I Watched Every Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Broadway Performance On YouTube So You Don’t Have To
According to Wikipedia, there have been 147 Broadway Performances at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade dating all the way back to 1975. Keep in mind, this list does not include Off Broadway performances or other special guest performances like The Rockettes or any of the performances that are scheduled to perform in the 2020 Parade. I spent a few hours scouring YouTube and found as many of the recording performances as I could. Out of 147, I was able to find 135 videos. Considering most of these performances are from the days of analog TV, I think I did quite well.
I watched each performance and judged each based on following criteria:
- Overall Energy - were they excited to be there? Did they seem into their performance?
- Song Selection - did they pick a song from the show that shows off the singers/dancers?
- Acting - did the actors/actresses emote during their performance? Did lip syncing throw them off? Did they appear to be cold?
- Salesmanship - How likely am I to see this show after watching the performance?
Obviously, the quality of videos for more recent shows is way higher than the quality of the videos from back in the 80s and 90s. But I tried to not let that impact my opinion. As much as I would love to write a review for every single performance, this blog would be WAY too long so I decided to select my favorite performance from each year. But trust and believe, I did watch all 135 performances.
Orchestra: The 1970s
In 1975, Shenandoah was the first ever Broadway musical to perform at the parade. But unfortunately, I couldn’t find a copy of it on YouTube anywhere. The next time a Broadway musical performed in the Thanksgiving Day Parade was in 1979; Peter Pan starring Sandy Duncan. I know Sandy Duncan from all the Barney Videos from when I was a child, so I was super excited when I was able to find the video on YouTube. It was uploaded by a person who was in the performance!
Back in 1993, Peter Pan was my first ever Broadway Show, so I am personally quite partial to this show and it holds a special place in my heart. My first thought was that they should have chosen I Won’t Grow Up because that song shows off the kids and Peter Pan. But I think choosing UGH-A-WUG is a good decision because it shows off more dancing and more ensemble members and Peter Pan flying over the audience is not something you can do in Herald’s Square. Overall, it looked like they were all super excited to be there and that they were all having a good time. If I had never been to a Broadway Show before, and I saw this performance, I would think that this show was really fun and family friendly.
Act 1: The 80s
I was born in 1987 so my memory of the 80s is foggy at best. Everything I know about the 80s I learned from I Love The 80s on VH1. But some of my all time favorite musicals hit Broadway in the 80s. This era of Broadway history is commonly referred to as the Mega Musical Era with many shows featuring a spectacle or concept like Phantom of the Opera, Starlight Express, Cats, the list goes on.
In the 1980 Thanksgiving Parade, there were three musicals that performed Brigadoon, Pirates of Penzance and a show that I couldn’t find on YouTube - A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine. Although the Pirate of Penzance performance featured Linda Ronstandt, the best one hands down was Brigadoon for all the wrong reasons. First of all, the performance was done not in Herald Square but on top of a float. Which raises the question: Does this actually count as a performance? Also, I couldn’t tell if the audio is bad because the video is from the 80s or if this guy could NOT LIP SYNC AT ALL. And the puppet dragon in the background was hilarious. Feel free to check it out below if you are so inclined:
I would remiss if I failed to mention that Meg Bussert did get nominated for a Tony Award for her role in Brigadoon but this performance does not do her any justice.
In 1981, there were two Broadway performances from Sophisticated Ladies and Camelot. I could not find Camelot on YouTube. However, the performance from Sophisticated Ladies did not disappoint.
The energy is on point. The song is catchy (I’ve been doo wat doo wat doo wat dooing all day). GREGORY HINES IS AN AMERICAN TREASURE. If I were alive in 1981, I would definitely want to check out this show. My only criticism is that I know that Gregory Hines is an amazing dancer so I wanted to see more dancing. So I cheated and watched their performance at the Tonys and it was everything I wanted and more.
Was there a Thanksgiving Parade in 1982? If so, there’s no evidence of it existing on YouTube. I was unable to watch the performances of Dream Girls, Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, or Foxfire.
In 1983, two Broadway musicals performed, Cats and Me & My Only. I couldn’t find the individual performances on YouTube, just the entire parade. This was a WEIRD YEAR with performances by The Care Bears, a Spanish dance troupe, a giant Panda, and an Off Broadway show. However, I was finally able to find the Cats performance at the 36:25 mark and I scrolled through the whole show and I couldn’t find the Me & My Only Performance.
