It's been a difficult two years for theater lovers. The pandemic has shuttered stages for an extended period of time, but good things are on the horizon as theaters around Central Mass. re-open, bringing exciting new live performances back into our lives.
One especially noteworthy event is Laura Benanti’s upcoming appearance on March 18 in An Evening with Tony Award Winner Laura Benanti at the BrickBox Theater in downtown Worcester’s Jean McDonough Arts Center. A star of both stage and screen, Benanti has been nominated for multiple Tony® Awards and won for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her turn as the title character in the 2008 Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents’ classic Gypsy. She’ll be performing a selection of songs from her repertoire (accompanied by celebrated music director and pianist Billy Stritch), as well as demonstrating her comic skill by sharing stories about her life in show business. Tickets are available to the public for “An Evening with Tony Award Winner Laura Benanti." Ticket prices range from $82 - $132. To purchase tickets, please visit: www.jmacworcester.org.
Ms. Benanti’s concert will be presented by Broadway in Worcester, a brand new initiative launched by Worcester native Eric Butler, which is committed to providing central Massachusetts’ audiences with the opportunity to see Broadway’s most celebrated and acclaimed talents perform locally.
In addition to providing local access to Broadway’s top performers, Broadway in Worcester plans to collaborate with these talents to offer masterclass level educational programs to the area’s high school and college performing arts students. Prior to her concert, Ms. Benanti will be offering an educational workshop, supported by the George F. and Sybil H. Fuller Foundation. This educational workshop, a partnership between Broadway in Worcester, Worcester Public Schools system and the Hanover Theater and Conservatory will be free for high school and college-aged students and their fine arts educators.
However, Benanti’s appearance won’t be the only chance that central Massachusetts audiences have to experience Broadway shows in their own community. The Hanover Theatre’s Broadway Series is offering a full slate of exciting productions, starting with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s blockbuster musical Cats from March 3-6. Audiences can also see commercial and critical hits such as The Prom and The Band’s Visit, which run from April 26 to May 1 and June 16 to 19, respectively. The Prom is a joyous and uplifting story about love and acceptance that was developed by the musical team behind adaptations of Elf and The Wedding Singer and features a book written by the Tony-winning creator of The Drowsy Chaperone. Its success on Broadway led to a movie adaptation helmed by Ryan Murphy, which featured an all-star cast that included Meryl Streep and James Corden. The Band’s Visit, which dominated the musical categories of the Tonys when it premiered, is a transformative musical about the accidental arrival of an Egyptian band in a small town in Israel. Featuring a memorable score and innovative staging, it’s a moving testament to the power of art and human connection to foster understanding and overcome cultural barriers.
Central Massachusetts theatre-goers can see another award-winning Broadway musical at the WCLOC Theater Company’s forthcoming production of Fun Home. Adapted by Alison Bechdel from her own landmark coming-of-age graphic novel and featuring music by Jeanine Tesori, this show is a poignant journey through an artist’s reevaluation of her adolescence, and especially of the role played by her late father in shaping her and her family. Fun Home will be staged at the JMAC’s BrickBox April 29-May 1.
Dr. Michael Lueger has a PhD in Drama from Tufts University and teaches theatre courses at Emerson College and Boston College. He hosts and produces the Theatre History Podcast and has written about theatre for a variety of publications.