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BWW Blog: The Last Decade of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Performances

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With COVID cases rising and uncertainty as to what this year’s parade will look like, let’s revisit some old performances!

Awkward Family Conversations. Charlie Brown specials. Slightly crunchy mashed potatoes. There are many components that make up the classic Thanksgiving experience, but nothing screams Turkey Time more than the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Ever since I was little, I would wake up at the break of dawn as if it were Christmas morning, but instead of receiving presents, I got live balloon floats and performances. One could argue that the parade helped grow my love for theatre. If I saw a performance I loved from a show I never heard of, I would write down the title somewhere safe and geek out to any family members that would bother to listen to me. My family couldn't afford theatre tickets often so rather than see the productions live, I would end up rewatching the parade performances on YouTube. As I got older and started saving my own money for tickets, the parade performance helped influence my decision about pulling the trigger and making the effort to see it in full.

Usually a great advertising opportunity for new shows on Broadway, it looks like the performances of 2020 will serve to remind families that when this global pandemic is past us, Broadway will shine its lights and hope to make up for lost business. This year, pre-taped performances of Ain't Too Proud - The Life and Times of The Temptations, Hamilton, Jagged Little Pill, and Mean Girls will air throughout the Thanksgiving festivities. While Ain't Too Proud and Mean Girls already have experience performing during a regular season of the parade, newcomer Jagged Little Pill and long-time runner Hamilton have yet to be affiliated with the parade. It'll be interesting to see how each show will handle the opportunity. As we await the holiday, let's look back at performances from the past decade and see what made them such historic performances and different from the typical onstage show.

2019: Beetlejuice

The performance opens with most of the featured actors like Sophia Anne Caruso and Leslie Kritzer singing the most iconic song from the film, "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)," a good way to introduce outsiders to nostalgia and the idea of a Broadway adaption of the 1988 film. What follows is Tony nominated for the role, Alex Brightman, singing the show-stopping opener "The Whole 'Being Dead' Thing." A medley isn't the most unheard of concept for the parade (we'll see more examples of medlies later), but what makes this performance so special are the updated lyrics specific for Thanksgiving. Beetlejuice musical fans and others were shocked when Brightman started singing "The atmosphere is nice here / Family paradise here / A little free advice here / There's too much pumpkin spice here!" The creativity and energy definitely sold me on the show after being on the fence for a while about seeing it. My personal favorite verse is "It's a real weird day to die / cause trademarked characters are floating by."

2018: The Prom

Going into this performance, I was already biased because I caught the show in previews with my girlfriend at the time and adored it. The cast performs "Time to Dance," the infectious finale that makes you want to dig for your old prom dress under the piles of holiday sweaters and break a sweat. The dance is exhilarating and top-notch as always, and you feel at least a little bad for the ensemble members wearing short skirt, sleeveless dresses in twenty degree weather. Aside from the song itself, the performance made history by displaying a same-sex kiss on national television. The kiss between the characters Emma and Alyssa caused a bit of controversy and twitter uproar and served as a reminder that the securing of LGBTQ rights is still a daily fight. On a more positive note, alongside other members of the LGBTQ community, it brought tears to my eyes to feel represented on such a grand scale.

2017: Anastasia

Disclaimer: I saw Anastasia four times on Broadway and convinced my visiting family from Chile to spend one of their only nights in the states to attend an evening performance of the show. Well, just as my Chilean relatives adored their performance, I have nothing but praise for Anastasia's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade performance. Initially a medley of "Journey to the Past' and "Once Upon a December" in a newly fabricated, hooded cloak that reminds me of Snow White for some reason, the performance breaks out into almost entirely new choreography featuring the entire cast. Featured actors frequent a new bridge prop and a younger actress playing Anastasia runs around the space. The hooded cloak is quickly transformed into the same pink dress the younger Anastasia wears, a costume never donned by Christy Altomare in the regular production. With Derek Klena's Dimitri softly holding hands and joining her for the last note, the performance perfectly captures a summary of the Russian tale.

2016: Cats

The look on all of your faces. I obviously can't see, but I know the shock is there. Y'all thought I was gonna say Waitress, huh? Um, no, here at BroadwayWorld, we keep things unexpected and thrilling. Waitress is fantastic and had a good medley Thanksgiving performance to show for it. No one likes Cats, especially after that, do we call it a movie? That movie that was released last holiday season we don't talk about. Before you say anything, I know Cats does a medley here too with "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats" and "Memory." Nothing about the production itself like costumng or choreography are different. This performance is made by Mamie Parris's stunning turn as Grizabella that I'm incredibly grateful was captured for the archives. The stitches and ruined lipstick are perfect touches that can be applauded more here with the parade camera's zoom-ins and 360 views. 2:53 - 3:12 is one breath!! Say what you will, but Parris's performance is true talent.

2015: Something Rotten!

Something Rotten! is a victim to the story I opened this article with. I know this performance of "A Musical" is heavily censored compared to the real thing, but the satirical air and proud love for classic theatre throughout this performance come across so well. It's so, so fun. You want them to perform the entire show right then and there. After this song aired, I immediately did my research on Something Rotten! and wished more people were talking about the show's originality, wit and heart. And honestly, there's no need for new costumes or a forced medley. "A Musical" communicates effortlessly what the cast wants audiences to take away: It's a musical!

Whew! In only the last five years, the world has seen such phenomenal performances! Now here's a game for everyone to play: find out what you love about the last five years of the decade's performances! Look out for unique aspects to the performances too like different choreography or costuming. Or discover your next favorite musical! I helped get you started by attaching my favorite performances from each year!

2014: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

2013: Matilda

2012: Cinderella

2011: Newsies

Still here? Fine, have it your way.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Isabella Gonzalez