seen almost 2 million times!).
But what’s amazing is that the powers-that-be recognized the powers-that-will-be . . . and they approved a production of Ratatouille for the Actors Fund!
That’s right, the first ever crowdsourced musical on social media will make its debut tomorrow night! Get your ticket here.
If you were ever worried that the next generation wasn’t interested in seeing musicals or making musicals, fear not. The Ratatouille movement proves that our future isn’t ratty at all.
(Oh, and PS, TikTok is now officially a thing – especially if you want a younger audience.)
4. Seth Rudestky and James Wesley’s “Stars In The House”
When Broadway got shut down, I started emailing people I knew to figure out how we could stream something . . . anything. And one of those people was Seth.
He responded tout-suit and told me he was already working on something. And in his quick email, I could already hear how hard he was working to give something to fans, and give something back to our community.
He turned his webcam on the next day.
Since then, Stars in the House, his twice daily (!) part interview, part performance, variety, reunion and more streamed show, has raised over $620,000 for The Actors Fund. $620,000!!!
Oh, and the show is also hysterical, moving and more.
Would you ever have imagined that a couple of guys in their living room could make this kind of impact? I could. If Seth was behind it.
5. For Nick.
How can a tragedy like the loss of Nick Cordero be one of our best moments?
Because Nick became a symbol . . . something that the industry could rally around at a time when we didn’t have much to rally around. And his wife’s overwhelming spirit . . . her love for her husband inspiring people to get up and dance . . . to sing together, to pray together . . . was one of the most unifying moments of the past year and a half.
Often it is a tragedy that brings people together. I hate that. I just hate it. Especially for Amanda and her little boy Elvis. But Nick is now a saint in our industry. And he will be a symbol for all of us to do what that song of his advised . . . to live your life.
You can watch a tribute to Nick from some of Broadway’s best here.
For my other 5 Best Broadway Moments of 2020, check out tomorrow’s blog. Or click here and have it emailed straight to you.