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Aisle Seat: Broadway Ushers in Flocking Fans

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

By Naomi Serviss / New York City

This forever Broadway play is closing in February after 35 years
This forever Broadway play is closing in February after 35 years

Good news for Broadway producers:

A steady stream of tourists (and a motley crew of regulars) are contributing to standing-room only and capacity theater audiences.

After being shuttered for nearly a year and a half, creating widespread unemployment, during the pandemic’s peak, that’s cause for celebration.

Audiences are beelining back and tourists are queuing up once again in droves at box offices.

It still bothers me when I see waves of maskless theatergoers hurtle towards Into the Woods.

I’ll never get used to it.

So it goes…

Tickets for the remaining days of Phantom are being snapped up fast.

Broadway’s longest-running show recently announced a February, 2023 closing performance at the Majestic Theatre, after 35 years.

Fans are flocking to see the show one last time before the brilliant red rose steals the final spotlight.

Phantom garnered more than a million dollars in late September, up considerably from the weeks before the closing announcement.

The Majestic was packed, literally Standing Room Only, with capacity audiences upwards of 100 percent at the Andrew Lloyd Webber mega-musical.

The first time since 2017.

Broadway 2021 was historic as well, with numerous musicals and plays starring, directed and written by women and people of color.

With 18 openings this fall offering a diverse smorgasbord of talent, there’s something to appeal to all comers.

Granted, the mask optional laxity of most theaters might be troubling to some (me!) but wearing a mask (me again!) is the only way to go for some.

Those looking for a refresher course on American history should consider the gender-bending 1776.

This traditionally white male cast has been upended.

In its place, you’ll discover a compelling roster of female, non-binary and trans people-of-color portraying America’s Founding Fathers.

The production bends gender stereotypes and challenges audience perceptions and expectations.

Wendell Pierce and Sharon D Clarke in Arthur Miller's classic Death of a Salesman
Wendell Pierce and Sharon D Clarke in Arthur Miller's classic Death of a Salesman

A revival of Arthur Miller’s classic 1949 Death of a Salesman features Black actors Wendell Pierce, Sharon D Clarke and André De Shields.

They bring to desperate life the tragic Loman family, typically played by white actors.

Clarke won an Olivier Award this year for her portrayal of Linda Loman in the British production.

She was sensational in last season’s Caroline, or Change.

The theater community is abuzz with raves for this iteration of Miller’s masterpiece.

It’s easy to see why, with an exceptional cast that includes De Shields, fresh out of Hadestown.

The assemblage of Black talent, from Broadway’s storied past to contemporary filmdom’s stars, promises to attract and appeal to appreciative audiences.

Black playwright Adrienne Kennedy’s Ohio State Murders, directed by the esteemed Kenny Leon, will star Audra McDonald, whose talent soars as majestically as her voice. 
McDonald portrays a writer who revisits her alma mater to speak about her incendiary work.

In whatever role she commands, McDonald, a national treasure, is a wonder to behold.

Word of mouth is loud and strong for this one. Don’t miss it.

August Wilson’s brilliant 1987 play The Piano Lesson is another hot ticket.

Directed by LaTanya Richardson Jackson, it features her husband, Samuel L. Jackson, in the role of Doaker Charles.

Jackson originated the role of Boy Willie in The Piano Lesson at the Yale Repertory Theater in 1987.

This go around, he’s Boy Willie’s uncle who schools Willie on the piano’s history and its importance to the family.

Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama unfolds with siblings fighting over selling an heirloom piano that illustrates depictions of their enslaved ancestors.

It’s one thing to watch psycho Jackson unspool in the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction but live, before your eyes, on stage!

Acting in real time, projecting his enigmatic energy all the way into the balcony heights.

A castmate, Danielle Brooks, starred in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black and made a lauded Broadway debut in The Color Purple in 2015.

John David Washington, a theater newcomer, will be making his Broadway debut in The Piano Lesson. He's also Denzel's son.

Another on my list is the revival of Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Topdog/Underdog.

The drama follows the daily routine of two impoverished brothers named Lincoln and Booth.

Irony isn’t dead.

For comedic musical fans comes Some Like It Hot, based on the classic film starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon.

Some Like It Hot is the madcap story of two Prohibition-era musicians forced to vamoose from Chicago after witnessing a Mob hit. Gangsters on their trail, they hide from the Mob by becoming the newest big band members ever to cross the country.

Even if you know the film backwards and forwards (who doesn’t?) the antics of the cross-dressers will be well worth the price of admission.

With two-time Tony Award-winner Christian Borle, J. Harrison Ghee and Adrianna Hicks star in this newbie musical with songs by Scott Wittman And Marc Shaiman.

Tony Award-winning Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon) directs and choreographs.

The show will feature a diverse cast in this rollicking farce, opening in November.

Undoubtedly, more theatergoers would attend if tickets became less exorbitant.

Dream on.


Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including

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