10 best new Broadway plays and musicals you need to see this summer, including ‘Illinoise’

10 best new Broadway plays and musicals you need to see this summer, including 'Illinoise'
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welcom to America today with a new article about 10 best new Broadway plays and musicals you need to see this summer, including ‘Illinoise’ 

Disney’s latest musical, Aladdin, based on the 1992 film of the same name, opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre on March 20, 2014, following a tryout at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle. The show features music by Broadway composers Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, with additions by Tim Rice, Chad Beguelin, and director Casey Nicholaw.

The production is expected to stay on Broadway through September 2014, after which the U.K. and Tokyo should expect their own productions. Prior to its Broadway run, the musical played at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto, Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre, and St. Louis’ The Muny. Tickets are available June through September, with price changes dependent on the time, day, month, and seat selection. The demand for this show also indicates a need for similarly themed blockbuster-style musicals, a trend that other producers and writers are bound to notice.

Broadway has rarely been so booked and busy. Since January, nearly two dozen plays and musicals have opened in New York’s legendary theater district. It’s an unprecedented pileup that’s created stiff box-office competition between new and returning shows, with many worthy performances left out of top categories in this season’s Tony Awards nominations.

10 best new Broadway plays and musicals you need to see this summer, including 'Illinoise'
10 best new Broadway plays and musicals you need to see this summer, including ‘Illinoise’

These past few months have gifted us blazing mainstage comebacks from icons Jessica Lange (“Mother Play”) and Bebe Neuwirth (“Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club”), along with fantastic scene-stealing turns by Amber Iman (“Lempicka”), Mia Katigbak (“Uncle Vanya”) and Phillip Johnson Richardson (“The Wiz”). Zoe Kazan, too, was the unsung standout of this spring’s sturdy “Doubt” revival, while acrobats brought some much-needed verve to “Water for Elephants.”

With this season’s hottest ticket, “Merrily We Roll Along,” ending its stellar run July 7, you may be wondering which other shows to catch the next time you’re in the city. Having now seen everything that Broadway has to offer, here are the 10 we most highly recommend, ranked:

10. ‘Suffs’

A historical musical about the women’s suffrage movement could go down like vegetables. But in “Suffs,” Shaina Taub has served up an unexpected treat, brimming with vivid characters, a winning cast and a fascinating true story that echoes loudly today. In a season dominated by pop and folk-rock music, it’s also refreshing to hear an unabashed Broadway score, with myriad earworms that both haunt and inspire.

9. ‘The Notebook’

If you leave cynicism at the door, it’s easy to fall in love with this sweeping romantic epic, based on the popular Nicholas Sparks novel and even more beloved film starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. Six actors play three generations of lovers in the decades-spanning drama, bolstered by a gorgeous score from Ingrid Michaelson and graceful turns from Tony nominees Maryann Plunkett and Dorian Harewood. The show’s nuanced depictions of dementia and grief ‒ and crushing last 10 minutes – will leave even the steeliest audience members reaching for tissues.

8. ‘Hell’s Kitchen’

Yes, the book is paper-thin, and those set projections are about as authentically New York as Dave & Buster’s. But dammit if we didn’t get swept up in this sentimental crowd-pleaser, which is loosely inspired by Alicia Keys’ formative years and pulls from her catalog of songs. The main reason to see “Hell’s Kitchen” is for its dynamite cast of vocal powerhouses including Shoshana Bean, Kecia Lewis and Brandon Victor Dixon, all of whom deliver rousing showstoppers. Maleah Joi Moon, who plays Keys’ teenage alter ego, will knock your socks off with her spectacular voice and megawatt charm.

7. ‘The Heart of Rock and Roll’

The most delightful show on Broadway right now is this Huey Lewis jukebox musical, which is much funnier and stranger than you’d expect. The show is set, of all places, at a three-day Midwest business conference for packing supplies, where the hunky Bobby (Corey Cott) is torn between his rock-star dreams and corporate ambitions. Lorin Latarro’s choreography cleverly incorporates everything from bubble wrap to cardboard boxes, while McKenzie Kurtz and Tamika Lawrence give sensational comedic turns that were woefully overlooked for Tony recognition.

6. ‘Appropriate’

In his razor-sharp family melodrama, playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins throws every cliché into a blender and whips up a story that somehow feels remarkably fresh. Sarah Paulson spews bile as the acid-tongued eldest sibling Toni, who tries to safeguard her late father’s legacy after his racist past is uncovered. A first-rate supporting cast grounds the twisty proceedings, and the production’s exquisite stagecraft is used to stunning effect in the play’s poignant coda, as dark secrets are buried and new life springs forth.

5. ‘An Enemy of the People’

Jeremy Strong (“Succession”) and Michael Imperioli (“The Sopranos”) face off in this gripping revival of Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 play, centering on a man who dares to sound the alarm about his town’s contaminated water supply. Director Sam Gold hurls the audience into the middle of the action with his intimate, immersive staging, forcing us to reckon with timeless questions of conformity and courage.

4. ‘The Outsiders’

S.E. Hinton’s 1967 coming-of-age classic is brought to exhilarating life onstage, led by a heart-tugging trio of Greasers played by Brody Grant, Sky Lakota-Lynch and Joshua Boone. In her first Broadway musical, Danya Taymor proves she’s one of the most visionary directors working today, leading a stellar team of designers to create striking images and visceral soundscapes, ranging from burning churches to deathly park fountains. The rain-soaked rumble between rival gangs, astoundingly choreographed by Rick and Jeff Kuperman, is worth the ticket price alone.

3. ‘Mary Jane’

We’ve raved effusively about Rachel McAdams, who portrays the unflappable mom of a gravely ill child in Amy Herzog’s poignant slice-of-life drama. But all that praise still feels inadequate to describe the magic trick that McAdams pulls off onstage every night: weaponizing her deft humor and luminous presence to catch us off guard as she gradually shatters our hearts. The actress is fortified by excellent co-stars, while Herzog’s potent script mournfully captures what it means to choose hope against all odds.

2. ‘Stereophonic’

With 13 Tony nods, “Stereophonic” is the most nominated play in Broadway history, and for good reason: David Adjmi’s staggering three-hour drama is the rare show that exceeds its already astronomical hype. Set entirely in a recording studio, the play depicts the fights and fissures that threaten to tear apart a 1970s rock band as they make their next album. Throughout the meticulous process, Adjmi brilliantly excavates the innerworkings of the group, as they confront addiction, spousal abuse and artistic integrity. Sarah Pidgeon and Will Brill are standouts in a top-to-bottom perfect ensemble, while Will Butler (formerly of Arcade Fire) masterfully evokes Fleetwood Mac through a string of irresistible jams.

1. ‘Illinoise’

It’s been ages since something moved us as profoundly as “Illinoise,” a wondrous and queer dance musical set to the songs of Sufjan Stevens. Unfolding over 90 dialogue-free minutes, with singers and musicians flanking the stage, the show follows a grieving young man named Henry (Ricky Ubeda) as he travels into the wilderness, where he stumbles on an eclectic group of campers who help him to open up about unrequited love and loss.

Ubeda delivers one of the finest performances by an actor this year, bursting with tenderness and aching vulnerability as Henry finds healing through storytelling. Justin Peck’s rapturous choreography continually brings us to tears, with a spellbinding tap number by Rachel Lockhart and Byron Tittle that ranks among the greatest things we’ve ever seen on a Broadway stage.

Impossibly beautiful and overwhelming emotional, “Illinoise” is without a doubt the must-see show of the summer.

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