By default the winner is definitely the Cats performance. Memories is definitely the most popular song from the show, so I think this was the correct choice. However, it’s incredibly boring. It has no energy at all. It’s a bunch of “cats” sitting there listening. A better choice might have been Jellicle Cats because it’s faster paced. The acting though is really phenomenal. I know that she’s not actually singing but her emoting is really shining through despite the low quality footage. I’ve never seen Cats because the thought of a human cat sitting on me terrified me then and terrifies me now.
Moving on from the fever dream that was 1983 and into the year 1984, there was only one Broadway performance by The Tap Dance Kid. Once again, I couldn’t find a video of the single performance so here’s the YouTube of the entire parade. You can see the performance around the 33:55 minute mark:
It might be because I can’t dance at all, but I love a good tap dance number. The athleticism of these dancers is just incredible.The energy by Hinton, the ensemble and the kid at the end are great. Hinton Battle won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in A Musical for his performance and I think that you can see why by this performance at the parade. I thought they did a really good job of adapting the dancing to fit the space in Herald Square. AND THEN HE STARTED SINGING (lip syncing - whatever) and I almost fell off my chair. WHY HAVE WE NOT REVIVED THIS SHOW?
In 1985, there were no Broadway Performances. What did they do?
In 1986, Broadway made a comeback with three performances from some popular shows; Me & My Girl, Sweet Charity, and Big River. Once again, I couldn’t find the individual performances but I found the entire parade. Anyone else flabbergasted by the fact that Pat Sajak was the host? I didn’t realize he did anything else but Wheel of Fortune. You can find the Me & My Girl Performance at 34:30, the Sweet Charity performance at 20:46, and the Big River performance I couldn’t find at all. I did find a message from Ronald Reagan. I have to say the highlight was the Me & My Girl Performance. But I did enjoy watching Broadway Alum Ann Reinking in Sweet Charity. Her dancing was great.
I went to a performing arts camp during the summer between 7th and 8th grade and we did Me & My Girl. The costumes were not this extreme. This is definitely the best number though as it involves the ensemble and the signature dance “Lambeth Walk.” I still remember my dance. The energy of the performers was great. This song though, out of context, makes no sense so I don’t know if it would drive me to go see the show.
We finally move into the year I was born (1987) and arguably, the best musicals. This was a tough decision as there are such big names this year; Les Miserables, Cabaret, Starlight Express, Into The Woods and then a show I’ve never heard of Teddy & Alice. Sadly, I couldn’t find Into The Woods so it’s out of the running but I found the other four. There is so much consider:
- Joel Grey in Cabaret reprising his original role 20 years later
- Colm Wilkison
- Roller skating Robert Torti
- A Teddy Roosevelt Musical set John Phillip Sousa music
However, the highlight is actually this random Teddy & Alice musical. You can find it here at the 42:34 mark.
Please hear me out before you cancel me. As phenomenal as Joel Gray is, it’s nothing new. Les Miserables which was new at the time chose a medley between three songs that make no sense out of context that were slow and boring. And Starlight Express was just plain awful. I almost chose it for all the wrong reasons.
While Teddy & Alice wasn’t earth shattering, it was incredibly patriotic and really energetic. The songs I all knew (except not with these words just the tune). And the truth is if I saw all four of these and had to select which I'd want to go to, I’d probably choose this over the other three. It also stars Broadway Alums Len Cariou and Beth Fowler.
Allegedly in 1998 Into The Woods performed again but I cannot find any evidence as such. Therefore, the winner by default is Forbidden Broadway. You can see the performance around the 18:50 mark.
If you love musical theatre, then Forbidden Broadway is truly hilarious. I have seen Regional Productions of it and it’s so hilarious. My favorite parody is their Rent parody but that didn’t exist at this time. This performance parodies Starlight Express, Annie, Gypsy, Peter Pan, Phantom of the Opera,
This was a really interesting performance because this is the first time we saw “a set” at Herald Square. They rigged a black curtain across the street. I am not sure why this was necessary. If they were worried about costume changes, they could have done it off camera.
Anyway, for the Broadway shows out at the time, I think all of these were smart parodies to choose. The costumes are hilarious, the energy is great and I am genuinely laughing at the songs I didn’t know. If I never saw this before, I’d be RUNNING to the theatre to see it.
And to close out the decade, there was only one performance from the show Meet Me In St. Louis.
To be honest, I don’t know this show at all. The song that was chosen is also about John Phillips Sousa and called “Paging Mr. Sousa.” I understand why this was chosen as it has a great kickline and features the ensemble. But the most famous song from this show is The Trolley Song, and that just feels like a wasted opportunity. The energy was good though but I wouldn’t be rushing to see this.
