By Joshua Ringler
No other person could start a Broadway show by declaring himself a fraud: someone who has built a reputation on stories of experience he had never lived. That is, unless you are Bruce Springsteen.
Springsteen is the star and lone performer of “Springsteen on Broadway,” which is currently unmatched on The Great White Way. While Broadway shows like “Come From Away” and “Dear Evan Hansen” tell the stories of real people, Springsteen is sharing his life story. Though it is scripted, it feels real, new and always powerful.
I am a Springsteen fan. I have danced with him on stage in front of 51,000 people. However, this show – this raw emotion he displayed – was more powerful than that moment. I saw Bruce front row and I felt closer to him during this performance than I did when I hugged him on stage.
Although he is known for concerts that go past midnight and hit songs that are sung by audiences of thousands, this Springsteen seems like a different man, a different performer, a different enigma.
He tells stories at concerts, but these were more personal, more emotional. They were from his heart, mind and soul. These were stories he had shared in his book, but not before on the stage. They had the ability to connect with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer in a deeply personal way.
The show lasts around two hours and includes just over a dozen of the Boss’ most famous songs. Rarities are mixed in and each song is preceded by the story’s origin, the reason for its existence.
The sound design, by Brian Ronan, creates an intimacy on another level. There are no video screens, nor are there hundreds of massive speakers. But in the less-than-1,000 seat Walter Kerr Theatre, there is an infectious sound created by Springsteen and designed by Ronan.
While Springsteen is creating the music, the sound quality is far better than that of an arena show. The songs’ power is in the lyrics and the tone of his voice, but the message is delivered in a way that no arena show can bring. Moving away from the microphone, just speaking to the crowd, Springsteen creates an intimacy that is incomparable to most of his normal concerts.
“Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” and “Dancing in the Dark,” which goes right into “Land of Hope and Dreams,” are showstoppers. They show the power Springsteen can deliver, in a church-like setting. The crowd, in some cases, felt like disciples in his parish, unconsciously clapping and swaying to every guitar strum. The lack of singing from the crowd is unusual for a Springsteen crowd but was most likely due to respect for Broadway etiquette.
Springsteen’s wife, Patti Scialfa, is the only other person to share the stage with the show’s star, adding a romantic middle to an otherwise life-lesson-heavy affair.
Springsteen on Broadway is sold-out through February and commanding an average ticket price of over $500. For a true fan of the Boss, or for a rock ‘n’ roll lover, the show is money well spent. If you are lost, if you need light, Springsteen is there with his performance. Using just a guitar, piano and microphone, he moves the audience to another level.
“One plus one makes two usually,” he said. “When you have rock and roll, the power inside you and a feeling you can’t describe, that’s one plus one equals three.” On this night, one Springsteen made perfect theater bliss.