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Broadway Beat: Free kids' tix and more hot tips for Philadelphians hitting NYC soon

Kids' Night on Broadway is a great deal. New shows include "True West" and "The Choir Boy."

"King Kong" on Broadway.
"King Kong" on Broadway.

The Broadway League has announced that Tuesday, Feb. 26, will be the date for its 2019 Kids' Night on Broadway. The annual event lets one child attend one of 19 Broadway shows free with a paying adult. Tickets are now on sale.

Shows on this year’s roster include some hot new productions — King Kong, The Cher Show, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, The Prom — and beloved chestnuts like The Lion King, Wicked, and Waitress. Details are at

City sidewalks, busy actors

Elbowing for room (The crowds! The store windows! The Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree! The tourists!!), two major shows are bravely starting previews:

True West. This funny, tragic, existential drama is Sam Shepard’s masterpiece. Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano will play the two brothers who sometimes seem to be two halves of the same guy. Austin is a writer; Lee is a small-time crook. They will get drunk, switch roles, and scare us and entertain us.

Shepard’s great subject has always been American masculinity — the book guy or the tough guy — and this revival should be interesting in this cultural moment, not only for American manhood but when self-division seems to define the nation.

In previews starting Dec. 27, slated to open Jan. 25.

Choir Boy. Manhattan Theatre Club’s Off-Broadway hit moves to Broadway. And before Off-Broadway, it was a smash in London.

Tarell Alvin McCraney, the playwright, is the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Moonlight and a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship Grant. You may remember his sudden splashy success with the Brother/Sister trilogy and the small, fine Run Mourner Run, all presented in Philadelphia about five years ago.

Choir Boy is McCraney’s Broadway debut. It’s about the gospel choir of a distinguished prep school for African American boys. A young flamboyantly gay man challenges the establishment.

Performances start Wednesday, Dec. 12, with the official opening set for Jan 8.

‘Springsteen’ on Netflix

The sold-out Springsteen on Broadway, which earned the Boss a special Tony Award, was filmed for Netflix before an invited audience. It will begin streaming Dec. 15, which is the show’s closing night at the Walter Kerr Theatre.

More or less free in the more or less comfort of your home sure beats the current scalped price of $2,067, no?

Look for music critic Dan DeLuca’s review of the Netflix version later this week.

A cast change and an extension

My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center — a gorgeous production — will have a new Alfred P. Doolittle. The irresistable Danny Burstein (Fiddler on the Roof, South Pacific) will take over the role for 16 weeks, Jan. 8 through April 28.

The Ferryman announced an extension of its Broadway engagement, which will now be through July 7. I saw this brilliant Jez Butterworth epic of a show (three-plus hours) in London. It’s about family drama and Irish politics, as an immense clan fills the stage (including babies and geese) and their Northern Irish accents fill the air. Don’t miss it.

The ‘Hamilton effect’ continues

The latest numbers show that the Broadway audience has grown younger, suggesting “the fabulous invalid” will live on. The Broadway League reports the average age of audience members for the 2017-18 season was 40.6, the lowest since 2000.

Kids and teens attended in record numbers. The Hispanic/Latino audience has grown by 61 percent.

Surely Lin-Manuel Miranda has something to do with these promising numbers.

And speaking of “the fabulous invalid,” that much-quoted phrase comes from the title of Kaufman and Hart’s 1938 play, a valentine based on the life and death of New York’s legendary New Amsterdam Theatre, home of the Ziegfeld Follies.

How ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ came to be

New York’s theater district, now expanded to include the area between 39th Street and 59th Street from Broadway to 10th Avenue, is often referred to as “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Mary Clark, a local historian, offers a history of the nickname:

“It first appeared in print on Sept. 22, 1881, when a New York Times reporter went to the West 30s with a police guide to get details of a multiple murder there. He referred to a particularly infamous tenement at 39th Street and 10th as “Hell’s Kitchen” and said the entire neighborhood was “probably the lowest and filthiest in the city.”

But oral tradition says the label goes back to “Dutch Fred the Cop”, a veteran policeman who was watching a small riot with his rookie partner on West 39th Street near 10th Avenue. The rookie is supposed to have said, “This place is hell itself,” to which Fred replied, “Hell’s a mild climate. This is Hell’s Kitchen.”