Broadway’s Next Big Hit?

Originally published on NewYork.com
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It might just come from abroad. Our roundup of the most promising candidates from across the pond.

Where else can a theatergoer choose between singing-and-dancing missionaries, foul-mouthed businessmen and disco-clad dancers shimmying to ABBA music? Credit the vibrant diversity to the international appeal of The Great White Way, the last stop for the best-and-brightest productions from across the globe.

The London smash hit Matilda, which won seven Olivier Awards, is set to open in the Shubert Theater on April 11, but this highly-anticipated adaptation of the children’s book won’t be the only international import to find its way to Broadway this year. We rounded up a list of the plays and musicals currently on the world stage that have the most potential to make it. Look for these contenders on the billboards of Times Square sometime soon.

The Bodyguard

The musical adaptation of the 1992 film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, currently playing at the Adelphi Theatre in London, is a shoe-in candidate for future Broadway smashdom. “We want to bring you home,” said heavy-hitting Broadway producer James Nederlander Jr. to the musical’s leading lady Heather Headley, according to The New York Post. Executives of the Nederlander Organization reportedly met recently with the London producers of The Bodyguard to work on the details of the transfer.

Starring Headley, who won a Tony Award in 2000 for her performance in Aida, and featuring a score filled with some of Houston’s best-known songs, The Bodyguard has been described by the Times as giving “throbbing new life” to the movie, and Headley is credited with giving a “thrilling star performance.” Given the recent success of screen-to-stage musicals such as Hairspray and Sister Act, it’s no stretch to predict audiences will go crazy for a state-side Bodyguard.

Viva Forever

Viva Forever!, the jukebox musical featuring the songs of the Spice Girls, might shimmy to the United States in the next few years. The show, which first bowed at London’s Piccadilly Theatre last November, features a book by British comedian Jennifer Saunders, writer of the hit TV comedy Absolutely Fabulous.

The Spice Girls’ debut single “Wannabe” topped the charts in 31 countries in 1996, and they went on to sell more than 75 million albums worldwide during their time together. Viva Forever! is the brainchild of Judy Craymer, producer of the internationally successful ABBA musical Mamma Mia!, and tells the story of a talented girl who, after rising to fame on television, struggles with the reality of her success.

While the show received mixed reviews from the British press, tickets are still selling well and the Daily Mail reports that audiences are dancing in the aisles and leaving the theater singing. “‘Everyone but the critics has loved the show,” Craymer told The Daily Mail. “The Spice Girls are part of our history and pop-culture landscape. They have great pop songs. In fact, nobody—especially the critics—ever thought they would get going in the first place, yet they became the biggest band of their time.”

Rocky The Musical

We like to root for the underdog, and the musical adaptation of Rocky just might be one of those productions New York audiences will cheer for. Adapted from the Academy Award-winning movie, which inspired five sequels, the musical has been a critical success in Hamburg, Germany. Members of the creative team have admitted to being wary of taking on the project at first, but Rocky, which has been described as a gritty show with relatively little onstage boxing and no attempts to integrate dancing into the fight scenes, has proven to be very popular with German audiences. And it can be tweaked.

Joop van den Ende, the founder and owner of Stage Entertainment, told the New York Times, “We know New York right now is one step higher artistically and commercially than Europe. There is much work to do to make ‘Rocky’ better and better. But people in New York will be pleasantly surprised by what we have.”

We Will Rock You

Based on the music of Queen, We Will Rock You recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary at the Dominion Theatre in London. Productions have already been staged in five of the world’s continents, and a 2013 US tour was recently announced. Brian May, the producer and composer of the titular song, has confirmed the show will make a stop in New York, possibly Broadway.

Set 300 years in the future, We Will Rock You takes place in an Orwellian future where Earth is known as iPlanet and held under the control of a corporation that forbids musical instruments. With a heroic journey propelling the plot and a song list filled with pop culture favorites such as “Somebody to Love” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a new cast might be crooning “We Are the Champions” on a Broadway stage next year.


King Kong

“The 8th Wonder of the World” is already receiving international buzz for its technological achievements before its even made its May debut at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne, Australia. That buzz might be due to 19 foot-tall puppet of a gorilla and a cast of more than 40 actors, singers, dancers and circus performers that appear in the musical adaptation of King Kong. The production’s song list includes classic numbers such as “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” and “I Wanna Be Loved By You” as well as original compositions by songwriter Sarah McLachlan and others.

Along with Spider Man and Tarzan, another show featuring dazzling special effects could be very appealing to audiences, and producer Carmen Pavlovic told Variety she hopes the show will transfer to Broadway, “because New York is the literal and spiritual home of King Kong.”

Rebecca

The musical adaptation of the famous Gothic romance novel has been an international success, playing in Austria, Finland and Japan. Variety magazine called the Vienna production “a dream of a show,” but the Broadway transfer has been postponed due to financial problems (and scandal).

Rebecca chronicles a May/December whirlwind romance between a shy young woman and a mysterious widower who is haunted by memories of his first wife. While the production’s investment woes have been widely publicized, the show is still looking to find its way to Broadway, according to producer Ben Sprecher, whose lawyer Ron Russo, told the New York Times, “This fraud did enormous damage to Broadway, and Ben Sprecher remains totally committed to bringing ‘Rebecca’ to New York.”

With a score that has been praised and widely publicized special effects that include the Gothic set bursting into flames, Rebecca may yet heat up Broadway soon.

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