If I had to pick the best performance from the decade, I would say that the honor goes to The Tap Dance Kid. It was definitely the best dancing, highest energy, and most surprising performance for me.
Intermission: The 1990s
Welcome to the 90s! New types of music were gaining popularity like alternative rock and hip hop. Meanwhile, technology was accelerating at a rapid pace with the expansion of Cable Television and the beginning of the internet. We also saw a rise in multiculturalism and diversity. As we move into these Broadway performances from the 90s we will see these cultural influences within the performances.
For some bizarre reason, no Broadway shows performed in the 1990 Parade.
However, in 1991, there were four Broadway shows that performed; Grand Hotel, The Secret Garden, Miss Saigon, and Will Rogers Follies. Despite my best efforts, I could not find Will Rogers Follies. So it is out of the running. My favorite performance and the highlight of the year was definitely Lea Salonga in Miss Saigon. You can watch the performance around the 31:00 mark:
Lea Salonga won a Tony Award for her performance as Kim and I think this intimate performance shows that she deserved it. The acting and emotion in this lip syncing performance made me cry and gave me CHILLS. Is I’d Give My Life For You really the best song to sing? There’s so many other choices like I Still Believe, Bui Doi, or Why God Why? But this definitely shows off Lea Salonga and definitely shows off the emotional undertones of this show.
In 1992, there were four more performances from Broadway musicals at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The featured shows were Annie Warbucks, Jelly’s Last Jam, Guys & Dolls, and Falsettos. All of these shows are so incredibly different that selecting the best will be difficult. However, the best performance has to go to Guys & Dolls which you can watch at the 14:55 mark.
Guys. Guys. The man dressed in purple during Fugue of the Tinhorns is J.K. SIMMONS! OMG. He’s so young here, it’s crazy. He was hard to recognize at first but then I was looking over the cast list because this revival is famous for starring Nathan Lane and Peter Gallagher. I think the fact that the performance didn’t include them is sort of lame but we did get J.K. Simmons and Walter Bobbie. Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat is definitely the best choice to sing because once again it shows off dancing, the ensemble, and singing. Would I run to go see this show? If I knew nothing about Guys & Dolls, I would because the performance was very well choreographed and performed and had tons of energy.
Moving on to the 1993 parade, we saw 4 musical performances again. This time, we had Raffi on Broadway, My Fair Lady, The Who’s Tommy, and Kiss of The Spider Woman. I used to love Raffi as a kid and had a bunch of his VHS tapes so I was excited to watch that performance. Again, all of these shows were very different but the best performance definitely goes to The Who’s Tommy.
Although one could argue that Hair is the first “Rock N Roll” show, The Who’s Tommy was revolutionary for its time because it took contemporary music from a famous band The Who and converted into what is called a Rock Opera. Also, Broadway royalty Michael Ceveris makes his Broadway debut and is in this performance! Pinball Wizard is absolutely the correct song choice and the energy level of this performance is through the roof. This performance would definitely make me want to go see it.
Once again in 1994, four broadway musicals performed; Beauty & The Beast, Grease, Show Boat, and Damn Yankees. I find it really interesting that three out of these four shows are revivals from the Golden Age of musicals. We are starting to get some really good performances now. All of them had a lot of energy and featured great talent. As we move forward, making decisions will be a lot harder. Despite really wanting to give it to Beauty & The Beast, I have to give it to Damn Yankees. You can watch Beauty & The Beast at the 12:12 mark and you can watch Damn Yankees at the 27:30 mark.
The two songs that come to mind when I think of Damn Yankees is Gotta Have Heart and Whatever Lola Wants. I am very happy that they chose neither of those songs (although I would have loved to see Bebe Neuwirth perform). Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo. is not as well known but it definitely highlights the ensemble and the dancing of the show a lot more. This performance also has incredible high energy and a lot of baseball stunts that I appreciated. Out of all the performances this year, this was the only one that made me want to go see it.
In 1995, we saw three Broadway musical performances; Hello Dolly, How To Succeed, and Smokey Joe’s Cafe. The first two musicals are very classical musicals and Smokey Joe’s Cafe is definitely a 90s musical featuring a diverse cast and more of a medley of songs rather than a story arc that brings the songs together. Selecting a highlight from this year was difficult but the best performance was definitely How To Succeed.
