Review of 2016 Musicals

Let’s take a look of Huffington Posts picks for the best musicals of 2016. This is a mixed bag regarding subjects and genres. Overall, Broadway was rated highly in variety and craft, with these five chosen as the most outstanding.


Best Musicals of 2016:


Starting down the countdown at number 5, “Waitress” makes a showing as an intense and moving show. Starring Jess Mueller and a score from newcomer Sara Bareilles, this piece would have been amazing in any case. Do be aware that Mueller leaves the show in early 2017.


Next, at number 4 in the countdown, is “Falsettos.” This show revives William Finn’s masterwork and reportedly didn’t have a strong start. Once the cast found its groove, it quietly became a hit with its intimate and shattering storyline. The cast of features Broadway regulars, including Stephanie J. Block, Christian Borle, and Andrew Rannells, some of whom gave their richest performance to date in this show.


At number 3, we have “Dear Evan Hansen.” This is a gratifying example of Broadway audiences embracing serious shows. “Dear Evan Hansen” launched real Broadway success for Justin Park and Benj Pasek. It features what Huff Post called one of the best ensemble casts in many years. Laura Dreyfuss and Ben Platt are the young people caught in the middle of a serious story of unintended deception accompanied by desperate loneliness and, ultimately, acceptance.


Almost in the top slot, at number 2, is “She Loves Me.” This sparkling revival is widely felt to belong among the best musicals ever written. Then, it doesn’t hurt that the cast attained near perfection. Scott Ellis glued it together with his comic direction. The production has been effectively recorded for TV broadcast, and it will now serve as a delightfully accessible show for many years.


For the top pick of the year, “Natasha”, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812,” wins the number 1 slot. This show is based on “War and Peace.” This show had truly innovative staging. Josh Groban has a terrific voice, but his acting can be stiff. However, the great appeal of “The Great Comet” is the work itself. Dave Malloy’s piece is rich in melody and character, an adept adaptation of Tolstoy’s epic masterpiece.



Chicago Theater Stands By It’s Choice to Use White Actor for Lin Manuel Miradana Role

The practice of “whitewashing” or replacing characters of color with white actors has made headlines lately, and for good reason. We are well into the 21st century and this discriminatory practice is still happening all over the country, and not just in Hollywood. Porchlight Theater Company, a local Chicago semi-professional company has even participated in whitewashing.

According to Buzzfeed News, the theater chose to cast a white Italian actor as the main character, a role that Lin Manuel Miranda typically plays. The cast is typically filled with mostly Latinx actors, and the theater has been criticized for their whitewashing. Porchlight admitted that they “fell short” but chose not to recast the actor.

It is hard to believe that in such a diverse city as Chicago, filled with aspiring and professional actors of all types, talents, and ethnicities, that they could not find an Latinx actor that was qualified to take on the role. Chicago is a diverse city and it is filled with many talented people.

Of course there are many people who do not understand why it is important for theaters and movies not to whitewash roles, and why casting actors of color in roles written for actors of color is important. A well known Chicago theater critic recently ruffled feathers when she went as far to say that it is acting, so why does it matter.

But the truth is that it does matter. Yes, most roles are not written in such a way that they cannot be played by an actor of another race or gender. Not all roles are written this way. In the Heights is specifically about the Latinx experience in the United States, and as such it as disservice to the many capable Latinx actors to cast white actors in these roles.

Whitewashing is also a problem because minority actors have to fight hard for the few roles that are available to them. When one of the few dynamic roles available to non-white and minority actors is given to a white person, it is a slap in the face. It says that only white people are talented and dynamic enough for this kind of role. The only way to end this kind of discrimination and disrespect is for casting directors to stop the practice of whitewashing.

Broadway Maintains Its Political Overtones

One of the main concerns about the cast of “Hamilton” after actor Brandon Dixon address then Vice President-elect Mike Pence from the stage of a performance is that Broadway isn’t a place for politics. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth.


Pence came to see the play with his family, and critics have expressed their disapproval with the “Hamilton” cast for speaking directly to Pence after the curtain call. Some critics also shared that this wasn’t fair, because Pence didn’t have a chance to respond.


Now-President Donald Trump even tweeted that the theater should be a “special and safe place” and that the cast, particularly Dixon, owed Pence an apology. Dixon stated to Pence that he hoped the show would inspire Pence and his political party to live by American values and work on behalf of all people.


Of course, a hashtag was born from this incident, and a quick search for #boycottHamilton will reveal just how upset people were. However, the theater has always been a place where social and political issues are expressed in creative and thought-provoking ways. Even from the days of Shakespeare, this has been the case.


The adaptation of “Les Miserables” by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg is another example that politics have long been at the forefront of Broadway productions. And, most theater-goers will likely remember “Fiddler On The Roof,” which is a musical that boldly discusses the anti-Jewish government issues of the early 20th century. The play also showed the ways that religious views and freedom have changed over time, as well as some of the ways that these things have stayed the same.


The bottom line is that Broadway has never been neutral when it comes to politics. Author Celeste Ng told the Huffington Post that writing or creating any type of art, is always political in some way or another. Ng also confirms that this is a time in history where poignant Broadway products are more important than ever.