From Playbill’s CEO: This Spring Is the Best That Broadway’s Ever Had | Playbill

Special Features From Playbill’s CEO: This Spring Is the Best That Broadway’s Ever Had

There’s an embarrassment of riches right now on the stage.

Three years ago, on April 14, my father, Arthur T. Birsh, died. As the longtime publisher of Playbill, my father had dedicated his life to the theatre community and Playbill. Even during his final days, he cared so deeply for the community and its future. This was in 2021, a year into the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the industry we both loved. No one knew then when theatre was going to come back. In his final day, my father asked me, worried (one of the rare times I’ve seen him so scared), if we would ever be in a theatre again, if Playbill could survive if there was no theatre. Holding his hand, I reassured him that Broadway would be back and I promised that we would be there with it.

Three years later, I can proudly say that our amazing community helped me keep that promise to my father. In fact, Broadway isn’t just back. Broadway is back and better than ever! I feel driven to shout from our Playbill office that this spring is the greatest spring that Broadway has ever had. At 19 new shows opening in just two months, 12 of them musicals, there hasn’t been this wealth of extraordinary performances on Broadway in memory.

I’m not writing this as a piece of clickbait. In Playbill’s 140 years in this industry, never has a publisher made (or could make) such a pronouncement. It’s just not something we have ever done. But looking at the remarkable array of shows on Broadway right now, I could not help myself from crying out, “It’s a brand-new day!”

So, what makes this such an extraordinary time on Broadway?

First: the sheer quantity of new offerings. At 17 new musicals, this is the most musicals that have opened in one single season in this century.

Second: The overarching quality of this new work. I realize “quality” is subjective, but here’s a fact: I sincerely cannot tell you who the Tony Award front-runners are. Every contender has inspired passionate conversations from both ardent fans and skeptical detractors. Rather than one or two memorable shows, we are experiencing a wealth of stand-outs. There is no other season in recent memory about which I can say that.

Third: Broadway is representing American pluralism in profound ways. This season saw a historic number of top female-identifying creatives. Eight musicals in the 2023–24 season were created by women; it’s the most musicals in the history of Broadway written by women in a single season. Out of 39 shows that opened this season, a record 16 had female directors. Last summer saw the first show with an all-Filipino cast on Broadway (Here Lies Love), last fall saw the first show starring actors on the autism spectrum (How to Dance in Ohio). And this spring saw the historic first major Broadway revival of The Wiz, with its all-Black cast and majority Black creative team. Among the season’s non-musical success stories were the extended-by-popular demand runs of three hugely acclaimed plays by Black writers: Purlie Victorious, Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, and Appropriate.

Fourth: Even with all this exciting new work, our theatres are still brimming with long-running favorites season like Hamilton, The Lion King, and Book of Mormon. Wicked celebrated its 20-year anniversary on Broadway, Aladdin celebrated its 10th, Hadestown celebrated its fifth. And this summer, Moulin Rouge! will reach five years on Broadway.

Fifth: Broadway right now has a wealth of offerings for any demographic. Along with serious, adult-themed plays and sophisticated musical revivals, there are no fewer than 10 shows I would happily recommend to any parent of children between the ages of 5 and 15.

What might be most astonishing to me about seeing so much exciting work produced on Broadway is the fearlessness it took to move all of these productions through the pipeline in post-pandemic, battle-scarred environment. Despite the chorus of naysayers and a cloud of uncertainty hanging over our industry, our fearless producers and investors somehow kept the faith these past years. We show-goers are now reaping the benefits of their courage.

And, of course, many of those producers and investors are reaping the benefits, too. Merrily We Roll Along, An Enemy of the People, and Cabaret are all playing to over 100% capacity or as we say, “SRO” (standing room only). Other recently opened shows are easily filling their houses above 90%. Audiences have returned to Broadway in droves.

If only my father was alive to see this. COVID-19 shook our society and ravaged the theatre industry to its core. And yet, from the ashes of the pandemic, theatre’s creative forces—brave producers, gifted actors, and imaginative artists—have performed a miracle. They defied the doubters, ran against the cautious and stated—by their energies, ingenuity, and shear will— “Broadway will be back.” And they all worked together to create this treasure trove of a season and shouted, “Broadway is back.” Along the way, our community advocated for better working conditions and wider representation. The end result of all this hard work is a plethora of great art that’s attracting audiences both new and old.

I am so proud of the theatre industry for Broadway's rebirth, a Broadway that is back and better than ever. A miracle like this is something worth crowing about every 140 years!

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