The Broadway.com Show – 12/22/17 – Best of 2017! ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, Ethan Slater & More


RYAN: Welcome to a special edition of THE
BROADWAY.COM SHOW, where we take a look back at the year that was. I’m Ryan Lee Gilbert.
BETH: And I’m Beth Stevens. This week, we’re celebrating the biggest stories and brightest
stars of 2017. RYAN: We’re offering up some face time with
our faves and giving you the reasons behind our top picks of the year. But first, here’s
a look at some of the most talked about stories of the year. What’s the 2017 buzz, BETH? BETH : The Divine Miss M’s year was simply
that: divine. Bette Midler returned to Broadway with bells (and Sunday clothes) on in the
Tony-winning revival of HELLO, DOLLY! Midler’s triumphant return to musical theater was the
best homecoming a fabulous diva could ask for. The production, which also stars David
Hyde Pierce, Gavin Creel and Kate Baldwin, became one of the hottest tickets in town.
Midler nabbed a Tony for her performance—and managed to make the Tony speech of the year.
To top that off, she certainly knows how to throw a party. The star once again hosted
the best Halloween bash ever and celebrated her birthday on December 1 with an amazing
present: HELLO, DOLLY!’s Grammy nomination for Best Musical Theater Album. As Midler
gets ready to depart the show on January 14, we wanna say, Bette, thank you for a helluva
year. RYAN: To put it lightly, this year was a big
one for Ben Platt, who won the Tony Award, the Drama League’s Distinguished Performance
Award and the Broadway.com Audience Choice Award for his performance in DEAR EVAN HANSEN,
a show he’d been attached to since early read-throughs in 2014. But well-deserved awards
weren’t the only things that made this a banner year for the young star. Platt also
appeared in NBC’s popular revival of WILL & GRACE, signed a record deal with Atlantic
Records, was named PEOPLE’s Sexiest Broadway Performer, made the list of TIME magazine’s
most influential people in the world, received a Grammy nomination and, most importantly,
turned his dream of meeting Beyoncé into a reality. This year, Ben Platt stepped out
into the sun and everybody waved back at him. BETH: So, meeting Beyonce was the most important
thing in Ben Platt’s year? RYAN: I’m not super close with Ben, but
I’m sure if you asked him, he would say absolutely yes. BETH : One of the most buzzed about stories
of the year was a sobering one. With TIME magazine choosing the “Silence Breakers”
as its person of the year, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention how sexual misconduct
affected Broadway. Perhaps the most obvious example was the swift downfall of this year’s
Tony Awards host, Kevin Spacey. After allegations made by original RENT star Anthony Rapp, Spacey
lost his job starring in HOUSE OF CARDS, his agent and even his performance in the upcoming
movie ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD, when he was replaced by Christopher Plummer. Spacey
publicly apologized to Rapp saying he did not remember the encounter and also came out
as a gay man. As the #MeToo movement about victims of sexual harassment and assault gains
momentum, we know that we will never look at the 2017 Tony Awards ceremony with the
same eyes we did on that night in June. And to Rapp and others who bravely speak out,
we are glad you are at the forefront of a global conversation.
RYAN: I didn’t expect you to go there. BETH: I did, but now I want some good news.
Got any? RYAN: You bet. RYAN : The Great White Way got a little bit
bigger this year with the reopening of the Hudson Theatre, one of Broadway’s oldest
surviving theaters, after almost 50 years. The theater, which was leased by the London-based
Ambassador Theatre Group in 2015 and refurbished, reopened with a revival of SUNDAY IN THE PARK
WITH GEORGE, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, in a stunning performance as well as Tony winner
Annaleigh Ashford. Robert Ike and Duncan Macmillan’s stage adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984,
starring starring Tom Sturridge and Olivia Wilde, was the next show to be housed in the
Hudson, but neither production chose to be eligible for Tony Awards consideration. THE
PARISIAN WOMAN, starring Uma Thurman, is currently playing at the reopened theatre and the first
Broadway revival of BURN THIS, with Adam Driver, will move in next. So, far the Hudson is a
house of stars. BETH: : 2017 was also the year of songwriting
team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s meteoric rise. As every Broadway fan knows, the duo
took home the Tony for Best Original Score for their Tony-winning smash DEAR EVAN HANSEN.
But that’s not all, Pasek and Paul won an Oscar for Best Song for penning the lyrics
for the LA LA LAND’s “City of Stars,” and they already have a Golden Globe nomination
for the anthem “This Is Me” from the new movie musical THE GREATEST SHOWMAN, starring
Hugh Jackman. And both “City of Stars” and the DEAR EVAN HANSEN cast recording are
up for Grammys in January. So, if these two are destined to EGOT, where’s the Emmy?
