Standing before a jubilant crowd in Central Park, actress Susan Kelechi Watson noted the occasion. This marked “the return of live theater to New York City,” she said
It was clearly overdue, a colleague added. “It’s been a long year-and-a-half, you-all.”
That was last August, at the start of “Merry Wives.” Now the show is one of several reaching TV, as part of theater’s post-pandemic comeback. There’s:
— A jubilant “Anything Goes,” at 9 p.m. Friday (May 13) on PBS. It opened in London last July 23 (two months before Broadway returned), with its official opening Aug. 4. Sutton Foster (shown here) and director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall drew raves … just as they did for the same show on Broadway, a decade earlier.
— “Merry Wives,” at 9 p.m. May 20 on PBS. With its outdoor setting, it was originally set for July. It paused after an injury and officially opened Aug. 9 This is still Shakespeare’s comedy, but sharply trimmed and set in New York.
— “Keeping Company with Sondheim,” 9 p.m. May 27 on PBS. The “Company” revival opened Dec. 9, two weeks after Stephen Sondheim, the musical’s creator, died at 91. This documentary, however, had interviewed him extensively.
— Tony Awards, 8-11 p.m. June 12 on CBS. Hosted by Oscar-winner Ariana Debose, the first full Tonys in three years. The ones planned for June of 2020 were finallyt handed out in September of 2021, with only a partial field of eligible shows.
This time, more shows are eligible. There are 12 new plays, plus nine revivals (including Daniel Craig in “Macbeth” and Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker in “Plaza Suite”). And nine new musicals, plus four revivals (including “Company” and Foster and Hugh Jackman in “Music Man”).
That makes Foster a double star in the comeback of musicals.
Back in 2012, “Anything Goes” drew nine Tony nominations and won for best revival, best actress (Foster, her second Tony) and best choreographer (Marshall, her third.)
A decade after that show opened, those two did the London production. The result – now coming to PBS — is a classic crowd-pleaser.
Yes, the story is silly, filled with disguises, mix-ups and instant romance. But all of that is covered up by the work of Cole Porter, who (like Sondheim) was both a brilliant lyricist and a strong composer.
There are classic hits – “You’re the Top,” “Anything Goes,” “It’s De-Lovely,” “I Get a Kick Out of You.” But most triumphant this time is the rousing “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.”
In that number, we see a star who can do it all … a choreographer who masters spectacle … and a reminder of why it was so important for Broadway to be revived.