NEW YORK CITY — As the 2017 Broadway season winds down, several shows have already closed their doors. Despite the star power of Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole, "War Paint" closed a few weeks ago, and stage adaptations of "Groundhog Day" and "Amelie" have come and gone.
But several shows continue to bring in audiences on the Great White Way. Here are five shows that are still going strong as we approach 2018 that should not be missed.
Music Box Theatre, 239 W. 45th Street, New York
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Don't worry; you're not too late. "Dear Evan Hansen" doesn't need star power to carry on.
Tony Award-winning star Ben Platt recently left the production, leaving some wondering if the production will continue to sell out. Ticket prices soared in the final weeks of Platt's run, with fans wanting one last peek at the "Pitch Perfect" star's raw performance as the anxious teenage Evan.
But this story doesn't need a star — in this case, the story is the star.
In a time where the world is ever connected, Evan Hansen is a lonely teenager watching the world go by through his social media feed. He becomes wrapped up in a lie he can't take back, a lie that gave him what he always wanted — a chance to finally fit in.
The heartbreaking, 2017 Tony Award-winning musical's anthems like "You Will Be Found" resonate in this fractured world where so many feel like they will never be enough to fit in with the group. The score, by Academy Award-winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul of "La La Land" fame, strikes a balance of emotional and fun, with catchy tunes and pull-at-your-heartstrings ballads.
As Evan's mother, Rachel Bay Jones left me weeping as she struggled to protect her son through the heartaches of life, her emotional performance earning her a well-deserved Tony Award.
"Dear Evan Hansen" teaches us to pull back the curtains and truly connect with others, something that doesn't seem to happen much these days in our "connected" world.
"Dear Evan Hansen" is a story that needs to be told — and one that needs to be heard.
Content advisory: "Dear Evan Hansen" contains strong language and crude references.
Broadhurst Theatre, 235 W. 44th Street, New York
Fans of the 1997 animated film will not be disappointed with the stage adaptation of "Anastasia." Familiar tunes like, "Journey to the Past" and "Once Upon a December" are mingled with new music for a fresh take on this alternative historical tale.
The well-known story follows an amnesic girl who rediscovers her past and attempts to reclaims her future as a member of the Russian imperial family. Helping her along her journey to the past is a handsome con man Dmitry, played by the charming Derek Klena, and a former Russian aristocrat, portrayed by John Bolton.
As Anastasia/Anya, Christy Altomare displays an innocence and almost school girl curiosity along with a wariness that comes from being burned by people she once trusted. Audiences could feel her longing ache to know who she was even as she almost gives up hope of ever finding out.
Tony Award-nominee Mary Beth Piel is radiant as the dowager empress.
A key departure from the film adaptations is the replacement of Rasputin with a character named Gleb. The underdeveloped character, played by an under-utilized Ramin Karimloo, serves as the villain and to form a sort of love triangle with Anya and Dmitry. Unfortunately, the character is never able to convey anything other than a passing fancy for Anya. Karimloo's vocals, proved in his roles as Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables" and the Phantom in "Love Never Dies," seem muted in this performance.
But even still, with a maturity beyond its cartoon beginnings, Broadway's "Anastasia" stands on its own.
Content advisory: "Anastasia" is family friendly.
Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 W. 47th Street
Pop stars come and go on Broadway. Many have tried to write a musical score (think Sting or U2) but few have succeeded.
But not Sara Bareilles. The singer-songwriter, who received mainstream notice with "Love Song" in 2007, joins Cindi Lauper ("Kinky Boots") as one of the few songwriters who have transitioned their pop music talent to the stage. With layer upon layer of sweetness and complexity, "Waitress" is as delicious as a hand-crafted pie.
Despite running for a year and a half, "Waitress" still feels fresh. Bareilles herself stepped into the lead role of Jenna for a few months in 2017 (and was a delight), and Jason Mraz is currently in the middle of a 10-week run as Dr. Pomatter. Currently playing Jenna is Betsy Wolfe, a Broadway veteran with the chops to carry any show.