Matthew Broderick’s energy is amazing. We’ve watched a bunch of Broadway show performances that had stars in them but they didn’t perform. It was nice to see the STAR not only perform but perform with the ensemble. Also, I didn’t realize he was such a great dancer. I enjoyed the whole performance so much. Matt’s energy definitely makes me want to go spend my money on seeing this show.
Moving onto 1996, it’s going to be so hard for me not to be biased. My favorite musical of all time is RENT which I saw 9 times on Broadway. Other Broadway shows that performed this year include Chicago, The King & I, and a tap dancing show Bring In Da Noise. After watching all the performances, the clear highlight is The King & I. You can see it here at the 24:30 mark.
As much as I love Seasons of Love from Rent, I don’t think this is an accurate representation of how groundbreaking that show was. I would have selected they perform the titular song Rent which at least has the rock beat and core essence of the show. But I digress, The King and I stars Donna Murphy who won a Tony Award for her performance. This performance was definitely the most entertaining and honestly, the most beautifully performed. It also helps that the kids were also really cute and chock full of energy. Also, the fan dance was performed expertly. Although I am not a huge fan of the show, that performance would definitely make me curious to see if I could find cheap tickets and see it. That’s how great I think Donna Murphy’s voice is.
The 1997 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was notoriously a very windy day causing The Cat in The Hat Balloon to crash into a lampost. Falling debris struck a woman on the head and put her in a coma for a month. Also, Barney the Dinosaur Balloon was put to rest. But that didn’t stop the Broadway performances. This year, Wikipedia says that Titanic, Side Show, Street Corner Symphony and The Sound of Music performed, but the copy I found on YouTube has Chicago - even though they literally performed the year before in 1996! They did perform a different song this year though. I couldn’t find The Sound of Music as I scrolled through. Nevertheless, the best performance goes to Titanic. You can find it at the 29:20 mark.
This was not an easy choice but bonus points for an incredibly young Brian d’Arcy James. This wasn’t necessarily the most high energy performance but it was definitely the most entertaining performance. I do not know this show very well, but the choice to sing There She Is, was definitely the right choice. We got to hear from the leads and the ensemble and everyone marvelled at an imaginary boat. It was definitely the only performance that made me want to go see the show.
In 1998, we were honored to be graced with 5 Broadway Musical performances! This year there were select performances from Cabaret, Footloose, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Annie Get Your Gun, and Peter Pan. I am excited to see what they do from Cabaret and Peter Pan as both of these shows have already been on the parade. However, after watching all the performances, the best one in my opinion was Footloose!
It was pouring rain during all the performances but Footloose just had the best energy overall. Annie Get Your Gun almost got the win because their hat choreography was just great but they looked scared to dance. Everyone in the Footloose Cast just went balls to the wall and attacked it. They also sang the title song which of course is the best choice. It looks like they were all having a really good time and after seeing it I had would definitely want to check out this performance if I still could.
As we move to the end of the millennium and the threat of Y2K approaching, we are lucky to have performances from 4 different Broadway Shows: Saturday Night Ever, Swing, Kiss Me Kate, and Fosse. This one was hard to select not because all the performances were good but because all of them were sort of lackluster. But eventually, I choose Saturday Night Fever.
This simply won due to the process of elimination. Fosse was fine, but we just saw Chicago and Fosse style dance 3 out of the 4 past years. Enough. Swing was actually very energetic but after 5 minutes of watching people dance, I started to get bored. And Kiss Me Kate was just not good. This leaves me with Saturday Night Fever. The dancing was good, the energy was good, and the song is less to be desired. But who doesn’t love the BeeGees. Either way, I would probably check out the show just to see what they do with the story.
Choosing the best performance of the decade was incredibly difficult. The three standouts for me were Miss Saigon, Damn Yankees, and Footloose. I rewatched each of them and the best performance is without question Lea Salonga in Miss Saigon. It was just the most emotional performance and therefore it stood out amongst the rest.
Entr'Acte: The 2000s
As we enter the 200s, it looks like the tradition of four Broadway Musicals per year becomes the standard. The growth of the internet and the rise of social media platforms define this era. We also faced a tragedy in 2001 that shut Broadway down for a short period of time. We should see more technology as well as some social commentary on the rapid militarization and war on terror that was happening throughout this decade.
