REVIEW: With flawless artistic wizardry, Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ musical, presented by Lexus Broadway in Boston, remains a magnificent theatrical experience

Over the years as a critic, taking notes during the show has been a ritual and now pretty much a reflex these days.  When Disney’s The Lion King musical amazed audiences over 20 years ago on Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre, it was a larger than life spectacle that was as impressive to the eyes as it was to the heartstrings.   Seeing it for the first time back then, it was probably one of the most glorious theatre experiences in memory.

One would think that as time passed, the technology and the sheer artistry of the show would become a bit dated.  However, it hasn’t aged a bit unveiling richer interpretations of songs from the film such as I Just Can’t Wait to Be King and The Circle of Life and including additional songs such as Shadowland and They Live in You not included in the film. It is also the one show that was too enthralling to take notes.

Directed by Julie Taymor, Lexus Broadway in Boston presents Disney’s Tony award-winning musical, The Lion King through Sunday, October 27 at Citizens Bank Opera House in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets and click here to see where the show is touring next.

The Lion King is based on Disney’s 1994 Academy award-winning film of the same name which is also an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  It is about a cub prince named Simba who must grow up fast after being exiled from his home by his scheming uncle.  Bursting with color, comedy, jaw dropping special effects, a classic soundtrack by Elton John and Tim Rice with important lessons about growing up, it puts an entirely new spin and depth into in this extraordinary tale, giving this musical new dimension and heart.

With scenic design by Richard Hudson, lighting by Donald Holder, and Steve Canyon Kennedy on sound, it brilliantly navigates Citizens Bank Opera House’s space to stage some of the film’s vast landscapes which includes the breathtaking and encompassing opening sequence.  The show manipulates movement and height with strategically placed moving props and the Julie Taymor and Michael Curry’s mask and puppet design representing members of the animal kingdom are visionary marvels.

The entire cast is as impressive as their visually stunning surroundings.  Bursting with color, I Just Can’t Wait to be King is a celebration with zany, eye popping color and wild shapes combined with Walter Russell the III’s enthusiastic vocals as Young Simba.  Buyi Zama is intense and hilarious as the wise Rafiki, her mesmerizing interactions with the cast unpredictable and endlessly amusing while delivering the emotional impact that the part entails.  She stands out in the stirring number, Nao Tse Tsa and every scene at Rafiki’s Tree.  Gerald Ramsey has a commanding, yet nurturing presence as Mufasa as he interacts with energetic and adorable Walter Russell III.

Spencer Plachy is a masterful, manipulative Scar the likes of the original Scar voiced by Jeremy Irons, haunting in the number, Be Prepared and with kooky and creepy performances by Keith Bennett as Banzai, Martina Sykes as Shenzi, and Robbie Swift as Ed, they form a group more menacing than in the film.

Adding a wealth of comic relief is Nick Cordileone as Timon, his compelling puppetry bringing the character to life in a new way.  With Ben Lipitz as a wild haired Pumbaa whose expressions channel John Belushi, the two make a sidesplitting pair as they deliver the catchy classic, Hakuna Matata.  Greg Jackson is impressive as he navigates Zazu’s jittery angst in a sprawling bird.

Lexus Broadway in Boston presents The Lion King musical through Sunday, October 27 at Citizens Bank Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for tickets and here to see where The Lion King will perform next on their national tour.  This mesmerizing hit musical continues to reign on Broadway at the Minskoff Theatre in New York City.

Lexus Broadway in Boston has an amazing lineup in store as they continue their 2019-2020 season which includes Disney’s Anastasia, Mean Girls, and their next musical, Come From Away.  Click here for their entire lineup and follow them on Facebook for updates and much more.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Lexus Broadway in Boston’s ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ some kind of wonderful triumph

Triumph she does.  Carole King, one of the most successful songwriters of the latter part of the 20th century, had talent from the first time she walked in the studio at age 16.  This is not the average biopic where the protagonist has to overcome some sort of terrible tragedy or failure, but a woman on the move from the very start.

Boasting a library of hits before Carole even considers taking the stage to perform her own music, this show brings on the nostalgia of passing generations from the chic retro clothes to the distinctive music style.  It is a sweeping musical from a songwriter’s perspective with few low notes and anyway, why not pack a show with hits and a lighter story that just might leave you smiling?

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Sarah Bockel as Carole King Photo credit to Lexus Broadway in Boston

Lexus Broadway in Boston concluded Beautiful:  The Carole King Musical‘s run on Sunday, February 10.  Beautiful:  The Carole King Musical recently celebrated five years on Broadway.  Click here to see where this captivating show will be next.  Click here more on Broadway in Boston’s stellar season.

