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The worst Broadway shows we saw in 2018

We wanted an escape from "Margaritaville."

"Escape to Margaritaville" was one of the worst

"Escape to Margaritaville" was one of the worst shows we saw on Broadway in 2018. Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

The revival trend hit Broadway hard in 2018. The year brought dozens of favorites back into the spotlight (“Carousel”), let us time-travel with beloved artists (Donna Summer, Cher, Carole King) and transported film characters to the big stage (“Mean Girls,” “Pretty Woman,” “Harry Potter,” “Frozen”).

But, every Broadway jukebox musical, new show and remake was not created equal. Below, the seven worst productions we saw this year (to date), starting with 2-star ratings and below. 

Read our list of the best Broadway shows of 2018 at amNY.com/entertainment

"Frozen" — 2 stars 

"The continued popularity of “Frozen” may explain why it was adapted for the Broadway stage in such a shallow and unimaginative manner, creating a disappointing and empty product. It is essentially a live stage presentation of the film with some underwhelming additions," Windman writes. Let it go – away.

“Carousel” — 1.5 stars

Redoing a classic comes with its challenges. Fans of the original may already be gunning for the production, ready to pick apart any changes from their favorite. Such is the story for “Carousel,” which cut extensive scenes from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s tale in its 2018 Broadway revival at the Imperial Theatre. “[S]peaking as someone who knows ‘Carousel’ inside and out, sitting through it was a disappointing, bewildering and frustrating experience,” our critic Matt Windman wrote. Those willing to forgive the alterations may have instead taken issue with the lead performances by Jessie Mueller and Joshua Henry, which came off “as completely contemporary in a show set in the late 19th century New England.” The show closed Sept. 16, five months after its opening.

“Summer: The Donna Summer Musical” — 1.5 stars 

One of the first of the handful of productions that brought stars’ life stories to the Great White Way in 2018, this jukebox musical features all of the best Donna Summer hits, like “Last Dance.” Three actresses portray the singer at different portions of her life, with Storm Lever as Duckling Donna, Ariana DeBose as Disco Donna and LaChanze as Diva Donna. The stars work well alongside one another, but not well enough to mask the show’s rough form. “Considering the dramatic episodes in her life, the considerable number of pop hits that she produced and the decadent and gritty 1970s setting, ‘Summer’ ought to have worked, but Broadway’s jukebox musical model has a special way of turning artistic potential into embarrassment,” Widman wrote. The production opened at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in April and will play its last show on Dec. 30.

“Escape to Margaritaville” — 1.5 stars

Margaritaville came to Broadway in March, bringing the promise of tropical cocktails and warmer weather to a city ready to leave winter weather behind. It paired the margaritas with summertime Jimmy Buffett classics, but that’s just about where its charm ended. A bright cast was overshadowed by “a cheesy, kitschy, escapist, feel-good” script that lacked a plot strong enough to hold it all together, Windman wrote. “The ability to consume alcohol during the show certainly helps to put one in a relaxed, less critical state of mind. But all things considered, you might be better off downing margaritas at a beach bar while listening to a Buffett album,” he added. The show closed on July 1 after 124 performances.

“Head Over Heels” — 1.5 stars

Another jukebox musical makes the list of the Broadway duds — get the hint? This one, which told a story around the hit 1980s pop-punk band the Go-Go’s has not “got the beat,” Windman wrote. The show stood out for its casting, with Bonnie Milligan starring alongside “RuPaul’s Drag Race” star Peppermint who made history as the first openly trans woman to create a principal role on Broadway. The story was applauded for its equal-love plot. It went wrong, however, in its attempt to “be as trendy as possible in the patently unoriginal and limited context of a jukebox musical,” Windman wrote. The production opened at the Hudson Theatre on July 26 and is on track to play just under 200 total shows before its closing date on Jan. 6, 2019.

“The Prom” — 1.5 stars

“I couldn’t find a date to “The Prom” — but that turned out to be for the better. Why should someone else have to endure it too?” Windman asked in his November review. The production’s star creative team and a notable performance by actress Caitlin Kinnunen were overshadowed by a “sloppy script” laced with jokes that came off as simply trying too hard. The message is there — “The Prom” tells the story of a high school prom that forbids a lesbian teen from attending with her girlfriend — but would be better served elsewhere on Broadway. “The Prom” is playing an open run at the Longacre Theatre. 

“Gettin’ the Band Back Together” — 1 star

Tacky. Witless. Amateurish. Need we go on? Our reviewer used those adjectives and more to describe this pop-rock musical set in New Jersey that followed a down-on-his-luck banker as he moved in with his mom and entered a battle of the band competition to save his childhood home from foreclosure. It “is a total embarrassment to find on Broadway,” Windman wrote. The production, which closed on Sept. 16, was open for just six weeks.

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