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Broadway Finds God, Spider-Man Shows Superhero Strength and Other Lessons of the Year

Broadway Finds God, Spider-Man Shows Superhero Strength and Other Lessons of the Year
'The Book of Mormon', 'Les Miserables' and more top the headlines of 2011.

The curtain is coming down on 2011 and, as always, it's been a busy year for Broadway. A raunchy new blockbuster became the darling of critics and audiences alike, one bizarre fashion choice had everyone talking at the Tonys, and hopes for a long-in-the works revival of a beloved show were unfortunately dashed yet again. looked back at the biggest headlines from the last 12 months to revisit stories that offered up some educational tidbits. Read on for Broadway's 10 biggest lessons of the year. 

Spider-Man Prevails as a Broadway Success Story
Delays, injuries and media bullies were no match for Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark. The high-flying Bono and Edge-penned spectacle started 2011 in a low place, but what a difference a year makes! The musical’s anthem “Rise Above” proved prescient as leading man Reeve Carney and the rest of the Broadway company overcame a daunting list of challenges and whipped the show into a crowd-pleasing favorite that continually grosses $1.5 million a week. Our Spidey sense is tingling that this friendly neighborhood musical extravaganza is here to stay.

Hallelujah! Broadway Finds Faith This Year
Broadway was born again in 2011. Religion may be an impolite dinner party topic, but it took center stage in a bevy of big Broadway musicals: Tony-winning blockbuster The Book of Mormon follows two teenage Mormon missionaries, Sister Act takes place in a convent and Jesus is spreading the good word on stage in Godspell. Shoot 'em up show Bonnie & Clyde even featured a baptism scene. With Jesus Christ Superstar getting resurrected this spring, Broadway is one divine place to be these days!

The Tony Awards Haven't Forgotten Stage Regulars
A roster of movie stars took home acting trophies at the 2010 Tony Awards, igniting murmurs that the awards show was chasing Hollywood glory. A year later, the Tonys snubbed household names like Daniel Radcliffe and Robin Williams and heaped love on two-time winners Sutton Foster, Norbert Leo Butz and Mark Rylance. Sure, everyone still adores famous faces and their box office bang (hi, Hugh Jackman!), but it's nice to see Broadway's highest honor embrace those who make the stage their home.

Barbra Streisand Will Remain Broadway’s Only Funny Girl… For Now
After a 40-year absence, Funny Girl was finally gearing to return to the Great White Way with the first-ever revival announced for a spring 2012 opening. Buzz swirled around the big question of who would fill Streisand's shoes as Fanny Brice, and Lauren Ambrose landed the iconic role opposite Tony nominee Bobby Cannavale as Nicky Arnstein. But shortly before the show’s pre-Broadway engagement, producers pulled the plug, citing a lack of funds for the $12 million project. Way to rain on the parade! Fingers crossed "the greatest star" will grace Broadway in our lifetime.

Comedy Tonight! Funny People Flock to Broadway
Stand-up comedians obviously feel at home on stage, but 2011 saw several well-known comics drop their mics in favor of acting in full productions. Funny guys Robin Williams (Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo), Jim Gaffigan (That Championship Season) and Chris Rock (The Motherf**er with the Hat) made their Broadway debuts. Meanwhile, the outrageous Kathy Griffin begged for a Tony Award (sort of) in her show, and John Leguizamo returned to his stage roots with the autobiographical Ghetto Klown. Want standing ovations with a side of prestige? Come to Broadway—no joke. 

Critics Will Take Aim at Composer Frank Wildhorn No Matter What
Landing two new musicals on Broadway in one year should be hailed as a fantastic achievement, but unfortunately for composer Frank Wildhorn, there wasn’t much to celebrate. In the spring, Wonderland received a pummeling from critics and closed after a month. Left with a sour taste in their mouths, critics didn't seem to approach his second offering, Bonnie & Clyde, with an open mind. They delivered schoolyard insults in shoot-up reviews on par with the title gangsters’ own fate (the musical is set to close after 36 regular performances). Better luck next time, Frank!

There Isn’t a Dress Code at the Tonys
For more than 80 years, stars have suited up and slipped into fabulous gowns for Broadway’s biggest night. One stage and screen favorite, however, didn’t relish the red carpet atmosphere this year at the Tony Awards. After declining interviews during the play's run, Good People star Frances McDormand shunned tradition by showing up at the black-tie event in a denim jacket and casual striped dress. Nevertheless, McDormand took home a Best Actress trophy. Maybe keeping quiet and dressing down is a whole new type of Tony campaigning!

Audiences Are Eating Up The Book of Mormon's Outrageous Humor
South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have been cracking up TV audiences for years, but nobody really knew how their raunchy brand of comedy would play out on stage. Workshops of The Book of Mormon intrigued investors, but many were hesitant to take on the show, fearing audiences wouldn't react well to bawdy jokes about Mormons and AIDS. Fast forward to universal rave reviews and record box office receipts for what is now Broadway’s hottest ticket. With all the accolades and riches it has garnered, the Mormon team is certainly praising Joseph Smith for the gift of his quirky faith.

TV Shows Discovered Broadway's Hotbed of Talent
TV has turned several Broadway veterans into breakout stars in the last few years (Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Glee’s Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison), but casting directors dipped even further into the theater pool this year as familiar Broadway faces (Laura Benanti, Katie Finneran, Patrick Wilson) landed high-profile TV gigs. With NBC's Smash gearing up for its world premiere, Broadway's TV spotlight will only burn brighter. It’s great to see so many talented stage vets scoring small-screen gigs, but they'd better not forget to come back to the stage!

The Les Miserables Movie is Finally Happening!
Talk of a movie adaptation of the now 26-year-old musical Les Miserables dates back to 1988. Even with the movie musical renaissance of the last decade (Moulin Rouge, Chicago and Hairspray became box office hits), the barricades have still never been stormed in a big-screen musical. Thankfully a Les Miz movie is once and for all beginning production with current Broadway hunk Hugh Jackman set to play Jean Valjean and fellow Aussie Russell Crowe on his trail as Javert. We can’t wait to "hear the people sing" in a movie theater this time next year!

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