From the moment Carole makes contact with that baby grand piano for a lively rendition of I Feel the Earth Move, impressive, rolling sets transport her into her Brooklyn home where she first started writing.  Portrayed by Elise Vannerson throughout the show, Carole is introspective yet dreamy, seemingly more than ready for her life to take off.  Vannerson captures the essence of her ambition, shyness, and tenacity.  Her soaring vocals is an impressive tribute to Carole’s trademark voice.   Suzanne Grodner portrays Genie Klein, Carole King’s mother, with humorous, cynical sass and sensibility as she cuts Carole a deal.

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The Drifters: Darius Delk, Dimitri Joseph Moise, Deon Releford-Lee, and Nathan Andrew Riley Photo credit to Lexus Broadway in Boston

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The Shirelles:  Harper Miles, DeAnne Stewart, Danielle J. Summons, and Alexis Tidwell  Photo credit to Lexus Broadway in Boston

Dominating this tale is some of the most popular music of the 20th century and Beautiful offers a peek into how some of these songs hit the charts.  A rollicking mix of hits including There Goes My Baby and Yakety Yak encompasses the sensational 1650 Broadway Medley as a glittering display of guitars, scripts, music sheets, and sound systems hang in the background.  From shimmering gowns to some of the era’s most popular, colorful fashion trends, Allejo Vietti’s costume design blends perfectly with Joyce Chittick’s lively choreography, a compelling spectrum of classic dance moves and crazes of each era.  It’s an era so influenced by Carole King’s songwriting and that of her peers.

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From Left to right: James Clow as Don Kirshner, Dylan S. Wallach as Gerry Goffin, Sarah Bockel as Carole King, Jacob Heimer as Barry Mann, and Alison Whitehurst as Cythia Weil Photo credit to Lexus Broadway in Boston

Beautiful:  The Carole King Musical is full of moments of light humor and endearing chemistry among the cast.  With smooth, pliable vocals, Dylan S. Wallach portrays idealistic, sharp, and a bit macho Gerry Goffin.  He and Elise Vannerson as Carole have charming chemistry and moments of cute awkwardness.  They complement each other and their duets are particularly memorable.  Alison Whitehurst as confident and driven Cynthia Weil and Jacob Heimer as hypochondriac Barry Mann make a fascinating comic duo.   James Clow is also impressive as warm, inventive, and open minded Don Kirshner, who always knows talent when he sees it.

Click here to see where Beautiful:  The Carole King Musical will be next.  Lexus Broadway in Boston’s upcoming performances include A Bronx Tale, Hello Dolly, Dear Evan Hanson, as well as the return of The Illusionists, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables.  Click here for a closer look at their season and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

REVIEW: Lexus Broadway in Boston’s ‘On Your Feet’ a riveting, musical sensation

Leave it to music trailblazers Gloria and Emilio Estefan to make even folding laundry an exhilarating event.  A glimmering purple curtain provided just a hint of the radiance behind it as Lexus Broadway in Boston presented On Your Feet through Sunday, April 29 at the Boston Opera House at 529 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Direct from Broadway and featuring five of the original members of Gloria Estefan’s band, Miami Sound Machine, On Your Feet is currently on a national tour.  Click here to find out where they will take the stage next.

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Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan and the company of the national tour of ‘On Your Feet’.

From its first few powerful notes and flowing, multicolored club lights, On Your Feet is a party from the start.  After real life superstar couple, Gloria and Emilio Estefan playfully introduce the show, Cuban dancers emerge pounding drums as a full, onstage band, Miami Sound Machine, flood the stage and greet the audience.  Award-winning Sergio Trujillo’s thrilling choreography frames every aspect of this international, true story with flair and gusto.  It has an equal share of wild, quick, and intense music with complex, fancy foot work as well as poignant, inspiring moments within a few of Gloria Estefan’s famous ballads.   Gloria and Emilio Estefan are behind the Latin rhythms, touching original compositions, and the orchestrations of some of Gloria Estefan’s biggest hits.  This captivating production not only showcases Latin culture and a peek into its history, but Gloria and Emilio’s tenacious struggle to fit it into American music scene.

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The company of the national tour of ‘On Your Feet’.

Costume designer Emilio Sosa skillfully replicated Gloria’s sparkling, iconic outfits featured in her memorable concert appearances, the Estefan’s worldwide travel, brought together the colorful styles of the 60s, 80s, and 90s from casual, colorful floral summer wear of Cuba and Miami to elegant, nightclub attire.  David Rockwell’s often romantic scenic design and dim lighting depict Miami’s palm tree silhouettes as well as the particular vibe in their worldwide travels.

