In Isolation and Missing Musical Theatre? What to Watch to get Your Broadway Fix
Kristin Hall • April 5, 2020
With shows closed from Broadway to London’s West and the cancellation of regional and school productions across much of the world, live musical theatre has been effectively shut down for the foreseeable future. We all know how necessary this is. If we stay apart, we save lives. It’s something we all have to, and, really, should want to do to help one another stay healthy.
While we know this is the way things have to be right now, it definitely leaves theatre lovers at a loss. For many of us, musical theatre is so much more than entertainment. It offers community, a connection between people with a common passion for acting, singing, and dance. The shows themselves can evoke feelings of happiness and joy, while also offering a means of escape from the challenges of daily life. These are all things that we desperately need right now but can’t get through theatre attendance or performing in public spaces.
Thankfully, professional and amateur musical theatre performers alike have stepped in to fill (at least some of) the void left by the cancellation of live shows. From high school students performing for Broadway stars via Twitter, to professional performers singing from their bathrooms on YouTube, Broadway fans can spend their time indoors getting their fill of these online offerings. To help navigate what’s out there in the world of musical theatre, Sudbury Performance Group has compiled a list of what you can find, and where to find it.
When shows everywhere were closing in March, Broadway star and Tony-winner Laura Benanti (Gypsy, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, She Loves Me) knew how disappointed students would be to hear their school productions were cancelled. Benanti sent out a call on Twitter, asking students to record themselves performing the songs they wouldn’t be able to deliver to a live audience. Using the hashtag #sunshinesongs, Benanti received thousands of responses. Check out the inspiring and uplifting videos of these budding performers and while you’re at it, follow Benanti on Twitter (@LauraBenanti).
Like Benanti, Jennifer Tepper, programming director of the now-closed Broadway supper club, Feinstein’s/54 Below, sent out a call to student performers. Focusing specifically on college musical theatre seniors whose showcase performances would normally have been seen by agents at this time of year, Tepper has offered up an online platform for these students. To see their incredible performances, search the hashtag #MTShowcase2020.
Twitter is also where you’ll find musical theatre legend, Andrew Lloyd Webber and legend-in-the-making, Lin-Manuel Miranda in a showtune play-off. After accepting Webber’s (or A-L Dubs, as Miranda calls him) initial challenge, Miranda performs from the Jesus Christ Superstar songbook, while Webber’s response is from Hamilton. There’s only been one back-and-forth so far, but of course, we’re all hoping for more! To see their home-based performances, follow either Miranda or Webber (or both) on Twitter. If you don’t have access to Twitter and want to see their play-off, just visit the website What’s On Stage!
If you’re wanting to check out a full-length musical that is likely new-to-you, go to the Eugenius! Facebook page. Archival footage of the British musical about a boy who dreams of becoming a superhero (book, music, and lyrics by Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins) was made available on March 20. The show is funny and energetic with an 80’s inspired original score. It’s definitely worth checking out.
The Facebook page for Feinstein’s/54 Below is an amazing resource for theatre-lovers! The club, which has been dubbed “Broadway’s living room,” showcases nightly performances from Broadway’s biggest stars. With the shutdown, 54 Below has introduced #54BelowHome, where Facebook users are treated to some of the club’s most unforgettable, yet previously unreleased performances. Performances are released each day and they are, indeed, incredible!
Performers looking to sharpen their skills while in isolation should join the Facebook page for Broadway Weekends at Home. Founded by Broadway performers and sisters Jenna and Dani de Waal (American Idiot, Wicked, Once), Broadway Weekends offers musical theater classes for adults that are taught by professional performers hailing from both Broadway and the West End. The best part? For the duration of the COVID-19 crisis these classes are FREE! It’s a private group, so you have to request membership, but it took about two minutes for us to be granted access. Multiple classes are held throughout the day and all you need to participate is access to Zoom video conferencing.
On March 16 pianist, Playbill correspondent, Sirius XM Broadway host, and all-around Broadway-aficionado Seth Rudetsky and producer James Wesley introduced the daily live-streamed concert series “Stars in the House.” Full of amazing performances and conversations between Rudetsky and an impressive array of stars including Kristen Chenowith, Jason Alexander, and Audra MacDonald, the show is also a fundraiser for the Actors Fund. “Stars in the House” streams twice daily, at 2 pm and 8 pm, and will continue until Broadway re-opens. You can watch past episodes and catch new ones at the Stars in the House YouTube channel.
On Sunday, March 22 The Rosie O’Donnell Show, which regularly featured Broadway performances during its run in the late nineties and early 2000s, returned for a one-night special to benefit the Actors Fund. Hosted from O’Donnell’s garage/art studio, The Rosie O’Donnell Show Live! allowed viewers to peek into the bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, and even bathrooms of some of Broadway’s biggest stars. The show, which ran over three and a half hours long, saw performers chatting with O’Donnell and giving some amazing performances, perhaps the most memorable of which was Tina star Adrienne Warren singing ‘Simply the Best’ from her bathtub.
If you enjoy the works of Stephen Sondheim (West Side Story, Gypsy, Forum, Company, A Little Night Music, Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, to name but a few), then definitely check out Melissa Errico’s live concert “Sondheim Sublime.” In celebration of Sondheim’s 90th birthday on March 22, Errico (Dracula, My Fair Lady, Amour) performed from her album Sondheim Sublime at the Guild Hall of East Hampton. She also answered questions about the legendary composer and lyricist. Focusing especially on Sondheim’s more uplifting works, Errico beautifully performs classics including “Not While I’m Around” (Sweeney Todd), “Losing My Mind” (Follies), and “Move On” (Sunday in the Park with George). You can watch the entire concert at the Guild Hall YouTube channel.
If you’re looking for a full-length show, subscribe to The Shows Must Go On channel on YouTube. Every Friday, Andrew Lloyd Webber will release one of his musicals for a 48-hour period, starting at 2:00 pm EST. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was featured from April 4-6 and Jesus Christ Superstar will be streaming from April 10-12.
In 2012, Corey Mach (Godspell, Rent, Waitress) introduced the concert series “Broadway Sings,” showcasing current and recent Broadway stars performing new arrangements of the songs of contemporary pop artists such as Adele, John Legend, and Lady Gaga. Since the series couldn’t continue live, Mach decided to feature previously filmed performances from the best of the concerts while also including details about what makes each performance exceptional. You can see these incredible pop reinterpretations on Instagram on Corey Mach’s IGVT series #BroadwaySingsOriginals.
If you need to get moving after a day of watching all the great content we’ve listed, you can learn to dance with Debbie Allen! The Fame star and choreographer offered a free dance class last week, which you can find at #DanceWithDebbieAllen. Her first class focused on ballet, and she’s announced that she will be teaching a salsa class this week. If you want to get the kids dancing too, check out her Early Bird dance class for kids ages 3-7, also at the same hashtag.
Stay home. Stay Safe. Watch. Sing. Dance.