Well, Pasek and Paul also just brought their musical A CHRISTMAS STORY to the small screen
with Fox’s recent live broadcast. That’s a lot of accolades for one year, and we’re
sure there will be many more in 2018. RYAN: : The world of Broadway and beyond was
also defined this year by Andy Karl’s triumphant performance in GROUNDHOG DAY after almost
being sidelined by a serious onstage knee injury, Andrew Lloyd Webber once again achieved
the rare distinction of having four musicals running simultaneously, divas Patti LuPone
and Glenn Close starred on Broadway at the same time in WAR PAINT and SUNSET BOULEVARD,
respectively, and there being #nodrama between them, and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST’s LeFou,
brought to life by Josh Gad, was the first openly gay character in a Disney movie. Plus,
some of our favorite Broadway stars got hitched this year, best wishes to Idina Menzel, Eva
Noblezada, Phillipa Soo, Steven Pasquale, Besty Wolfe and more. There’s more happy
news in 2017 as Sutton Foster, Corey Cott, Patina Miller, Laura Benanti, Megan Hilty
and more became parents. Cheers to all the stars who made Broadway extra bright this
year. BETH: : When we come back, we reveal the Star
of the Year, our picks for the best of 2017and more.
–This week on Broadway.com, catch Lea Salonga on Show People, Beautiful’s
Kara Lindsay and Ben Jacoby on Never Have I Ever, the final episode of
Spongebob Squarepants star Lilli Cooper’s vlog getting cheeky and more. [music] I’m Ethan Slater from Sponge Bob Squarepants on Broadway and you’re watching the Broadway.com Show. IMOGEN: Welcome back. Laurie Metcalf’s fierce Tony-winning work as Nora in A DOLL’S HOUSE,
PART 2 is our number one pick for the 2017 Performance of the Year. Playwright Lucas
Hnath’s crisp and comic take on an Ibsen classic offered Metcalf the opportunity to
dig in to her acting sorcery: from comic exasperation to ferocious passion, the actress’ fearless
performance was a marvel. In interviews Broadway.com conducted this year, Metcalf reveals her take on the role and more. –She can barely talk fast enough to get her
ideas out, and to show off to the to the woman who raised her. You know and and you root for people who have those flaws. Yeah she’s the show-off
yes she’s she’s a brat sometimes yes she’s impatient with everybody,
and selfish, but I find those qualities sort of endearing in people who
just have these blinders on about what they want to go for and don’t you know
just get out of my way. It’s fun to play.
IMOGEN V/O: This in-demand actress has a long history on the stage, and a great commitment to theater. I started out in theatre with Steppenwolf
theater in Chicago, and I’m still a member there and I think we’re in our 40
something season and so I’ve oh that’s always been where my heart is and my
passion. And I’m so grateful that I’ve never lost that passion. I love to do
theater, whether it’s Broadway or a 50-seat theater in LA, you know. It’s it’s
the same amount of work, it’s the same muscles it’s you know the same precision
that goes into it. So I will always keep gravitating back to theater and then
it’s nice to mix in a little bit of TV maybe a movies. It’s wonderful to break
it up so you don’t get burnt out. Being in this community is it’s so so
fantastic. It’s a smallish community anyway. It’s a really a dream come true
in the, if you’re a theater actor. IMOGEN V/O: With Oscar buzz swirling for her
role as a struggling mother in the film LADY BIRD, a ROSEANNE reunion on the horizon and a return to Broadway in the upcoming THREE TALL WOMEN, Metcalf reminds us that great
acting can come in many forms. You don’t get angry.
–Of course I do –Maybe once –Right now I feel angry. –Right now you’re angry? –You’re damn right I am.
— No I don’t believe that you are angry that you’re in it. That you’re inside the feeling of feeling angry. I think you’re
just outside of it looking at it like oh there’s something RYAN: SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS started performances
at the Palace Theatre less than three months ago, and star Ethan Slater has already got
audiences and critics alike buzzing about Bikini Bottom. The Broadway newcomer has been
involved with the Tina Landau-directed take on the Nickelodeon hit cartoon since the beginning.