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Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan, Adriel Flete and the company of the national tour of ‘On Your Feet’.

On Your Feet not only explores Gloria and Emilio’s budding romance and their mutual dreams, but their aspirations to pursue music as Latin performers.  What is most fascinating about the show is Mauricio Martinez as Emilio and Christine Prades as Gloria’s sheer dogged determination to thrive.  Martinez offers a charming, yet serious performance as Emilio, business minded and determined with smooth and angelic vocals.  He delivers a touching rendition of Gloria Estefan’s hit, Don’t Want to Lose You Now and original song written by Gloria Estefan’s daughter, If I Never Got To Tell You, a duet with Nancy Ticotin as Gloria Estefan’s mother, Gloria Fajardo.  Martinez is intense, charismatic, and always planning one step ahead.

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Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan, Mauricio Martinez as Emilio Estefan, and the company of the national tour of ‘On Your Feet.’

It is easy to see why Christine Prades as Gloria has such natural, crackling chemistry with Martinez.  Prades as Gloria complements Emilio’s drive through her vibrant, shy, and creative personality.  Curly haired and slim with inflections of Gloria Estefan’s distinctive voice, it is hard to imagine another person portraying the award-winning singer-songwriter.  She engages the audience with her glowing, infectious smile while skillfully handling the quick pacing and complex choreography of this production, often breaking out into song and dance on a dime.   From a ‘can’t-help-but-sing’ child doing chores in Cuba, portrayed sweetly by Ana-Sofia Rodriguez, to a timid woman taking the stage, Gloria’s charismatic stage presence in undeniable. Together, Gloria and Emilio are a force to be reckoned with in their uphill battle to become a music sensation.  The tender song, Here We Are is a particular highlight, showing off their sweet chemistry.

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Nancy Ticotin as Gloria Fajardo and the company of the national tour of On Your Feet.

Nancy Ticotin delivers a powerful performance as Gloria Fajardo, Gloria’s mother.  Ticotin portrayed strong willed Fajardo with a passion and a powerful voice, especially portrayed with the flirtatious number Mi Tierra, sung in a Havana nightclub.  Ticotin is stubborn and hard on Gloria, but with a giving spirit toward Jason Martinez as Gloria’s loving war veteran father, Jose.

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Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan, Kevin Tellez, Mauricio Martinez as Emilio Estefan and the company of the national tour of ‘On Your Feet’.

On Your Feet not only quite literally encourages the audience to dance with some of Gloria’s most riveting songs such as 1-2-3, Rhythm is Gonna Get You, Conga and Dr. Beat, but also depicts the journey and sorrows of following a dream.  It has its share of humorous moments in Debra Cardona as Gloria’s charming grandmother, Consuelo, in her unwavering support of her granddaughter and delivering a few sharp one liners.  Carlos Carreras as Jeremy wows as an enthusiastic Gloria Estefan fan that can’t help but dance.  In such an uplifting, spectacular musical celebration, it is easy to understand why.

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The company of the national tour of ‘On Your Feet.’

On Your Feet is currently on a national tour.  Click here to find out where they will take the stage next.  Click here for more of Lexus Broadway in Boston’s upcoming performances and follow them on Facebook.

For Performing Arts news, interviews, reviews, and much more in Boston and beyond, follow us on Facebook @sleeplesscritic and subscribe.

REVIEW: Lexus Broadway in Boston’s ‘Waitress the Musical’ proves the best things in life come from the kitchen

Lexus Broadway in Boston’s heartwarming and meaningful musical, Waitress the Musical, shows that life’s most important answers can be found in a pie.  Currently on a national tour, Waitress, with book by Jessie Nelson, music and lyrics by Tony and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles and featuring an all female production team, oozes with southern charm as baker Jenna, portrayed passionately by Desi Oakley, finds herself pregnant and falling in love with her doctor.

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Desi Oakley as Jenna in the national tour of Waitress, photo by Joan Marcus and courtesy of Broadway in Boston

With a cast of colorful and comical characters and based on the 2007 film of the same name starring Keri Russell, Waitress served its best in Boston from February 20 through March 4 at the Boston Opera House.  Click here to see where Waitress will be taking the stage next and here for more on Lexus Broadway in Boston.

