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Theater with a Twist

Try as producers may, there is no guaranteed formula for Broadway success. Sometimes the hits are entirely new concepts, like last year’s Tony-winning “Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” and in other years, book adaptions like the now-classic “Wicked” capture viewers’ and reviewers’ hearts.

This year, the top shows on Broadway for groups are all united in retelling stories that have already been told but with inventive, catchy twists that make them incredibly appealing for theater visitors.

‘An American in Paris’

While a play within a play or a musical within a musical are relatively familiar tropes on Broadway, “An American in Paris” ushers in a breath of fresh air as a ballet within a musical.

Based on music by George and Ira Gershwin and the film of the same name starring Gene Kelly, “An American in Paris” unfolds in the aftermath of World War II in Paris, where everyone aspires to something more beautiful and romantic than the life they’ve lived during and after the war. A former GI turned painter, a showgirl with visions of being a prima donna and a pianist who imagines himself a composer get their shot when a wealthy patron takes an interest in helping them create the ballet of their dreams.

“If stunning dancing, a beautiful Gershwin score and a touching romance is more your speed, ‘An American in Paris’ is the show for you,” said Stephanie Lee, president of Group Sales Box Office and “This glorious production and its gorgeous story will surely charm any audience.”

The music for “An American in Paris” was originally an instrumental more like “Rhapsody in Blue,” created by the Gershwins to encapsulate the sounds that a visitor to postwar Paris would hear as the city reawakened. The film is, in many ways, best known for its unprecedented 17-minute ballet sequence, and the musical carries that onto the stage by casting — like Kelly in the musical — stars who have a strong dance background.

But rather than using Broadway actors who do ballet, “An American in Paris” employs professional ballet dancers who sing and act, bringing a refreshing change to the typical Broadway performance style. Robert Fairchild, principal in the New York City Ballet, and Leanne Cope, first artist in London’s Royal Ballet, embody the ephemeral nature of the Gershwins’ music, midcentury Paris and the head-in-the-clouds dreams of the main characters.


‘Something Rotten!’

While the plays of William Shakespeare never get old, the raucous new show “Something Rotten!” makes the man himself not only young again, but also arrogant and rather a rock star.

In this musical about writing a musical, two brothers who are playwrights that can never top the instant successes of the Bard, as Shakespeare is called in the show, visit a fortune-teller to find out the topic of Shakespeare’s next show and steal it. But instead of sensing the dour tragedy that is “Hamlet,” the seer mistakenly sets the brothers on a path to create the musical “Omelette.”

A period piece that merges satire with straight-up silliness, “Something Rotten!” is one of the most fun shows on the Great White Way this year, in no small part because of its casting. Christian Borle, from television show “Smash” and the critically acclaimed Broadway show “Peter and the Starcatcher,” imbues the Bard with totally self-interested celebrity — complete with entourage — that runs delightfully counter to how he is usually portrayed.

Brian D’Arcy James, also from “Smash” as well as “Shrek the Musical,” and Casey Nicholaw, choreographer and co-director of “The Book of Mormon,” round out the award-winning team.

“Jam-packed with irreverent humor and show-stopping tunes, ‘Something Rotten!’ is a must-see for theatre-savvy groups who will appreciate the endless musical theatre references,” Lee said. “But this prior knowledge certainly isn’t necessary to enjoy the sheer pleasure that is ‘Something Rotten!’” 

Gabi Logan

Gabi Logan is a freelance travel journalist whose work has also appeared in USA TODAY, The Dallas Morning News and Italy Magazine. As she travels more than 100,000 miles each year, she aims to discover the unexpected wonder in every destination.