It’s clear, from his physical comedy to his strong stage presence, that he knows the
character of SpongeBob SquarePants inside and out. We sat down with Slater to discuss
making a splash in his Great White Way debut. –You are the number one debut of the year. –What? That’s that’s so cool. Thank you. Oh, man. Thank you so much. I’m so honored to be honored with this. Playing Spongebob
has improved my life in so many ways. The biggest one probably is just you know his inherent optimism has changed the way I wake up in the morning , and it sounds sort of cheesy to say but it’s really true, like I maybe it’s because
I’m fulfilling a lifelong dream of being on Broadway, but I’d like to think
it’s also because every night I get to inhabit this character. It’s made me
more optimistic and more joyful and appreciate my relationships more. Actually
something really cool that my fiancee I said to me the other day was, she said it’s really special that you get to save the world every night because this is
a world that often feels like it needs saving for different reasons and it’s
a really special thing not just for, not just for me, but also to be able to share
with this company and with this audience is saving the world through this
message of love and community eight shows a week. It does change my outlook on
life and it does change the way that I feel. And I’d like to think that I can share
that with people now which is really special. –[Ryan V/O] Slater has been involved with
SpongeBob SquarePants for five years. He revealed what it’s been like to bring the project from its early days to the Great White Way. –I mean it’s totally
surreal. I have to check in once in a while with Danny, who has also been working on it for five years and we’re just like hey we’re doing this on Broadway
now. Like this is it’s real it’s like it’s amazing it’s so it’s so incredible.
It’s everything we thought that it would be but like times a million.
You know something like that? It’s been a good year. I’ve had a good year
there have been a lot of ups and downs in the world but 2017 has been a really good year. IMOGEN: COME FROM AWAY tells the story ofwhen the isolated community of Gander, Newfoundland played host to the passengers of 38 planes
following the events of 9/11. The moving new musical acquired a lot of attention in 2017,
becoming a box office hit. In fact, when we asked the fans to rank their favorite shows
of the year, COME FROM AWAY topped the list. We sat down with COME FROM AWAY stars Jenn
Colella and Chad Kimball to talk about the musical’s joyous impact on audiences and
vice versa. –This has been a fantastic year.
–Pretty great Yeah it feels amazing to be a part of something that people are reacting
to so strongly, especially because we believe in it so much. It’s something
we’re deeply proud of. –I think for me it’s the end-all be-all of what it
is to be in theatre, really. To go to the theater every night and to step on that
stage and know that you’re eliciting in a response in people that is
unique and rare and cathartic. –What I like about our show is that it gives our audiences another memory of that particular time and it’s not a story about
9/11. It’s about the fact that human compassion exists in in terrible times and what we’re learning is in times that you
–Keep going on. –That’s right yeah
totally we need it now more than ever, and so we can feel the audience’s now
leaning forward in their seats and and needing this story. It’s becoming more
and more relevant which is quite lovely. IMOGEN V/O Though the stars of COME FROM AWAY knew they loved the show, the did not anticipate how this musical would resonate with audiences and spark some serious fandom.
–They’ve been so sweet to us and so effusive with their
compliments in and with the things that they’re going through. And what it
brings up for them. They want to bring their friends and
they want to bring their family so many of the fans have become like family have
Come from Away because they continue to come back and they continue to bring
their own families and so it feels like we’re just growing and growing and
growing this like kindness movement it’s very cool. –Yeah and there’s a myriad
difference of fans. They’re the people who who are kind of like the theatre
people who come and see the shows and then there are people who never see
shows and then there are the people especially in New York who are really
close to and very protective of the 9/11 legacy. They come see the show. –I’m also
digging the younger fanbase that we have. These theater fans who know all of the
album they know the music and they know all the other fantastic shows that are
out right now, and they’re giving us love even though it’s a cast of like some
older folks you know what I mean? –Woohoo.
–Well mostly you, and like Joel, but like.. –The experience of doing the show
and having that you know there’s 12 of us and we have that 13th cast member as
the audience, it’s thrilling to be able to go out and actually look them in the
eye really close and say you know just have this moment together because they
were just in it as much as we were, and there are some some really heart-rending
stories that are told and there’s a lot of a lot of joy a lot of laughter and
there are some tears and it’s all worth it. BETH: The Broadway.com Star of the Year is a coveted title voted on by fans. Past winners include Kristin Chenoweth, Josh Groban, Kelli O’Hara, Ramin Karimloo, Daniel Radcliffe and more. The 2017 winner spent her year devoted to fans, vlogging for Broadway.com, cooking up cronuts and being haunted by a spooky doll known as Creepy Anya. She also won hearts with her starring role in the new musical
ANASTASIA. Of course, we’re talking about Christy Altomare. We caught up with Altomare
in her dressing room to ask her about 2017 highlights and to surprise her with the news
of her win. Take a look. –Hi my name is Christy Altomare and here’s some of my favorite things from 2017. I really liked Pink’s new album.
