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From 'The Prom' to 'Hadestown,' 5 must-see Broadway shows for summer

Visiting New York City this summer? These 5 Tony Award winners won't disappoint

SALT LAKE CITY — With a spectacular new Broadway production just opening and eight shows closing in the next six months, now is the time to visit the Big Apple.

The hottest new ticket in town is “Moulin Rouge!,” and the adaptation of the popular movie musical isn’t even officially open on Broadway yet (it opens on July 25).

I saw it on opening night of previews, and couldn’t find anything that needed to change. It was, as they say, “Spectacular Spectacular.” “Moulin Rouge!” is a spectacle, and more fun than I’ve had at the theater in a long time. It’s jam-packed with 70 popular songs, including the beloved originals from the movie musical, and now songs from Beyoncé, Adele and Britney Spears, among others.

According to industry analysts, “Moulin Rouge!” is selling incredibly well during previews. I predict a Tony win for best musical in 2020.

Several other Broadway shows have recently posted their closing notice. Of that lengthy list, shows like “Beautiful” and “Waitress” have had a healthy run (four years), while others are closing up shop at a loss for their investors (“Be More Chill” and “The Prom,” to name a few).

Here are five Broadway shows you shouldn’t miss this summer.

‘Hadestown’

Where: Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 W. 48th St.

Web: hadestown.com

Eva Noblezada and the cast of “Hadestown” perform on stage.
Eva Noblezada and the cast of “Hadestown” perform on stage.
Matthew Murphy

This hell-raising journey to the underworld and back won the 2019 Tony Award for best musical. Based in Greek mythology, “Hadestown” is the doomed love story of Orpheus and Eurydice — and that of Hades, the ruler of the underworld, and his wife Persephone.

Written by indie musician Anais Mitchell, the story evolved from a small staged production in Vermont more than a decade ago to a folk opera concept album in 2010. That led to a 2016 Off-Broadway production, followed by stints in Canada and London. The show can’t be stopped.

Its superb cast makes traveling to hell seem fun. The energy in the Walter Kerr Theatre was infectious. The crowd whooped and hollered for extended periods throughout the production. There's a reason it’s hard to get tickets to this show.

Standouts include Andre De Shields (whose smooth narration as Hermes earned him the Tony Award for best featured actor) and Eva Noblezada as Eurydice. The blues-filled harmonies of Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer and Kay Trinidad (playing the Fates) was this reporter’s personal favorite.

The story of “Hadestown” is often hard to follow, but that is masked by Mitchell’s incredible music.

***

‘Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations’

Where: Imperial Theatre, 249 W. 45th St.

Web: ainttooproudmusical.com

Ephraim Sykes (kneeling) and the cast of "Ain't Too Proud" perform on stage.
Ephraim Sykes (kneeling) and the cast of "Ain't Too Proud" perform on stage.
Matthew Murphy

It’s nearly impossible to sit inside the Imperial Theatre and not sing along to the smooth sounds of the Temptations.

Many audience members couldn’t keep it to themselves. You can’t blame them. After all, “Ain’t Too Proud” is the story of the greatest R&B group of all time, with legendary hits including “My Girl,” “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” and “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me).”

Built from the “Jersey Boys” playbook, “Ain’t Too Proud” is a well-written jukebox musical that shows the ups and downs of building a worldwide phenomenon.

As Otis Williams, Derrick Baskin brilliantly narrates the extraordinary journey the Temptations took from the streets of Detroit all the way to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The group’s signature choreography is both mirrored and elevated by Tony Award-winning choreographer Sergio Trujillo. “Ain’t Too Proud” is a fun walk down memory lane.

***

‘Oklahoma!’

Where: Circle in the Square Theatre, 1633 Broadway

Web: oklahomabroadway.com

Damon Daunno performs on stage in the Broadway production of "Oklahoma!"
Damon Daunno performs on stage in the Broadway production of "Oklahoma!"
Little Fang Photo

This isn’t your grandma’s “Oklahoma!”

No, this is the 21st century “Oklahoma!,” and its unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Brilliantly directed by Daniel Fish, this reimagined, dark retelling of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical will change the way you think about one of Broadway’s classics.

It’s been 75 years since Rodgers and Hammerstein reinvented the American musical with “Oklahoma!” The 2019 Tony Award winner for best revival of a musical still manages to find joy and hope from that original production through the darkness of Fish’s stripped-down retelling.

As Ado Annie, Ali Stroker — who won the Tony Award winner for best featured actress in a musical — is magnetic. And Damon Daunno’s seductive Curly is a performance not to be missed.

The set is stripped down, with plywood covering every inch, and picnic tables throughout. Audience members on the front row feel like they are part of the production, with a pot of hot chili cooking right in front of them throughout the first act. (Pro tip: At intermission, the production serves the chili on stage, so jump up as soon as intermission starts.)

Despite the amazing changes, “Oklahoma!” is, after all, still “Oklahoma!” There is still a long, unnecessary dance break (this time reimagined from a ballet to a modern dance). And there is still inherent creepiness with one character basically stalking another. However, Fish’s direction made me actually start to like “Oklahoma!” for the first time in my decades of watching Broadway musicals.

***

‘The Prom’

Where: Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St.

Web: theprommusical.com

“It’s Time to Dance” — and that’s what you’ll want to do as you walk out of the Longacre Theatre after seeing “The Prom.”

Supported by the hardest working ensemble in town, director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw’s “The Prom” is an upbeat marathon of incredible dance moves (the choreographer was unfairly snubbed for a Tony nomination; “The Prom” has the best dancing of the 2019 Broadway season).

With a cast of venerated Broadway veterans and 13 rookies making their Broadway debuts, “The Prom” is the story about a small-town high school PTA that cancels the prom rather than allow two girls to attend together.

As narcissistic Broadway stars focused on fixing their images by helping a lesbian girl get the prom she deserves, Brooks Ashmanskas and Beth Leavel are perfectly over the top. As the girl with the “unruly heart” who just wants to dance with her girlfriend, Tony award nominee Caitlin Kinnunen is the perfect blend of sweet and sassy. Make sure to take your date to “The Prom” before it closes on Aug. 11.

***

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

Where: Shubert Theatre, 225 W. 45th St.

Web: tokillamockingbirdbroadway.com

Jeff Daniels performs as Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which had its Broadway debut in 2018.
Jeff Daniels performs as Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird."
Julieta Cervantes

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is shattering box office records for any play on Broadway. That’s thanks, in part, to a powerhouse cast, coupled with a brilliant rewrite and retune of Harper Lee’s famous book.

Set in Alabama in 1934, Lee’s beloved story of racial injustice and childhood innocence centers on the towering small-town lawyer, Atticus Finch. Get to the Shubert Theatre before Nov. 11, when Tony Award nominee Jeff Daniels plays his last performance as Finch. Daniels was made for this role, and he brilliantly articulates writer Aaron Sorkin’s text with wit and emotion.

As Scout, Tony Award winner Celia Keenan-Bolger is smart and funny, despite the hard themes of the text.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Lee’s book when forced to read it in high school English. But somehow, Sorkin and director Bartlett Sher reversed that. In fact, it might be time to read the book again.

Bonus tip: If you’re looking for something to do before you catch a show, make sure to take a walking tour with Broadway Up Close. The tour is perfect for everyone from theater newbies to nerds. You’ll learn about everything from Times Square architecture to bizarre ghost stories of the theater district.