The 2023 Playbill Feature Stories to Read This Weekend | Playbill

Special Features The 2023 Playbill Feature Stories to Read This Weekend

This year, we celebrated Broadway milestones, binged a few theatre-adjacent television shows, and talked to A LOT of Broadway celebs.

My goodness. Where has the year gone? Don't we say that every year. It just flew by! But when we started recalling all that happened, it sure was chock full of greatness. 

The edit team at Playbill filled our calendars red carpets, press previews of Broadway shows, interviews with Broadway artists, and even a trip to Edinburgh Festival Fringe. And we put our pen to all of it. Since this upcoming New Year's weekend is three days long for many, why not pass the time by reading through some of Playbill's best feature stories this year.

The Movers and Shakers

It seems silly to say that part of our job is to speak to the theatremakers who create the art form we've dedicated our lives to talking about. Like...that's a job?! It's a pleasure, often an honor, to talk with the writers, actors, designers, and directors who put the stories of our lives on stage. We even have a dry-erase board near the edit desk labeled the "Dibs Board" where we can rush to call dibs for an interview whenever a particular favorite artist is announced for a show. (I'm coming for you, Scott Bakula.)

I'm particularly proud of the diversity of voices this year that we were able to amplify a little beyond the footlights. That's not only an indication that we are doing our job in telling all stories, but also that Broadway is. 

History was made several times over this season, and below are just a few articles detailing the notable work on the Main Stem. 

1. With the Broadway premiere of The Thanksgiving Play at Second Stage's Helen Hayes Theater, playwright Larissa FastHorse became the first female Native American writer on Broadway. Read our interview with her here. In it she talks about "performative woeness" and the burden of being a "first."

2. Here Lies Love, which opened at the Broadway Theatre the summer, was the first Broadway musical to feature an all Filipino cast. A disco-infused tuner centering on the rise and fall of Philippines dictators Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, some audiences—particularly those of Filipino descent who lived under the Marcos' martial law—found the subject controversial. Stars Lea Salonga and Arielle Jacobs spoke to Playbill about why it was an important story to tell. Read their interview here

3. Actor Ryan J. Haddad, who has cerebral palsy and is walker user, premiered his autobiographical show Dark Disabled Stories at the Public Theater this season. Haddad chatted with Playbill about the void of opportunity for disabled actors and the importance of creating accessible spaces in theatre.

4. This year Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee made history when they both took home Tony Awards, becoming the first non-binary actors to win those honors. Playbill spoke to both performers this year. Here, read about how Ghee lives by the mantra "You have to free yourself to see yourself.” Here, Newell talks about breaking down gender barriers.

Surely you've noticed that the in-theatre, Playbills are not large magazines. Coming in at 5-3/8" x 8-1/2", it does sometimes makes for a truncated feature interview. If you're only reading those magazine stories in the print Playbill, you're often getting a cut version of a much longer article. 

The full versions are always printed online the month that they appear in the magazine. So, don't skip those headlines thinking you've already read the story. Here are just a few of our print articles this year, in their longer online forms:

When we started looking back at all the people we've interviewed this year, all of the writers kept throwing out names as they remembered the phone calls, zoom, and in-studio visits that really left an impression. (Did I mention that we really love our job?) 

Other favorites this year include a chat with Brandon Uranowitz about how deeply personal performing in Leopoldstadt was for him; a probing interview with Oscar Isaac and Rachel Brosnahan, a photo feature with drag performer Rosé (a.k.a. Ross McCorkell) at the TDF Costume Collection in which he donned the costumes of his various dream roles; a delightful afternoon with Gaten Matarazzo and Manoel Felciano; an interview with sitcom actress Eden Sher in her Edinburgh Fringe debut; and a conversation with legend Bernadette Peters (who is only now making her West End debut!).