From a bright neon sign and red chrome booths to clever choreography that gives diner dancing a fresh, new meaning, the majority of Waitress is set inside the vintage and picturesque Joe’s Pie Diner.  Impressive songs range from catchy to reflective and numbers like When He Sees Me and Opening Up are sure to stay with the audience long after the show is over.

Full of heart, what Waitress the Musical achieves is a delicate balance of the sweetness and realism of life, delving into the lives of a group of dynamic characters who dream of a better life.  Jenna expresses her thoughts on life through the humorous titles she deems to Joe’s Diner Pie of the Day.

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Nick Bailey & Desi Oakley in the national tour of Waitress, photo by Joan Marcus and Matthew Murphy and courtesy of Broadway in Boston

Desi Oakley delivers a powerful, inspiring performance as Jenna.  She depicts Jenna’s complex web of emotions with a blend of dark humor and a note of hope.  Her voice is as versatile as the pies she bakes and her intense rendition of She Used to Be Mine is one of the show’s greatest highlights.  Her irresistible chemistry and beautiful harmony with compassionate and mysterious Bryan Fenkart as Dr. Pomatter are engaging in the playful Bad Idea and the tender You Matter to Me.  Dressed in a plaid shirt, worn jeans, and tied back hair, Nick Bailey as Earl is manipulative and gruff with a rich, rock n roll voice.

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Maiesha McQueen, Desi Oakley & Bryan Fenkart in the national tour of Waitress, photo by Joan Marcus and Matthew Murphy and courtesy of Broadway in Boston

With big earrings and wild hair, Charity Angel Dawson offers a great deal of comic relief as outspoken and wise cracking waitress Becky.  Passionate and direct, Becky is captivating in the number, I Didn’t Plan It and her onstage charisma will have the audience hanging on her every word.

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Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley & Lenne Klingaman in the national tour of Waitress, photo by Joan Marcus and Matthew Murphy and courtesy of Broadway in Boston

In bright, red glasses, Lenne Klingaman portrays Dawn with her own, magnetic, comedic timing.  Dreamy and shy, Dawn calls herself “a woman of many passions.”  She is unforgettable singing the yearning number, When He Sees Me.  With Jeremy Morse as scene stealing Ogie, they are a comedic force to be reckoned with.  Gleeful and goofy with a habit of over sharing, Jeremy Morse has even the cast trying to keep a straight face.  Morse’s comic timing is a bungle of flawless, unsuppressed energy.

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Lenne Klingaman & Jeremy Morse in the national tour of Waitress, photo by Joan Marcus and Matthew Murphy and courtesy of Broadway in Boston

Larry Marshall, with a wonderful laugh and a curmudgeonly personality, portrays difficult customer and diner owner, Joe.   A complicated storyteller with more insight than he seems, his conversations with Jenna is full of humor and openness.  Speaking to the uplifting spirit of this charming show, Joe proclaims, “Baking a pie is a magical experience.”

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Desi Oakley & Larry Marshall in the national tour of Waitress, photo by Joan Marcus and Matthew Murphy and courtesy of Broadway in Boston

Click here to see where Waitress the Musical arrives next.  Lexus Broadway in Boston announces their new season on Monday, March 18 and is just getting started with popular musicals, On Your Feet, Disney’s Aladdin, Hamilton, and more.  Click here for more information, tickets, and upcoming news.  Follow Lexus Broadway in Boston on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

For Performing Arts news, interviews, reviews, and much more in Boston and beyond, follow us on Facebook @sleeplesscritic and subscribe.

Lexus Broadway in Boston boasts sizzling season including ‘Hamilton,’ ‘Waitress,’ Disney’s ‘Aladdin,’ and more

 

As the beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical The King and I hits the Boston Opera House stage, Lexus Broadway in Boston recently offered a peek into its upcoming 2017-18 season.  From Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece and its stirring sequel to arguably the most sought after show in the world right now, Lexus Broadway in Boston has a phenomenal season ahead full of magic, family connections, unstoppable dance, and topping it off a serving of delicious pie.  All productions take place at the Boston Opera House in Boston, Massachusetts.  Subscriptions for the upcoming season are available now.  Click here for tickets and more information.

The magic begins this summer with the return to Oz and Neverland.  Get an inside look of how Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West became two of the most iconic characters in literary history.  Visually-stunning with a rich, inventive story line that integrates some of Oz’s most memorable characters, see the spectacular musical, Wicked from June 7 through July 23.  Behold the extraordinary story behind J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and the family that inspired that magical vision.  Integrating Peter Pan’s beloved characters in a unique way, seek Finding Neverland for a limited time from August 7 through 20.