"Waitress" is an adaptation of the 1997 Kerri Russel film about a woman escaping an abusive relationship and finding the courage to go after her dreams.
Helping Jenna on her journey are several quirky characters who steal the show. Ogie's "Never Ever Getting Rid of Me" and "I Love You Like a Table" are true show stoppers, and the Dawn and Becky's funny take on a serious subject like unplanned pregnancy generates laughs in "The Negative."
Utahn Will Swenson plays the bad guy well as Jenna's controlling, manipulative husband.
The sweet scent of pie baking in the oven fills the Brooks Atkinson Theater, immediately transporting the audience into the diner before the curtain even rises. You can thank the show's resident "pie consultant," Stacy Donnelly, for that. And if you're hungry, there are roaming waitresses serving pies in tiny mason jars.
With a heartwarming story and plenty of laughs, "Waitress" serves up a simple reminder that each life is about the ingredients you put into it and in an instant everything can change — and that sometimes the sweetest gifts are in the surprises we don't see coming.
Content advisory: "Waitress" contains mild language, sexual situations and references and depictions of love affairs that are not graphic in nature.
Shubert Theatre, 225 W. 44th Street, New York
Taking a show that is more than 50 years old and making it feel fresh and new may seem impossible, but that's exactly what director Jerry Zaks has done with the revival of the 1964 classic, "Hello, Dolly!"
It helps that this version is led by the incredible, Tony Award-winner Bette Midler in the title role, although those wanting to see her brash and sass best hurry — Midler will leave the show on Jan. 14, when another Tony winner, Bernadette Peters, takes over the role.
"Hello, Dolly!" is the story of a matchmaker down on her luck trying to win over a wealthy widower. This revival shines with show-stopping musical numbers and a big score.
Midler leads a fabulous cast of Tony nominees and award winners. As Dolly's love interest, David Hyde Pierce's gruff yet affable Horace Vandergelder makes it easy to see how Dolly could fall in love with him and Kate Baldwin as shop owner Irene Molloy shines. In addition, Taylor Trensch's naïve Barnaby is especially fun, and Gavin Creel, who won a Tony for the role, is captivating as Horace's assistant, Cornelius.
The elaborate costumes in "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" practically steal the show. And I've never heard an audience cheer as loud for a set piece as they did when a train rolled onto the stage.
"Hello, Dolly!" proves that a big, old-time production never goes out of fashion.
Content advisory: "Hello, Dolly!" is family friendly.
Longacre Theatre,220 W. 48th Street, New York
There's a moment in "A Bronx Tale" where one singular event changes everything.
Calogero, a young boy, witnesses a murder, and, sticking with neighborhood norms, refuses to snitch on Sonny, the local mob boss. Because of this act of loyalty, Sonny takes the boy under his wing, causing a rift between Calogero and his father, who wants his son to avoid a life of crime.
Despite the serious story, "A Bronx Tale" feels light, with doo-wop vocals blended throughout Alan Menken's score.
Bobby Conte Thornton commands the stage as Calogero — an impressive feat given this is Thornton's Broadway debut. His warm presence invites the audience to follow along as he tells his story, although Hudson Leverro as the young Calogero nearly upstages Thornton in his number, "I Like It."
As Sonny, Nick Cordero is equal parts brash and charming, evoking a certain longing for another life and helping the audience truly understand how one choice can change everything.
Richard Blake as Calogero's father portrays the struggle of trying to raise a son right in a tough neighborhood.
The story does wander at times, especially during the second act when it turns more toward a love story and ignores the main conflict of which mentor Calogero should follow.
But overall, "A Bronx Tale" is a perfect blend of "West Side Story" and "Jersey Boys." If you want a glimpse of what life was like in the Bronx, head over to the Longacre Theater.
Content warning: Violence, including a jarring murder on stage, and strong language.