Sierra Boggess and Hugh Panaro in The Phantom of the Opera Joan Marcus


2023 saw two huge events on the Broadway timeline. First, on April 16, Broadway's longest-running show, The Phantom of the Opera, closed after 35 years at the Majestic Theatre. Then, on October 30, Wicked celebrated its 20-year anniversary on Broadway. We were all-hands-on-deck with news and feature coverage for both shows as they led up to their history-making dates. 

1. We dug through our archives and chronicled all the actors who were ever credited in the Playbill as the Phantom and Christine—then we did it again for every Elphaba and Glinda

2. We did a deep dive on the creation of the monkey music box prop in Phantom (one of my favorite pieces I've ever worked on), and photo feature of secret spaces in the Gershwin Theatre.

4. We spoke to the final (surprise) Phantom, Laird Mackintosh, and to Wicked's OG Dr. Dillamond, William Youmans, who returned to the show in year 20.

5. We were there on the final performance of The Phantom of the Opera to capture that night. And we went back to the beginning of Wicked for a fun list of wild moments from the musical's early days. 

2023 also marked 25 years since the murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming—an event that Tectonic Theater Project turned to for its documentary theatre work The Laramie Project. We spoke with co-founders of the company Moisés Kaufman and Leigh Fondakowski for an oral history of the now-canonical work. 

Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming in Schmigadoon! Courtesy of Apple TV+

Screen Stealers

It's always fun when our Broadway world leaks over into the film and television industry. We may be theatre fans, but we can binge a television show just like anyone else. And Broadway theatres don't serve popcorn, so we've got to get that fix on somehow!

If Playbill had a Television Top 10 list this, there would only be 3 shows on it, each repeating three times, with a tenth spot left open for a random musical episode should one arise. Those three shows? SchmigadoonOnly Murders in the Building, and The Gilded Age

1. Starting in 2021 with Season 1, we recapped each episode of the Apple TV+ musical comedy series Schmigadoon. We had so much fun with it that we continued when Season 2 returned in 2023. Created by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, the series lovingly parodies musical theatre—the Golden Age in Season 1, then the grittier musicals of the '60s and '70s in Season 2. In the show, a married couple (played by Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key stumble across a magical village in the woods and get trapped inside a musical. We tried our best to pull out every deep-cut musical reference, and we're already brushing up on the next era of theatre should a third season be announced. (Fingers crossed!)

2. This year's third season of Only Murders in the Building was particularly fun for us as it moved a lot of the the action from the Arconia apartment building to a Broadway theatre. There Oliver (Martin Short) was directing a new musical. One of the cast members was murdered and everyone involved in the show became a suspect, including Charles (Steve Martin). The Hulu production gave us exclusive access to the fictional review of the musical-within-the-television series, which we had fun printing as a little gossip column. 

3. HBO's The Gilded Age has given us two seasons now of gold-encrusted melodrama. And who better to deliver drama than a Broadway diva? The Gilded Age cast is full of them! (Read how the casting directors made that happen here.) In addition to the Broadway stars in every scene, this season the show gave us a peek into the creations of The Metropolitan Opera and the midtown Theatre District. Playbill fills in the blanks with some history dives into the 1883 Opera War and the theatre industry's move uptown.

And, of course, we have two big theatre-adjacent movie blockbusters out this winter. Maestro, the Leonard Bernstein biopic starring Bradley Cooper, and The Color Purple, a film adaptation of the Broadway musical with Fantasia Barrino and Danielle Brooks reprising their stage roles on screen. Playbill took a close look at Maestro and provided a little context and fact-checking for the film. And we took a look back at the original Broadway cast of The Color Purple with a little "where are they now." 

The Investigations and Analyses

As much as Playbill is a pop-culture magazine for theatre fans, we also serve the Broadway industry with up-to-date news and information. And for the features department, that means taking a deeper look into how the industry is functioning. Below are some examples of this year's reporting on that front. These headlines speak for themselves.

At the end of the day, though, we are Playbill—super theatre nerds. And some of our best reporting is when we get really niche. To wit:

For the Playbill edit staff, 2023 has been a great ride. We can't wait to throw our hands in the air as we whiz through 2024. See you next year!

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