A promising talent, a veteran singer, a ghost dwelling in an opera house, and two bewildered businessmen are part of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s haunting and phenomenally-successful musical, Phantom of the Opera, returns from September 13 through October 1.  Also arriving in Boston is Andrew Lloyd’s Webber’s Love Never Dies, the highly-anticipated sequel to Phantom of the Opera from January 30 through February 11.

A number of productions are making their debut in Boston.  Topping off the list is arguably the most sought after tickets in the world right now.  Hamilton is a contemporary retelling of America’s history arriving at the Boston Opera House September 18 through November 18, 2018.

Take a look inside Fun Home, 2015’s Tony award-winning Best Picture musical.  Fun Home is an auto-biographical tale about the joy and challenges of growing up.  Not recommended for children under 13, Fun Home debuts in Boston from October 17 through October 29.

Also making its Boston debut is On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan, a meaningful and uplifting musical about the extraordinary life of Emilio and Gloria EstefanOn Your Feet is filled with lively music which includes an array of hits songs from the title track, Get On Your Feet to Coming Out of the Dark.  On Your Feet! debuts on April 17, 2018 to Sunday, April 29, 2018.

Waitress is saving the best for last.  Currently on Broadway starring Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles who also wrote Waitress’s music and lyrics, Waitress is a romantic comedy musical about a waitress gifted at baking pies.  She is unhappy in her small town existence until a surprise helps her to put her life into perspective.  Waitress serves up its own delights from February 20 through March 4.

All musicals take place at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts. Click here for the full list and for tickets.  Follow Lexus Broadway in Boston on Facebook and Twitter.

‘Wicked,’ ‘Something Rotten,’ & ‘Finding Neverland’ part of Lexus Broadway in Boston’s new season

Rolling in the New Year with a comedy behind the birth of the first musical, Lexus Broadway in Boston blends beloved, Tony award-winning classics and enthralling, contemporary musicals full of mystery and magic.  Lexus Broadway in Boston offers a sensational, dynamic combination of shows kicking off with a humorous look at the birth of the musical with Something Rotten to the stage adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s birth of Peter Pan with Finding Neverland.  All productions are held at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for a closer look at upcoming shows, tickets, and how to become a season subscriber.  Like Broadway in Boston on Facebook for updates.

Alternating from the 90s to the 1590s, the musical comedy, Something Rotten, delves into the height of Shakespeare’s time as two brothers discover the key to success may be a musical.  Songs include Welcome to the Renaissance, Hard to Be the Bard, and It’s Eggs.  Something Rotten will take place from Monday, January 16 through Sunday, January 29.

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Touring cast of musical comedy, ‘Something Rotten’

Set in tumultuous pre-World War II Germany and with classic numbers such as Maybe This Time and Willkommen, enter the Kit Kat Club for the classic musical, Cabaret.  Full of raucous songs and outrageous choreography, The Roundabout Theatre Company presents this musical classic to celebrate their 50th anniversary from Tuesday, January 31 through Sunday, February 12.  Cabaret contains mature content.

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The cast of Roundabout Theatre Company’s national tour of ‘Cabaret’

A murder-mystery set around a brilliant fifteen year-old boy, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a Tony award-winning play based on Mark Haddon’s bestselling novel of the same name.  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time takes place from Tuesday, March 7 through Sunday, March 19.  This show contains adult language and themes.

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Adam Langdon as Christopher Boone & the cast of the touring production of ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’

Tony award-winner of 2015’s ‘Best Revival of the Musical,’ revisit Rodgers and Hammerstein’s sweeping, romantic musical classic, The King and I.  This captivating musical explores the extraordinary relationship between the King of Siam and a British schoolteacher featuring the classic numbers, Hello Young Lovers, I Have Dreamed, and Shall We Dance.  See The King and I on Tuesday, April 11 through Sunday, April 23.

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Jose Llana as The King of Siam & Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna Leonowens in ‘The King and I’ tour.

This summer, embark on a magical journey into Peter Pan author, J.M. Barrie’s imagination with Finding Neverland.  Set in London, struggling playwright J.M. Barrie is looking for inspiration for a big hit when he meets a family so rich in creativity and make-believe, it may change his entire life.  Full of visually-stunning effects and touching drama, Finding Neverland arrives on Tuesday, August 8 and continues through Sunday, August 20.

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The cast of ‘Finding Neverland’ tour

Broadway in Boston also proudly presents season options Wicked, The Illusionists, and the farewell tour of Mamma Mia.  Click here for tickets to Lexus Broadway in Boston’s  new season.