Great Performances: Broadways Best

(Rochester, NY) – Great Performances returns with its third annual Broadway’s Best lineup of acclaimed theatrical productions, premiering Fridays, November 1-29, 2019 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV. This fall’s lineup spotlights musicals, comedy and drama: 42nd Street, the Broadway fable of a star-struck chorus girl dreaming of her big break; Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I, Lincoln Center Theater’s Tony Award-winning revival of the beloved musical classic starring Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe; Kinky Boots, the Broadway blockbuster featuring music and lyrics by pop icon Cyndi Lauper and a book by Broadway legend Harvey Fierstein; Red the Tony Award-winning drama starring Alfred Molina as painter Mark Rothko; and Tony Award-winning director Kenny Leon’s modern interpretation of Much Ado About Nothing,the first Public Theater production recorded live at Free Shakespeare in the Park by Great Performances in over four decades.

Great Performances: 42nd Street
Premieres Friday, November 1 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV
The 1981 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, 42nd Street is the song and dance, American dream fable of Broadway, featuring the iconic songs “42nd Street,” “We’re In the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle Off To Buffalo,” “I Only Have Eyes For You” and many more. This all-singing and all-tapping musical extravaganza includes a cast of nearly 60 people. Young Peggy Sawyer is fresh off the bus from small-town America and just another face in the chorus line on Broadway’s newest show. But when the leading lady gets injured, Peggy just might have the shot at the top she’s always dreamed of. Starring Bonnie Langford as Broadway diva Dorothy Brock alongside Tom Lister as the demanding director Julian Marsh, Clare Halse as the ingénue Peggy Sawyer and Philip Bertioli as Billy Lawlor, this revival of director-choreographer Gower Champion’s original production was recorded at the end of its 2018 blockbuster run in London’s West End, with musical staging and new choreography  by Tony nominee Randy Skinner (“Dames at Sea”) and directed by Mark Bramble, co-author of the book for the original Broadway and West End productions and director of the 2001 Tony Award-winning revival.

Great Performances: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I
Premieres Friday, November 8 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV
Lincoln Center Theater’s critically acclaimed 2015 production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic 1951 musical directed by Bartlett Sher (“South Pacific”) went on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical Revival. Based on a true story, the year is 1862, and East and West collide when British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens arrives in Siam (modern day Thailand) to take up her post instructing the royal household of children from the King’s several wives. Despite her sharp wit and strong will, nothing has prepared Anna for the lessons this rich and complicated new land has to teach her—or for the powerful connection she will forge with its imperious but conflicted King. The score features a treasure trove of timeless Rodgers & Hammerstein hits including “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “We Kiss in a Shadow,” “Getting to Know You,” “Something Wonderful,” “I Have Dreamed” and “Shall We Dance?” With a cast of over 50 people, this “first-rate, sumptuous” (The New York Times) production was “too beautiful to miss” (New York magazine). The production was recorded during its 2018 run in London’s West End with original Lincoln Center Theater cast members Ken Watanabe as the King and Kelli O’Hara in her Tony-winning performance as Mrs. Anna, along with Ruthie Ann Miles as “head wife” Lady Thiang, who won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a musical.

Great Performances: Red
Premieres Friday, November 15 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV
Award-winning stage and screen actor Alfred Molina reprises his critically acclaimed performance as the American abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko in playwright John Logan’s Tony Award-winning 2010 play Red. Under the watchful gaze of his young assistant—and the growing competitive presence of a new generation of artists—Rothko takes on his greatest career challenge yet: to create a definitive series of paintings for the Philip Johnson-designed Four Seasons restaurant in architect Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Seagram Building. Molina is joined by rising star Alfred Enoch (How to Get Away With Murder) as Rothko’s assistant Ken. Original Broadway director Michael Grandage returns to direct this 2018 West End revival, the first U.K. production since the play’s 2009 world premiere at the Donmar Warehouse.

Great Performances: Much Ado About Nothing
Premieres Friday, November 22 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV
This bold interpretation of Shakespeare’s comedic masterpiece features Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Back, Broadway’s “The Color Purple”) and Grantham Coleman (Broadway’s upcoming “The Great Society”) as the sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick. Tony Award winner Kenny Leon (“A Raisin in the Sun”) directs, with choreography by Tony Award nominee Camille A. Brown (“Choir Boy”). Set in contemporary Georgia with an election race underway, Much Ado About Nothing finds the community of Messina celebrating a break from an ongoing war, but not all is peaceful amid the merriment. Former rivals battle it out, revenge is sought and trickery runs amok in this timeless comedy of romantic retribution and miscommunication. Earning The New York Times’ Critic’s Pick, the play was recorded during its final weekend of The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park performances.

Great Performances: Kinky Boots
Premieres Friday, November 29 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV
Kinky Boots is the 2013 Broadway blockbuster with music and lyrics by pop icon Cyndi Lauper, a book by Tony-winning theater legend Harvey Fierstein and direction and choreography by Tony winner Jerry Mitchell (“La Cage aux Folles”) that went on to pick up every major Best Musical award, including the Tony, the GRAMMY and London’s Olivier Award. Based on true events, this big-hearted hit tells the story of two people with nothing in common—or so they think. Charlie is a British shoe factory owner struggling to save his family business. Lola—originally known as Simon from Clapton—is a fabulous nightclub entertainer with a wildly exciting idea. With a little compassion and a lot of understanding, this unexpected duo learns to embrace their differences and create a line of sturdy, stiletto-heeled boots for an entirely new clientele. In the end, their most meaningful achievement is their friendship. Great Performances presents the London production, featuring its original West End stars: Matt Henry in his Olivier-winning performance as Lola and Killian Donnelly as Charlie.

Photo: Cast of 42nd Street
Credit: Courtesy of Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

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