That’s good. –Favorite movie of the year I think I haven’t
seen it yet. I watch more TV. Are you gonna ask that question? I really like
Stranger Things. I have this game that I just recently got
and I cannot stop playing it. This is really embarrassing but it’s called color
balls and it looks like this. And I can’t stop playing it. My favorite thing I wore
this year was my pink dress in the Macy’s Day Parade. My favorite celebrity of
the year is creepy Anya. My favorite day of 2017… opening night of Anastasia. Favorite purchase of the year… I bought my boyfriend a computer. And my biggest accomplishment of the year was starring in a Broadway show! –Who is the Broadway.com Star
of the Year? Who’s that? Is it me? Is it really me? Am I really the Broadway.com Star of the Year… you guys! –Thank you so much… I’m like I don’t even know
what to say. Thank you so much. I am so touched and honored and grateful and I
love every single one of you who voted for me ,and thank you so much, bye! No did I
really actually win? How did I win? There’s no way I won. How did I win?
–You won. –How did I win? No you
guys are lying you’re just being really nice to me.
–Not at all. –This is insane! There’s no way that
I won. –You did.
–I can’t believe it. –And this is the coolest thing! Look at me this is my opening night dress. That is amazing. RYAN: When we return, we sit down with Michael Arden, director of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, Broadway.com’s number one show of 2017. –We named the exhilarating new production of once on this island as Broadway.com’s
number one show of 2017. Director Michael Arden took the beloved musical by Lynn
Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and put a fresh and inventive spin on it. I sat
down with Arden to discuss his vision for the show and how he brought it to
glorious fruition. –Michael Arden thank you so much for coming in because I’m
delighted to tell you that Once on This Island was chosen as the number one show
by Broadway.com. –I am overwhelmed.
–Best of.- –That’s amazing. –We love this show and we love
this production, so I want to hear about how you came up with this vision because
this is a reimagining. This isn’t just the revival. –In 2001 I was a freshman at
the Juilliard School as a drama student and there was an Actors Fund Broadway
Cares concert reunion original cast Once on this Island that was happening at the
Winter Garden on the set of Mamma Mia and I happened to snag a ticket and like
skipped out of rehearsal for The Winter’s Tale and I heard the music I’d heard the
album thought it was great you know and obviously loved their work, but I knew I
wanted to see this because I’d never seen a production of it. And I remembered
not being able to get out of my seat after it was over. It was just a concert
performance of it, and I was so moved by how this is a story about how people
forgive and rebuild and I think at the time it was the perfect antidote for New
York,
–9/11 Post 9/11.
— Yeah it was post 9/11 two months had gone by since
the attacks –And LeChanze’s husband had died in 9/11 so that’s what that was… I
was there too. And that was what that was for
— I think everyone there –It very moving and it had like a new layer of meaning I think. –Yeah and I just
felt like we were all healed by this and so it was something I carry that with me
for a long time. Then years later I was talking with Anne-Marie Mulazzo, who was
our vocal designer Orchestrator on the show and I said wouldn’t it be cool
to do Once on this Island in a parking lot with no instruments with just voices
and things we’d gather and she said yeah that’s great idea, and we got together, we
made two demos. We like called… Lilius White came and sang on one, Josh Henry,
Adrian Warren, all these people he got them together and said let’s make some
acapella demos. I wrote a beautifully worded letter and
sent it to Lynn and Steve with these demos and they were like no you can’t.