The year is 2000, Y2K did not happen, and we enter a brand new millennium. And the four Broadway shows that performed this year were Annie Get Your Gun, The Music Man, Swing, and Seussical. This will be the second time that Swing and Annie Get Your Gun perform so I am interested in what they plan on doing to top their performances. Also, I should make it very clear that I think The Music Man is the worst show ever made. So, attempting to hold in my bias, after watching all of them, the highlight definitely goes to Seussical.
To be honest, I do not know this show very well but I think the song selection of Biggest Blame Fool is a good choice because it introduces a lot of the characters of the musical. Kevin Chamberlin is also so earnest as Horton and I really enjoyed his acting. The performance was high energy and based on this performance I would think the show was family friendly and super colorful and want to go see it.
In 2001, Thanksgiving happened just two months after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th. As a country, we weren’t even sure that we could have the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But we came together as a nation and were able to keep the tradition. Performing this year was Mamma Mia!, 42nd Street, Thou Shalt Not and Contact. After watching all the performances, in my humble opinion I think the best performance was 42nd Street.
The show did win the Tony for the Best Revival of a Musical. They also chose a medley of three very popular songs from the show Dames/42nd Street/Lullaby of Broadway. This performance was just extremely quintessential of what Broadway is. For anyone who had never seen a Broadway show before, I think that they think that this performance is what Broadway is… does that make sense? The energy was great, the song selection great, and overall a fun tap dancing performance.
Honorable mention to Thou Shalt Not starring a very young Norbert Leo Butz and Craig Bierko. Almost chose this one based on that alone but the performance was boring. You can watch it here:
The next year, 2002, were performances by some very powerhouse Broadway musicals; Hairspray, Oklahoma, The Producers, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. All of these have a reputation for being dance heavy shows so I am expecting some great performances. The highlight of this year was Hairspray - by far.
I dare you to find any other performance in the history of the parade that had more energy than this. You Can’t Stop The Beat is the perfect selection for a performance because it’s the grande finale and features almost all the cast members and ensemble. Matthew Morrison is also fantastic in this number. He’s so young! I also love how they changed the costumes to make them warmer for the colder weather. If I didn’t know Hairspray, and I saw this performance, I would be rushing to buy tickets because the show looks like so much fun.
I am running out of clever ways to transition from year to year. In 2003, we had some more big name musicals performing: Wicked, The Boy From Oz, Little Shop of Horrors, and Never Gonna Dance (ok I’ve never heard of this one). All I know about the Boy From Oz is that it starred Hugh Jackman, so I am wondering if a big star like that would even appear in the parade; spoiler - he did not. Anyway, after watching all of the performances, I’ve concluded that the highlight of the year is still The Boy From Oz at the 31:55 mark.
Apparently, I am just a sucker for kids who can tap dance. But this performance had the best energy (Wicked was a close second but the staging was terrible). I also don’t know The Boy From Oz very well but the kid was super cute singing “Just To See My Name in Lights” and I think he did a good job. He had to perform up against Broadway powerhouses Hunter Foster, Kerry Butler, Idina Menzel, and Kristin Chenoweth. He just out performed them! This show looks cute and I would totally go see it if it was still an option.
Moving onto 2004, Wikipedia lists 5 shows performing but I could not find La Cage Aux Folles, so in the running this year are the performances by Bombay Dreams, All Shook Up, Wonderful Town, and Good Vibrations. Two jukebox Musicals this year which for some reason was and still is all the rage on Broadway. Why write new songs when you can just use old ones?! I digress. Although Good Vibrations had a baby Titus Burgess in the cast, the best performance goes to All Shook Up.
Although I find Cheynne Jackson’s blonde hair very distracting, the mash up of Love Me Tender and Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love was a good selection. The energy and the dancing was great. Their performance was just overall better than Good Vibrations. So if I had to choose one jukebox musical over the other, it clearly wins.
Welcome to the year 2005. I am currently in my first semester of college and home for Thanksgiving weekend. As per tradition, I am at my mother’s house where I watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and eagerly await the Broadway Musical performances. On this year’s agenda is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Jersey Boys, and Sweet Charity. The highlight this year goes to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Although the line “I want to be like Trump” didn’t age very well, Norbert Leo Butz’s energy is unmatchable. He looks like he is having a great time. I am not very familiar with the score of this show, but Great Big Stuff seems fine. It definitely shows off his talent. And the joke “I can finally afford a Broadway show” is spot on. Knowing that John Lithgow and Sheri Renee Scott are also in this cast, I’d be a fool not to go see this show!
