Hamilton will become one of the few Broadway hits to perform a song at the Grammy Awards Show

By Drew Mackie
February 09, 2016 05:00 PM
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

The Grammy Awards allow all genres of music to gather together under one roof; rock, pop, country, rap and all the rest meet up for the sole purpose of picking up awards. But when viewers tune in to the 2016 awards on Monday, they’ll see a style of performance that’s only rarely been part of the Grammy awards: Broadway.

The show’s opening number will be performed by the cast of Hamilton, the hit musical based on the life of Alexander Hamilton. While the Grammy Awards themselves will be given out at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the cast of Hamilton will be performing from the Richard Rogers Theatre in New York, beamed in via satellite to L.A. It’s only the eighth time a major musical theater show has performed as part of the Grammys, and that just proves what a big deal Hamilton has become since it opened on Broadway in August.

Considering that tickets to the show are sold out through 2016, the Grammys will be the only chance a lot of people will get to see Hamilton anytime soon. It also made us wonder what previous Broadway musicals made the cut for the Grammys.

This Broadway hit is an obvious candidate for a Grammys crossover – American Idiot was, after all, inspired by the Green Day album of the same name. The members of Green Day – Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, Tr Cool and Jason White – joined the cast onstage for a soulful rendition of the song “21 Guns.” American Idiot did not win in the category Best Musical Show Album, however. The winner that year was West Side Story.

The 1996 hit drew crowds to the theater to see the story of African-Americans, slavery to present day, told through tap dance, meaning that there was a point in the ’90s when tap dance seemed cool again. (Note: This particular performance is actually from the Tony Awards the previous year. Not every Grammys performance is exhaustively documented online, it turns out, but you can imagine how this would have played out in a Grammys context.)

Oddly enough, Bring in ‘da Noise wasn’t the only Broadway show to grace the Grammy Awards that year. Another one known for fancy footwork, Riverdance, also took to the stage. As it happened, Riverdance ended up beating out Bring in ‘da Noise for Best Musical Theater Album. (And again, the video above is from a 1997 Riverdance performance, but not from the actual Grammys that year.)

In 1992, Natalie Cole was the big winner at the Grammy Awards and onstage, but a very different sort of musical performance took the spotlight when the cast of The Will Rogers Follies, a musical based on the life of Will Rogers, performed their big number. That year, the play also won Best Musical Show Album.

The 1984 Grammys featured some major ’80s hits – both Album of the Year and Record of the Year went to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, while Sting won Song of the Year for “Every Breath You Take.” But a highlight of the Grammys ceremony that year was surely this performance of the song “I Am What I Am” from La Cage Aux Folles, the musical based on the same French film that also inspired The Birdcage. The Best Cast Show Album award that year ended up going to Cats, but clearly La Cage Aux Folles was robbed.

Kim Carnes and Sheena Easton were among the big winners who also caught a performance of Sophisticated Ladies, a 1981 musical inspired by the music of Duke Ellington. (The above clip is actually from the Tony Awards, it should be noted.) This year, the Best Cast Show Album went to a celebration of a different iconic performer: Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music.

Haven’t heard of The Magic Show? It’s not as well-remembered as the rest of the Broadway shows in the list, but you’d think it would be based on premise alone: Inspired by the stage magic of famed prestidigitator Doug Henning, the play concerns an assistant being desperately in love with a dashing stage performer whose name happens to be Doug. In this clip above (from a live recording of the play and not the actual Grammys), Grease legend Didi Conn stars as the lovestruck assistant.

And finally (or first of all, depending on how you look at it), we have Godspell. In case you’re wondering what song the cast ended up performing for the Grammys, know that fans of Wet Hot American Summer will recognize the tune. And yes, Godspell did take home the Best Show Album award that year.

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