How Often Are Musicals Revived with Their Original Director?

Jennifer Ashley Tepper Is answering your questions with Broadway Deep Dive!

By: Mar. 31, 2024
How Often Are Musicals Revived with Their Original Director?
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Do you have a burning Broadway question? Dying to know more about an obscure Broadway fact? Broadway historian and self-proclaimed theatre nerd Jennifer Ashley Tepper is here to help with her new series, Broadway Deep Dive. Every month, BroadwayWorld will be accepting questions from theatre fans like you. If you're lucky, your question might be selected as the topic of her next column!

Submit your Broadway question in the comments here!

This time, the reader question was: How often is a musical revived on Broadway directed by its original director?

This season’s electrifying revival of The Who’s Tommy is directed by Des McAnuff, who won a Tony Award for directing the original 1993 Broadway production of the show. The rock musical about a boy’s troubled life in mid-20th century London that leads to his career as a pinball wizard also has book co-written by McAnuff.

Of the 89 musical revivals that have happened on Broadway during this century (beginning January 1, 2001), plus those that plan to open before this season’s end, only five, including The Who’s Tommy, have been directed by their show’s original director(s).

James Lapine was once again behind Falsettos when the show received an acclaimed Broadway revival in 2016. Lapine directed and co-wrote the book with composer-lyricist William Finn for this landmark musical, which he originally directed on Broadway in 1992. Lapine also directed the 2002 revival of Into The Woods, which he originally helmed in 1987. He wrote the book for this show as well. (2022’s Into The Woods was directed by Lear deBessonet.) Two of the five instances of a director helming a Broadway revival of their original work in this century are both credited to Lapine.

The 2016 revival of one of Broadway’s longest running juggernauts, Cats, was directed by its original leader, Trevor Nunn, who also contributed additional lyrics. The show did however have new choreography for its felines by Andy Blankenbuehler, based on the original choreography by Gillian Lynne.

How Often Are Musicals Revived with Their Original Director?

Long-running iconic imports from the West End seem more likely to be led by their original director(s) than a new creative for a second Broadway production. Les Misérables’ original 1987 production was directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird, who were credited with adapting the piece as well. The original production ran for over 16 years, closing in 2003, and when it was revived in 2006, Nunn and Caird were again at the helm. A 2014 revival was directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell.

 It’s interesting to note that in all five of these cases, the original director who returned to the show again was also a writer on the show. In this way, their work might be seen as more integral to the musical than otherwise.

While The Who’s Tommy, Falsettos, Into The Woods, Cats, and Les Misérables have been the only Broadway revivals since 2001 directed by their original director again in revivals, there are several footnotes to this topic worth mentioning.

The 2001 revival of 42nd Street, “the song and dance fable of Broadway”, was directed by the show’s original co-book writer Mark Bramble. Bramble hadn’t directed the original, but he had collaborated with original director Gower Champion while penning the book.

Writer-director Arthur Laurents directed the award-winning 2008 revival of Gypsy, starring Patti LuPone. While he didn’t direct the original production in 1959 that starred Ethel Merman (that was Jerome Robbins), Laurents did direct the 1974 revival which starred Angela Lansbury and the 1989 revival that starred Tyne Daly. Laurents wrote the show’s book, and every production on Broadway in his lifetime other than the 2003 Sam Mendes-Bernadette Peters revival was directed by him as well.

How Often Are Musicals Revived with Their Original Director?

On the flip side, in some cases, shows were originally directed by one of their writers. So, while the revivals were not directed again by this person but rather by someone new, the writer was still around the production as an original creative. These instances include the 2012 revival of Annie, which has lyrics by Martin Charnin, who originally directed both the show’s 1977 premiere and its only other Broadway revival in 1997. The 2012 Annie was directed by James Lapine.

2006 A Chorus Line revival director Bob Avian and choreography re-stager Baayork Lee both worked with conceiver-director-choreographer Michael Bennett on the original 1975 masterwork. This is one of a few instances where a revival was not directed by its original director, but by other original team members carrying out the original director’s vision with unique qualifications.

Cabaret is an interesting case, because Hal Prince directed the original 1966 production, and was again at the helm of the 1987 revival. Sam Mendes (along with co-director Rob Marshall) directed the 1998 revival of Cabaret, which became one of the most successful Broadway revivals of all time, and was again at the helm of the 2014 revival of the show. Cabaret returns to Broadway this season in a brand new revival, this time directed by Rebecca Frecknall. So, one might say that the original Cabaret was revived once by its original director, and the 1998 revival was revived once as well by that revival’s original director, with audiences poised this season for something entirely new.

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