The following year in 2006, we had four Broadway Musicals - 3 of which are original shows; How The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Color Purple, Spamalot. Ok. All three original shows are based on pre-existing materials. And a revival version of Chorus Line. Nothing is original anymore. Sigh. The highlight performance of the year is The Color Purple.
TAKE ME TO CHURCH! I have never seen Color Purple and I am instantly regretting it. This church song Mysterious Ways is insane. Carol Dennis sings the heck out of this song. Also, the energy is astounding. Also, a young Renée Elise Goldsberry is in this production as Nettie. I’m kicking myself for not seeing the original OR the revival version.
Continuing the trend that there are no original ideas anymore, in 2007 we have four Broadway shows based on four other pieces of work; Legally Blonde, Young Frankenstein, Xanadu, and Mary Poppins. The highlight of this year without a doubt is Young Frankenstein.
Sorry Laura Bell Bundy fans. Sutton Foster, Roger Bart, and Christopher Fitzgerald just out shine her. I am a fan of this show and I think choosing Transylvania Mania is the best choice. It’s a high energy song that has fun dancing. It also has great acting at the end. This performance definitely shows that it’s a really funny show with major talent.
Moving right along to 2008, we have four more performances from some extremely popular Broadway shows: White Christmas, In The Heights, South Pacific, and The Little Mermaid. At least this year we have an original show with In The Heights. Based on their individual performances, if you could only watch one, then the best choice is In The Heights.
Culturally and historically, In The Heights was definitely ahead of its time. The beat, the rapping, the dancing, the Carribean flair. It all comes together in the opening number In The Heights. To be honest, you listen to this and then you listen to Dames from South Pacific and it’s not even a contest. Also, LIN MANUEL AND CHRIS JACKSON. I definitely regret never seeing this musical in theatres.
Honorable mention to Tituss Burgess as Sebastian in Under The Sea. He’s so talented. You can watch it here:
And closing out the decade in the year 2009, we have four performances again. All from famous shows so choosing a highlight will be difficult; Billy Elliot, Bye Bye Birdie, Hair, and Shrek. I expect great dancing from Billy Elliot. And I am interested to see what song they select for Bye Bye Birdie (and they didn’t choose what I would have chosen). After watching all four performances, and I can’t believe I’m saying this is Shrek!
Alright, I was actually not really impressed with the other three which makes Shrek win by default. Also, Bryan D’Arcy James is just amazing. I wish they didn’t choose I Believe and did Freak Flag to show off the characters more. But on the other hand, more people know this song from the movie so I can see why they choose it. Out of all the shows, this had the most energy and looked the most fun to see.
It’s time to select a performance from this decade and it was honestly a very hard choice. My favorite overall performance was from The Color Purple. I just still can’t get over Carol Dennis’s voice and the energy that everyone brought to the performance. I want to go to church!
Act 2: The 2010s
We did it. We made it to contemporary musical theatre. I will be honest, this decade of musicals is not my strong suit. I am more of a Golden Age musical theatre fan, so a lot of these shows will be brand new to me, which will make it difficult for me to discern if it was the correct song choice. But because I don’t know a lot of these shows, I will not have a lot of bias. From what I was told by the musical theatre genius Mary Anne (co-star of Broadway Blackout), this era of musicals is known as “Belting ones face off” - so I’m looking forward to that. Also, thank goodness, the quality of footage is finally better!
We start the decade in 2010, with four musicals performing but alas, despite my best efforts, I could not find Million Dollar Quartet performance anywhere on YouTube. So in the running this year are Memphis, American Idiot, and Elf. The highlight from this year is American Idiot.
Ok. I understand that Time of Your Life is not really in the show and is sung during bows. But I think this is definitely the best song selection for the parade. One could argue that this is the most famous Green Day song ever. Showing their unique spin on a classic song I think makes it intriguing for people. I can see how this performance would inspire people to come see the show. They are in for a rude awakening when they do, but I think this was the best performance overall. Elf and Memphis didn’t stand out to me in any way.
In 2011, we broke away from the four musicals per year and got 5 performances! And no more Katie Couric! This year we have Spider Man Turn Off the Dark, Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, How To Succeed (again), Sister Act and Newsies. I am excited to see what they do for Spider Man because we all know that show was an absolute trainwreck (spoiler alert: still a train wreck even at the parade). I’m also excited to see Daniel Radcliffe perform in How To Succeed. Back in 1995, I gave Matthew Broderick’s performance the highlight of the year and I am curious to see if this revival can match it. Without further ado the best performance in 2011 goes to How To Succeed. With Newsies coming in a close second (as I said I’m a sucker for kids that tap).