So that was a swift no but true to form I kept persisting and I knew I wanted to
do something in the round. I think it was always always certainly as you do it in
around so that it felt like people come together in a circle since the beginning
of time to tell stories around the fire, and so I know I want to do it in the round. And
I knew I wanted to find ways to use instruments and make it about how
powerful the human body and form and spirit can be because that’s what the
play is about. and that was sort of my way in and I think that the sort of
kernel of the idea remains. –I was very privileged to interview Lynn and Stephen
and they said you were in their Ragtime concert and you didn’t give up you were
a dog with a bone, you really were tenacious about it so you really had a
lot of vision for this, a lot of perseverance about it. Why? –Because I think it’s an important story. I think unfortunately it’s a story that needs to
be told. I mean as long as there is injustice in the world, which sort of
hard to imagine the world without it unfortunately, not only love is stronger
than death and hate and ignorance and divide, but that the good we do in our
lives goes beyond our life. –This direction is
very detailed, and very different from the original production. Tell me where
some of these images came from, where did the goat come from? It’s like you build
these these details that aren’t necessarily in the original script. –Um I
think the goat just wandered in one day. I mean I wanted this production to
feel very authentic and very real and as I was doing research. And I said I
have to go I have to go to Haiti. I have to be there. This is where I think this
takes place and given the earthquake and storms that had happened there and how
they were rebuilding and it was I called Ken Davenport our producer and I said I
have a crazy idea and you’re gonna laugh at me but I think Jane Laffrey our set
designer and I need to go to Haiti. And we ended up going and it was really
really instrumental in in the work we did. How did that inform what can we see
on the stage? –Just visually I mean so much of what you see are like complete
recreations of pictures we took of people we saw, of things they were
wearing. –It does feel authentic in the pre-show –The goats the chickens that
were there, the water, even like down to the sort of color of the
water, we and and the colors that are used and and and all of that the car
parts, all the debris, all the trash you see at the beginning, so it was really
inspired by that. But just to see that oh this what Rosa Guy was writing about in
her novel and what Steven and Lynn had written about it’s like alive and
thriving this class divide. –And even this year with the many hurricanes and the devastation in
many Caribbean islands. It just feels very resonant right now. –Yeah and not
even in the Caribbean and you know Houston –Right in Texas. –Or that was happening while we were doing our lab. It felt very immediate and I wanted it to feel very
sort of harshly realistic. –Can we talk about this fabulous cast for a second? –It’s an embarrassment of riches, isn’t it?
–It’s an embarrassment of riches and that’s a wonderful thing, but
it’s also very different from the original production. Tell me how you went
about assembling these gods, finding Hailey Kilgore, which is, you know, a star
is born suddenly. It’s wonderful. –Um it wasn’t easy. The first piece that fell
into place was Lea Salonga. I called her and I said have this wild idea. I don’t
know if it’ll work, but I’m doing this show and I think you’d be really great
in this role, and I know you’re not black, so that. And she said yeah I know
that too. –And she had some trepidation about taking the role. –Yeah, I mean I think I think we all did I we were nervous you know when so many people came to this island from the Philippines and and from the Middle East even, but I wanted the gods
to be all very very different, so it had to have a certain balance, so I had met
Alex Newell a couple years ago, and I was a big fan and I said hey I’m doing Once on this Island. And he said Oh I want to play the Lilius White role. And we
sort of laughed at the moment and and then I remembered that when we were casting I said I want to bring him in. And I think the writers were like what are
you doing? Papa Ge can’t be a woman. He can’t be… but he came in and gave the best audition. I mean you can’t deny when you hear him singing Mama Will Provide that it’s probably the greatest we’ll ever hear.
So he sang that and everyone was like okay well that’s something. And it was
exciting for me to say like a a gay man can be a mother.
–And a woman can be a Papa Ge. –A woman could be a Papa Ge. It’s exciting to have these two women fighting
over the fate of this young girl. And with Hailey I mean I saw a video of
her that was sent by a wonderful actor named Rodney Hicks, had sent us
a video of her singing Home from The Wiz when she was 16. So, we called her in. This 18 year old girl walked in and stole our hearts. –It’s amazing also how much
trust Steven and Lynn and your producers had and letting you work on the
gender fluidity, and the multiculturalism of this show.
–Yeah I mean it didn’t come without — You won them over. –It didn’t come fight, but I think you know
that’s that’s where the best work can come out of like people butting heads
and saying okay well why do I feel this way? Why are we holding on to these things? Change is tricky and change is hard. The last time they saw the
show was closing night in 1991 when it was perfect, you know. So I think then saying
oh I’m gonna take your baby and paint it and rip it up and yeah put it back
together is incredibly scary thing for any writers. So I really –And every director
wants to work in the round. –Always such an easy task.
–This show had to be in the round. I can’t imagine any other way.
— You’re lucky that theater was available. –I know we built the model for Circle in the Square not knowing if it was available or anything. It was just sort of a pipe dream
the Gods smiled. –The Gods smiled. It’s a wonderful production.
Congratulations for being the best of the year, not just for us but for a lot
of publications. –Well thank you. It’s such an honour I mean to just just to be part
of the Broadway community in and bringing this show back with these
particular people at this time and to be welcomed like this is such an honor.
–Thank you for coming in Michael. –Thanks for having me. IMOGEN V/O: When we come back, we look at some memorable musical highlights from ONCE ON THIS ISLAND. –Hi! This is Lea Salonga and you’re watching the Broadway.com Show. RYAN: Thank you for watching THE BROADWAY.COM SHOW. BETH: We leave you with a vibrant look at
the acclaimed Broadway revival of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, our pick for the best show of
2017. RYAN: See you next year! [“Why We Tell the Story” from Once on this Island plays]

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