This is a new series here at BroadwaySpotted for a very specific reason. There are a couple types of theatre fans. There are those who are like say…Jen Tepper (or Ellyn Marsh/Lin Manuel Miranda) and myself, who are absolutely insane dictionaries of things that go on and have gone on in the theatre world, there are those that are young and getting there, and then there are those who only know what is current or put right in front of them. Truly, I have friends who are performers WORKING in the industry, this is how they make their living, and I will say something along the lines of, “Well we HAVE to see it. If Susan Stroman is directing, it’s bound to be amazing.” And their response is, “Who?” And I want to cry in a corner forever.
Thus, this series was born. This is for THOSE fans. They love it just as much, but maybe they haven’t put the effort into learning this history (or the current, really) just yet. So I bring you a series all about the names in the industry that you SHOULD know. These are current people in the industry, the giants of our history, and just all around cool people to know about.
Of course, this is not a DEFINITIVE list by any means. That’s not what this is for. This is just to say, you should at LEAST know something about the industry you want to be a part of, and hopefully this should help. (It’ll also help when people throw names around, you’ll be able to take a quick look here and see some of their credits!)
We’re starting wiiiiith…directors.
(In no particular order)
1. Susan Stroman.
I’m starting with this amazing woman, because I had the balls to use her in my example (even though that is a 100% true conversation). She’s also got two new shows this season which is awesome. Her body of work is not only impressive in its length, but also in the variety of shows she has chosen and had the opportunity to be a part of. She’s been working as a choreographer since the 80s and in 2000 she started directing AND choreographing. That was a whole new brand of awesome in our industry that is much more prevalent these days. She is the recipient of FIVE Tony Awards. That’s right. She’s got the same amount at Audra, Angela and Julie! She’s innovative and has completely changed the landscape of Broadway over the last few decades.
You might not know: Susan’s first professional performance was at Goodspeed Opera House! Love that place.
Some past credits include: Flora the Red Menace, Show Boat, Big, Contact, The Music Man, Scottsboro Boys, The Producers, Crazy for You and more
Current shows: Big Fish and Bullets Over Broadway
2. Hal Prince.
Where exactly does one begin with a giant of a man like Hal Prince? First of all, he was a major collaborator of Sondheim’s, so if you’re one of those people who likes to throw good ol’ Steve’s name around, you should at Hal to your vocab. Now, his success didn’t begin there. He worked on Cabaret before he started his decade long run with Sondheim. During that time they worked on such classics as Sweeney Todd, Company, A Little Night Music and the not so successful Merrily We Roll Along which we may love for all of it’s fantastic qualities, but the general public in the 80s did not. This put a rift between the two (or at least, we must assume that, because they didn’t work together again for over twenty years). Still, he’s one of the biggest names in Broadway with more than twenty-five directing credits to his name and just as many producing credits– Phantom of the Opera just to name drop for him. That’s kind of a big deal.
You might not know: Hal went to University of Pennsylvania at age 16. Way to make the rest of us look bad, dude.
Some past credits include: Fiddler on the Roof, Candide, The Phantom of the Opera, Evita, Follies, Cabaret, etc.
Current shows: Well…Prince of Broadway…sort of.
3. Michael Greif.
This is a special kind of guy that holds a special place in many hearts. Why? Well, he directed RENT for starters. Not just the original production (both on Broadway and off), but also the more recent off-Broadway revival at New World Stages. That is very much a part of his legacy and even though we remember the cast and Jonathan Larson for it frequently, he should get credit as well, he helped created much of what we love today. Actually, it should be noted that he has directed TWO out of only eight musicals that have won the Pulitzer prize for drama. And he also directed the revival of How to Succeed… in the 90s. That show has also won the Pulitzer, although it was many years before his production.
You might not know: I cannot find his birthday published anywhere! I don’t even know how old he is! (though my best guess is 54 based on an article I read)
Some past credits include: RENT, Jane Eyre, Next to Normal, Grey Gardens and more.
Current shows: If/Then
4. Trevor Nunn.
This man has had an extremely full and fruitful career, and if you don’t know at least some of his work–I’d be shocked. Now, granted, the majority of his directing credits are straight plays, but he does hit up some musicals now and again (Cats and Les Miserables being among the more famous, and most recently, the revival of A Little Night Music). He happens to be the original director of one of my all time favorite plays, Arcadia. His work is unique and well know, whether you’re familiar with his name or not (Hi, Starlight Express anyone–that show wasn’t weird or anything). He is the recipient of just about every award, including the Tony and Olivier.
You might not know: He’s technically “Sir Trevor Nunn.”
Some past credits include: The Woman in White, Noises Off, Sunset Boulevard, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Alls Well That Ends Well, Chess, Aspects of Love, and SO many more.
Current shows: None at the moment.
5. Arthur Laurents.
Although he began his career and became famous for his writing, Arthur Laurents ended his career as a director, so we’re going to talk about that today. He wrote the book for Gypsy, but he also directed every Broadway revival of that show (and you know that’s like a million revivals). He also wrote the book for West Side Story and directed the most recent revival of that show as well. He’s known for being…well, a bit difficult to work with. He’s been called “legendarily fussy” and had a 10 year long feud with Patti LuPone prior to working on the most recent revival of Gypsy. He is the author of multiple books, including on strictly on directing, which makes him extremely useful in this list.