Let me be clear - Danielle Radcliffe’s voice is not even on the same level as Matthew Broderick’s but I was super impressed by his dancing. This performance also just had crazy good energy. It’s a great song that shows off the lead and the ensemble. And yeah, the other performances just didn’t match this energy and therefore, it wins! If Daniel was still in this show, I’d go see it just based on curiosity alone.
In 2012, we are also #blessed to have 5 Broadway performances. This year we have Annie (worst song selection this year), Bring It On, Elf, Cinderella, and Nice Work If You Can Get It (Matthew Broderick coming to reclaim his title from Daniel Radcliffe). All very different musicals so selecting a highlight will be difficult. However, with much consideration, I have determined that Bring It On is definitely the highlight of the year.
Although I find it strange they would choose the finale song I Got You, it definitely is high energy, it features really funny references and the dancing and acrobatics is great. I never saw Bring It On but I think that this performance definitely would make people curious to see it and it definitely has more contemporary music. In fact, I think the opening rift is Mambo #5. Nice Work If You Can Get It was a very close second. If you are so inclined you can watch it here with Kelli O’Hara and Matthew Broderick:
As we finish the 13th page of this blog, we head into 2013. This year we are back down to only 4 Broadway performances, thank goodness because 5 in one year is a lot to judge! This year we have a performance from Matilda, Motown, Pippin, and Kinky Boots. I saw none of these on Broadway so I’m excited to watch these performances. Ultimately, the best performance was Pippin.
I understand that the show is called Pippin, but did we really need to have Pippin sing Corner of the Sky? I felt that aspect of the performance was stupid. Once Patina Miller and the ensemble began to sing Magic To Do, the performance picked up. Obviously, there’s no way they could recreate everything perfectly from the stage but I think they did a great job! I would have just stuck with that song. They obviously didn’t do the second verse of the song where we got to meet all the characters but I enjoyed seeing them join the cast after the dance break. Even their not so intense stunts were still amazing. I would totally go see this show after watching this performance. Oh and it also won the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical that year… so.
Insert some sort of transition line. In 2014, we had five performances. A Gentleman Guide’s To Love & Murder, Honey In Vegas, The Last Ship (I actually think Sting was drunk), On The Town, and Side Show. Now, we’ve already seen a performance from Side Show with Alice Ripley, so I am interested to see what they chose this time around as I did not like it the first time I saw it (still don’t like it). Based on my strict criteria, I have determined that the best performance goes to A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder.
DOORAGRAPHY! I actually remember this performance from watching it back in 2014, that’s how memorable and amazing it is. This performance goes to show that you do not need an overtop dancing number to have a great parade performance. The staging of this song is just SO BRILLIANT. I still have no idea what this show is about but who cares, I want to see it just because I want to see them do this number live.
Honorable mention to On The Town for their performance and interacting with the parade members. You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KuoDTq0OAY
Holy Guacamole! 2015, has 6 Broadway Performances. One of which is School of Rock - which I couldn’t find a performance of it AT the parade but a performance that aired on CBS? Does that count? Are all the performances I’m missing from CBS? I am not counting it because in my opinion, it’s not like the same as being at the parade (I know 2020 will be prerecorded at the theatre also, but that’s not part of this list). That brings us down to 5 which includes Fiddler of the Roof, Something Rotten!, Finding Neverland, The King and I (again - the same song as just as not as well sung or fan danced), and On Your Feet! The winner of this packed year is On Your Feet!
This is an extremely strong opening. I hate that it gets interrupted but the medley of Gloria Estefan hits is really great. It’s totally upbeat and for 8am, this is the energy I want in order to get hyped for the parade. Also, how gorgeous is Josh Segarra. The dancing is fun, the kids are cute. They also got the crowd to be involved. Something Rotten was a very close second because as a fan of musical theatre I find the song hysterical (and I think every show they parody has been on the parade). But On Your Feet was just hard to beat! (Also, as a Jew, I almost picked Fiddler but their version of To Life wasn't anything special.)
In 2016, we are back to four Broadway performances. We have Holiday Inn, Waitress, Cats (why???) and Paramour. Since we’ve seen Cats already, I wonder if they will win again or since they have competition this time, if something else will win (at least they sang Jellicle Cats this time!!). After watching all four of them, the highlight from this year is Holiday Inn.
