5 Shows That Could Topple Hamilton

Hamilton0044rHamilton opens to Broadway audiences in just a few weeks, and already it has all the buzz for the still young 2015-16 Tony season.

From the genius behind In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton played earlier this year to sold-out audiences downtown at The Public. For an ever-so-brief moment, it appeared that Hamilton was going to transfer to Broadway in time for the 2015 Tony Awards and possibly steal Fun Home‘s thunder. Thank God the smart minds at The Public (I’m guessing here) asked Hamilton producers to hold off on its Broadway run to prevent two of its shows from competing against one another. (Fun Home originated at The Public, as well.)

With its transfer and opening firmly set for next month, Hamilton is already considered the overwhelming front-runner for next year’s Tony’s. But even with all its buzz, there are producers out there ready to compete with Hamilton for the big prize. And I for one would love to see a strong competition. (I’m still not sold on the idea of a hip-hop musical.)

I combed through the line-up of shows that have announced openings for the fall, winter and spring. Here are a few that I hope will have the potential to compete. And, like An American in Paris this year, here’s to an out-of-nowhere show coming along to tighten up this still very early Tony race.

1. Allegiance

Why it has potential:

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 8.47.43 PMThis is the show I’m most excited for—it’s oozing with talent and sure to be an emotionally powerful story. First, check out this cast: Lea Solonga, Telly Leung, and George Takei. Second, there’s the story: a Japanese-American family is wrongfully imprisoned in an internment camp during WWII, and Sam and his sister Kei set out to clear their family’s name and prove their loyalty to the U.S. Takei, himself, spent time in an internment camp as a boy, so the show and its star have an intrinsic connection that I hope plays out well on stage. And from what I’ve heard of the score, we’re in for amazing music.

Why it may fall short:

Allegiance opens in the fall, and as theater watchers know, the fall and winter season can serve up a cold kiss of death. (Side Show, anyone?) Ticket sales often slump, and for a new show, this can spell trouble. To have a chance at the Tony, Allegiance will have to weather the cold season and hopefully still be around by nomination time in the spring. For a show that’s waited more than two years for a Broadway theater to open up, I’m crossing my fingers and toes that it makes it.

2. Tuck Everlasting

Why it has potential:

tuck_everlasting_broadway_h_2015Timing is everything on Broadway. And Tuck Everlasting, based on the popular children’s book (and movie) about a girl who discovers a magical family living in the forest, will open at the right time—in March, just weeks before Tony nominations. It’s also headed by director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw, who brought us Something Rotten! last season and The Book of Mormon previously. Watch for the recognizable title to help ticket sales.

Why it may fall short:

Hamilton is seen as a “serious” and “important” musical, not to mention the hip hop opera is talked about as single-handedly reinventing musical theater. Tuck Everlasting is bound to be whimsical and delightful, but it will have to rise above the perception that it’s just another kid-friendly, family show if it’s going to compete.

3. School of Rock

Why it has potential:

Alex+Brightman+and+the+cast+of+School+of+Rock+by+Timmy+BlupeSpeaking of recognizable properties, School of Rock is likely to capitalize big-time on the popularity of the movie it is based on. This story about an unorthodox teacher, Dewey Finn, who starts a kid rock band, is made for the stage—I’m a little surprised it took this long for it to happen. Andrew Lloyd Webber, love him or hate him, seems to have a pretty easy task here of remounting a crowd-pleaser of a movie on stage. I can’t wait to see what Alex Brightman does with the role of Mr. Finn.

Why it may fall short:

Webber is not my favorite composer. Dreadful Cats and dusty old Phantom are just about the antithesis of what I look for in shows. To have a chance, I hope Webber elevates his propensity for lullabies and sappy, pedestrian lyrics. And to really compete, Webber may need to set aside some of the songs featured in the movie, especially if he wants a chance at Best Original Score.

4. Amazing Grace

Why it has potential:

AmazingGrace0695rsc-1000x667Based on the life-story of the author of the iconic song, Amazing Grace is a look at John Newton’s come-to-Jesus epiphany that leads him to crusade against the British slave trade. The song, “Amazing Grace,” is so embedded in our national consciousness that it might be all this show needs to sell tickets. Amazing Grace ran its out-of-town tryout in Chicago to sold out crowds and rave reviews. Still, Chicago critics don’t tend to be as persnickety as New York critics (think: The Addams Family musical). By all accounts, though, the score by Christopher Smith is stirring and powerful.

Why it may fall short:

Again, timing is everything, and Amazing Grace is opening in previews this weekend, at the very start of summer. During a time when shows close after a few short months, it’s going to take a hell of a lot for this show to be open a year from now. (A bad or even luke-warm New York Times review will likely kill a long, healthy run.) If it closes in the fall or winter, you can almost bet no one’s going to remember it come nomination time.

5. Bombshell

Why it has potential:

104460OK, this might be a tad premature, but it definitely looks like the creative team behind Bombshell, the faux Marilyn Monroe musical featured in the short-lived TV drama Smash, will be coming to the Broadway stage. Exactly when is up in the air, especially since someone still needs to write a book for this thing. (May I suggest Craig Lucas of An American in Paris?) If it does come together by the spring, we could be looking at a sleeping giant with all the potential to topple Hamilton—a score by the team behind Hairspray, choreography by the genius behind the dancing in the On the Town remount, and banging lead actresses in Megan Hilty and Katherine McPhee (that is, if they return). Boy do I love the idea of an out-of-nowhere surprise in the Tony race.

Why it may fall short:

Because it may not happen in time. Tick tock, tick tock.

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