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In their words: What made the 2023-2024 Broadway season’s shows belong in this year?

Actors, directors, choreographers and playwrights reflect on why their productions needed to be on the Main Stem right now.

(Clockwise from top left) “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Suffs,” “Stereophonic” and “The Heart of Rock and Roll” on Broadway (Credit: Marc J. Franklin, Joan Marcus, Julieta Cervantes and Matthew Murphy)

Whenever a show receives a Broadway revival, the collective theater audience wonders: Why now? But the truth is, every piece of theater — musical or play, revival or original — is a product of its time. It is a reflection of the moment in which it plays and, as a piece of live entertainment, morphs in response to that moment. But a production running on the Rialto in 2022 is not the same as one running in 2023 — even if it is the exact same play.

Broadway News wanted to understand the 2023-2024 Main Stem season as a collection of statements about this time in theater and the world. On red carpets of multiple events — from the 2024 New Dramatists Luncheon to the 90th annual Drama League Awards, Broadway News gave actors, choreographers, directors and writers a chance to answer one prompt: Name one line or scene from your show that embodies why this work belonged in this Broadway season. Here’s what they said:

Shows appear in order of their Broadway opening dates.

“Back to the Future”

Casey Likes, actor (Marty McFly): “This one’s for the dreamers.” It’s [from] the song by Alan Sylvestri and Glen Ballard. It’s about [how] there’re a lot of people who try to make it, and we just hope to be making work that at least matters to someone. There’s a lot of work this season and everyone’s got a different audience. 

“Purlie Victorious”

Hasna Muhammad Davis, daughter of playwright Ossie Davis and actor Ruby Dee: I think it is the epilogue, the benediction, as we call it. [The character] Purlie Victorious, in the church, is able to give a message to everyone to love themselves no matter what they look like, to be who they are and embrace that no matter what.

Kara Young, Tony-nominated actor (Lutiebelle): There are so many gems. There’s the line: “Being colored could be a whole lot of fun, but ain’t nobody looking.” The joy of being Black together, the simplicity of that — and it’s applicable to so many people from all different parts of the world — being together in your space with your people, there is an undeniable magic of expressiveness, a boldness, which I feel was so present throughout “Purlie Victorious.” Then there’s the moment where [my character, Lutiebelle,] comes back and thinks Purlie has gone and that something dangerous has happened to him. I think about young people of color who leave their homes every day. And a parent might not know if their child is coming back or not. The things that are in this play are so relevant to what we are going through right now.

“Jaja’s African Hair Braiding”

Whitney White, Tony-nominated director: There’s a very powerful line at the end of the show that Zenzi [Williams] delivers as the character Bea — when everything feels dark or lost with the main character [Marie]. Bea tells Marie to “lift her chin up because we have work to do.” It’s delivered with such pathos and power. That line, “we have work to do,” feels very now. We all have some work to do, and we’ve just got to get ourselves together to do it.

Zenzi Williams, actor (Bea): It’s that last moment in the show where [the character] Marie asks, “But what if it’s not okay?” And I say, “Well, maybe it’s not. It’s not okay. But after that, it will be.” That’s the time we’re in right now. Sometimes things are not okay in the moment, but it’s the hope that we have. 

“Merrily We Roll Along”

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