Waitress fans, please don't kill me. But this performance was just too boring to compete with the others this year. Between the acrobats from Paramour (with a very handsome Jeremy Kushnier who I loved in Footloose in 1998) and the JUMP ROPE DANCING in Holiday Inn, despite the great vocals, it just didn’t captivate me. I’ve actually seen Waitress and it’s more impressive live than pre recorded vocals.
Anyway, I preferred Holiday Inn which had Corbin Blue in the cast at the time. The whole performance has high energy as I said before TAP DANCING AND JUMP ROPE! Two things I really cannot do. I thought out of all the shows that performed I would want to go see this one the most because if that’s what they do in a small number what else can they accomplish?
As exhaustion takes over, bare with me as I try to put together sentences. It's the year 2017, and we have some Broadway heavy hitters performing this year. SpongeBob, Anastasia, Once On This Island, and Dear Evan Hansen. I actually saw SpongeBob and Once on This Island on Broadway, so I will try to judge them based SOLELY on the Parade performance and not on what their performance can be. The winner for the 2017 year goes to SpongeBob.
Let me explain why the others didn’t win first.
Dear Evan Hansen - You Will Be Found is undeniably a great song, it’s just too slow to compete. For people who don’t really know what the show is about, the song out of context isn’t as emotional.
Anastasia - Awful. I couldn’t even finish it. SO BORING.
Once On This Island - I really wanted to pick this show because their vocals are phenomenal BUT the song selection was awful. Why We Tell The Story also loses context. I would have chosen Mama Will Provide or We Dance.
Therefore, SpongeBob is the winner! The energy from Ethan Slater from the get go is infectious and he really brings the character to life. The energy from the ensemble as well is great. The costumes are so brightly colored and everyone is super into it. They chose the opening number Bikini Bottom Day which sets the tone and is super upbeat. If I was a parent seeing this number, I would think that this looks family friendly and I would want to bring my kid to it.
We move onto 2018 which also had 4 performances - Mean Girls, My Fair Lady (another performance of the awful song Wouldn’t It Be Loverly - even if it is Laura Benanti), Summer: The Donna Summer Show, and The Prom. Once again, you have very different shows so selecting a highlight will be difficult. However, after watching the performances the best show this year was Mean Girls.
Keeping in mind that I am not too familiar with the entire score, I think the song choice of Fearless was OK. It showed off the three main girls besides Regina George and it also had some featured ensemble solos. The dancing was also pretty good and everyone had high energy. This performance would definitely make me want to go see the show because I heard that Taylor Louderman is supposed to be amazing as Regina George and she was nowhere to be found in this number.
To think that we have reached the last year of this list! 2019! We have Ain't Too Proud To Beg a jukebox Musical about The Temptations, TIna, a jukebox musical about Tina Turner (Street Corner Symphony back in 1996 performed Proud Mary way better), Beetlejuice an original musical based on previous material and Hadestown another original musical (which I just don’t think works when you take songs out of the context of the show itself). After watching all of them, the highlight of this year is Ain't Too Proud To Beg. Beetlejuice could have won but didn’t because they changed the words to be specifically about the Parade, it doesn’t depict an accurate representation of the show itself.
Ain't’ Too Proud To Beg’s medley of Temptation songs was great. The performers had a lot of energy and looked like they were having the time of their lives. Each Temptation was able to sing (lip sync) and have their moment in the spotlight. The dancing is spectacular and when Broadway reopens I am looking forward to seeing this show and I’m excited to see what they do in 2020 when they can perform on the stage.
After reviewing all my selections of the musical performances from the decade, the one that still stands out to me is the amazing staging of A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder. Sorry not sorry.
And The Tony Goes To
This blog literally took over 20 hours to do between finding the videos, watching the videos, writing all my thoughts and then organizing my thoughts in a coherent way.
As a recap here are all the winners from each decade:
1970s: Peter Pan (no competition)
1980s: The Tap Dancing Kid
1990s: Miss Saigon
2000s: The Color Purple
2010s: A Gentleman’s Guide To Love & Murder
Taking the winners from each decade and pinning them against each other, the overall best performance of a Broadway Musical at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is A GENTLEMEN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER! I am not saying that is the best show ever (I’ve never seen it actually) but that performance I can watch over and over again because I find the staging just that brilliant.
Let me know if you agree, disagree, think I’m crazy or whatever. I look forward to hearing all the feedback! Check out my blog on Monday/Tuesday with my reviews of the 2020 Thanksgiving Day Parade performances from Hamilton, Jagged Little Pill, Ain't Too Proud To Beg, and Mean Girls!