Review: ‘Broadway by the Year: Broadway Musicals of 1987 & 2015’ at The Town Hall

Scott Siegel closed this 19th season of Broadway by the Year at The Town Hall with a tribute to the shows and songs of 1987 and 2015, bringing his appreciative audiences up to the current decade in his ongoing journey through the history of musical theater. With the A1 accompaniment of BBTY Musical Director Ross Patterson and his Little Big Band, Siegel (who writes, directs, and hosts the one-night-only performances) introduced a roster of present-day stars and emerging talents to give new voice and renewed life to both the biggest hits and some of the lesser-known works of the past in a delightful installment of Broadway by the Year: Broadway Musicals of 1987 & 2015.

The cast. Photo by Maryann Lopinto.

The season finale featured performances by an impressive array of eight powerhouse vocalists and two terrific dancers, with not a weak link among them (as is always the case with Siegel’s spot-on casting). Act 1 highlighted the songs of Into the Woods and Les Misérables – the two “linchpins” of 1987 – along with one number each from Starlight Express and Stardust. In setting the stage for the mood of the time, Siegel noted that it was the year of the Iran Contra Affair, the Gary Hart and Jim Baker sex scandals, and the Black Monday crash of the stock market, but it also saw some good news, with the FDA approval of AZT and Prozac first hitting the market. Act 2 time-traveled to 2015, when the world population hit a whopping 7,500,000,000, but progress was made in the rate of extreme poverty being lowered to 9.6%, and On Your Feet!, It Shoulda Been You, An American in Paris, Fun Home, and the revolutionary Hamilton made their Broadway debuts, as celebrated in BBTY’s selection of songs from those shows and more.

Brian Charles Rooney. Photo by Maryann Lopinto.

From Brian Charles Rooney’s extraordinary four-octave range and well-matched amusing duets with the resonant Cooper Grodin, to Maxine Linehan’s sweet tones and humorous roller skating, Kenita Miller’s jazz- and blues-infused stylings, Farah Alvin’s expressive voice and engaging personality, and Lisa Howard’s formidable solos and audacious bumps and grinds, the show’s high energy and indisputable talent never ceased. Rising Stars Jeanine Bruen and Mercer Patterson (Ross’s talented young son) also took to the stage and delivered clear evidence of their promising futures in the theater, as had so many of BBTY’s Rising Stars that came before them (including Ali Stroker, this year’s Tony winner for Featured Actress in a Musical).

One of the highlights of the show, in a show chock full of highlights, was the laugh-out-loud intentionally mis-choreographed medley of “Songs You Shouldn’t Dance To,” sung by the fabulous Rooney and danced by Phoebe Garcia Pearl and Brent McBeth (who also provided the exuberant, albeit satirically mismatched, choreography). And what better way to end this hilarious segment than with “Not Throwing Away My Shot” from Hamilton, one of the greatest sensations of our time?

If you missed this final installment, but want to enjoy, and to learn about, the musicals that lit up the Great White Way and contributed to its illustrious history, Broadway by the Year will return for its 20th anniversary season in 2020, so mark your calendar for the opener on February 24!

Running Time: Approximately two hours and 15 minutes, including an intermission.

Broadway by the Year: Broadway Musicals of 1987 & 2015 played Monday, June 17, 2019, at The Town Hall – 123 West 43rd Street, New York City. For information about the upcoming 2020 season, go online.

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Deb Miller
Deb has written reviews, interviews, and feature articles for Stage Magazine, theartblog, and Inferno, and is a lead writer for Phindie.com and the Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent for Central Voice. She is a judge for Theatre Philadelphia's Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, and previously was a Voter for the awards under the former Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. Deb holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Delaware, has served as a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, and has taught at the U of D, Bryn Mawr, Rutgers-Camden, Hussian School of Art, and Rowan University.