You might not know: He was in the army early on in his life and he wrote the original Bird Cage (which La Cage Aux Folles is based on).
Some past credits include: Gypsy, West Side Story, Do I Hear A Waltz?, Anyone Can Whistle, Nick and Nora, and many more.
Current shows: Unfortunately he passed in 2011. RIP.
6. Julie Taymor.
This woman is possibly one of the most controversial people in our industry these days. With all the Spidey drama, it’s no surprise that people kind of see her as, well, crazy. That being said, she’s a brilliant kind of crazy and everyone knows it. She’s most well known for her work on the Broadway version of Disney’s The Lion King which not only won six Tony Awards (including two to Taymor for her direction and costumes), but was nominated for five more. Beyond that, it’s the 5th longest running show on Broadway. But this isn’t about The Lion King, it’s about Julie. If you’re on this site, I’m sure you’ve heard all about her Spider-man debacle, so we’ll skip over that, too. If you’re a fan of the movie Across the Universe you can thank Julie Taymor for that, too. She’s also an accomplished author with a couple books under her belt. All in all, life doesn’t suck for Julie–unless you’re watching the Fringe show about her from a few years ago.
You might not know: She lived in both Sri Lanka and India at age 13. I have no idea why.
Some past credits include: The Lion King, The Green Bird, Spider-man, Across the Universe…etc.
Current shows: Well…do you count Spidey?
7. Diane Paulus.
Next to Julie Taymor, she might be considered tame, but a few years ago, she did stir up some trouble with the revival of Porgy and Bess in which she changed so many things that she riled Sondheim up enough so that he wrote a piece to the NYTimes about it. That said, she’s one to watch currently. She’s been VERY successful as of late with the 2009 revival of Hair and more recently with the revival of Pippin which is widely held as one of the best shows of this season. She’s got a style all her own and it’s said to be easily recognizable by most. This is generally one marker of a great director that will be remembered.
You might not know: She has a masters degree from Columbia University! Super smart lady here.
Some past credits include: Hair, The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Prometheus Bound, The Donkey Show…
Current shows: Pippin
8. Tommy Tune.
It was INSANELY hard to decide what lists to put a lot of these people on. Everyone knows that Tommy Tune was a great dancer. Hi, have you met his legs? Yeah. He’s 6’6, which is kind of insane. But but but! He was also a director, and a damn good one at that! Good enough to earn himself three Tony Awards for directing and three more nominations as well. His first directing gig was The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which is pretty funny considering he’s FROM Texas. He also worked on the ’94 revival of Grease and can be seen in the movie version of Hello, Dolly!
You might not know: He runs an art gallery in Tribeca. Go figure.
Some past credits include: My One and Only, Nine, Grease, Bye Bye Birdie, Grand Hotel, Tommy Tune Tonite! and more.
Current shows: None at the moment.
9. James Lapine.
The majority of his most popular work has been directing for composers Stephen Sondheim and William Finn. His first Broadway credit was Sunday in the Park with George by Sondheim. He is also known for being the librettist on many works as well. His style is extremely varied, but always pleasing to the eye at the very least. He has even been called “stylist and compassionate” by Ben Brantley of the New York Times. Not sure how to take the compassionate part when coming from Brantley, but we’ll assume he meant it positively. Lapine has been nominated for countless awards and has won Tonys quite a few times, but only one of those times was actually for direction. Still, he’s one of the greats still around and working in our industry. With his rich career behind him, he’s definitely worth knowing all about.
You might not know: He actually went to school to study photography and graphic design. Interesting that he became a librettist/director.
Some past credits include: Into the Woods, Falsettos, Passion, Spelling Bee, and more!
Current shows: Little Miss Sunshine.
10. Joe Mantello.
It is actually strange to think about the fact that someone as well known for being a director as Joe Mantello actually began his Broadway career as a performer. His first credit on the great white way was actually Angeles in America, but after that, directing became his bread and butter. After that, it wasn’t until The Normal Heart in 2011 that he returned to performing and let me tell you–it was phenomenal. But we’re talking about his directing here. He has tons of credits to his name, but the most famous one is Wicked which is celebrating its 10th year on Broadway this month! That is an astounding accomplishment, to say the least. He has a knack for directing some more smaller works all the way up to the giant that is the green girl at the Gershwin. There is no consistency to his style, which is exciting! You never know what you’re going to get. Everyone is always eager to see what he does next, I am not exception.
You might not know: He was nominated for acting awards at the Tonys for both his first and most recent Broadway acting credits. Does this tell you anything? He’s freakin’ good at it! We need more!
Some past credits include: Assassins, Take Me Out, November, Pal Joey, 9 to 5 and more.
Current shows: Wicked.
As I said before, this is neither an exhaustive list, nor does it give all the information on any one of these people; the list is simply a starting point. There are hundreds more people that you SHOULD know. I just picked the first ones that came to mind for me. I obviously don’t know every director, but these are pretty good ones. If you feel I missed anyone vital, drop me a comment with their name below and I’ll include them in Directors Part 2!
Stay tuned next week for another set of People You Should Know.