Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

New plays, musicals and revivals are busting out all over New York stages this season. Use our guide to spring theater to keep up with the big openings.

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No offense to the rest of the year, but spring is an especially busy time in the New York theater calendar. Part of the excitement and density of opening nights has to do, at least on Broadway, with the approach of the Tony Awards. Shows on the Great White Way need to open by late April to be eligible for a Tony. But Off Broadway and Off-Off, there’s no lack of activity, with plenty of plays and experimental pieces trying to get on their feet before summer. In the next few weeks and months, you’re going to see a rush of big new musicals such as Matilda and Kinky Boots, and major plays like Lucky Guy. Off Broadway we’ll see a new musical by Talking Heads legend David Byrne and the return of the Royal Shakespeare Company out at BAM. Click on the slide show for all the details and links to buy tickets. Happy spring theatergoing!

RECOMMENDED: Spring in New York guide

  • Photograph: Jason Bell

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    Breakfast at Tiffany’s
    Cort Theatre
    In previews; opens March 20
    Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out) adapts the 1958 Truman Capote novella  about the fascinating, socially ambitious Holly Golightly. Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen from HBO’s Game of Thrones) takes on the glamorous role in this classic New York tale of self-reinvention, romance and escape.

  • Photograph: Robert Ross Parker

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    Geek!
    Incubator Arts Project
    March 21–April 13
    Steampunk, monsters, Jedi and Dante's Inferno are part of the dizzying, high-low mix in Crystal Skillman's new fantasy, directed by Robert Ross Parker for nerdalicious troupe Vampire Cowboys. The dorktastic plot follows teen outcasts Dayna and Honey on their multilayered quest through a comic-con version of Dante's Hell to meet a pop-culture icon.

  • Photograph: Kevin Berne

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    Hands on a Hardbody
    Brooks Atkinson Theatre
    In previews; opens March 21
    Broadway makes a bid for the blue-collar crowd with a new musical based on real events and the 1997 documentary of the same name. Ten down-on-their-luck Texans compete to win a truck by keeping (yep) one hand on it the longest. The country-&-western-flavored score is by Phish's Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green, the book is by Doug Wright, and Neil Pepe directs.

  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    Lucky Guy
    Broadhurst Theatre
    In previews; opens April 1
    One of the late Nora Ephron's final projects was this drama about the life and career of crusading newspaperman Mike McAlary, who helped break open the Abner Louima police scandal in 1997 and died a year later from colon cancer. Tom Hanks takes on the main role, with George C. Wolfe directing.

  • Photograph: Manuel Harlan

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    Matilda
    Shubert Theatre
    In previews; opens April 11
    Not since Billy Elliot has an English musical import been so hyped. And, sort of like that blockbuster, Matilda centers on a young person trying to find freedom and self-expression in the world of oppressive adults. We look forward to hearing Tim Minchin’s score for this family-friendly tale of a telekinetic schoolgirl, based on the Roald Dahl novel.

  • Photograph: Bill Tucker

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    Kinky Boots
    Al Hirschfeld Theatre
    In previews; opens April 4
    Squeaky-voiced ’80s pop star Cyndi Lauper makes her Broadway debut—behind the scenes. She's composer-lyricist for this musical adaptation of the 2005 English movie about a man trying to save his father’s shoe factory, and the drag diva whose unshod feet fire his imagination. Lauper crafts high-energy and very danceable tunes, while the book is by old pro Harvey Fierstein (Newsies).

  • Photograph: Robert Ashcroft

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    The Last Five Years
    Second Stage Theatre
    In previews; opens April 2
    Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe star as ex-lovers in this X-shaped 2001 musical by Jason Robert Brown, which tells the story of their relationship forward and backward in alternating songs. Brown himself directs the first major New York revival of the piece, which has an ardent following among musical-theater enthusiasts.

  • Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    Motown—The Musical
    Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
    Previews start March 11; opens April 14
    Motown mogul Berry Gordy recounts his fabulous career in a new jukebox musical set to R&B tunes made famous by Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and others. Does Gordy's life—from the boxing ring to the recording studio—have enough drama to sustain a show? We shall see. The hit maker has enlisted a talented cast and director Charles Randolph-Wright.

  • Photograph: Howard Schatz

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    The Nance
    Lyceum Theatre
    Previews start March 21; opens April 15
    The latest new work by the very clever and very busy Douglas Carter Beane stars Nathan Lane—one of the great male Broadway stars of our (or any) generation—as a gay actor of effeminate comic roles in the dodgy world of 1930s burlesque. Jack O'Brien (Hairspray) directs a cast that also includes Lewis J. Stadlen, Andréa Burns, Jenni Barber and Lane's erstwhile Producers costar Cady Huffman.

  • Photograph: Walter McBride

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    The Big Knife
    American Airlines Theatre
    Previews start March 22; opens April 16
    Roundabout Theatre Company revives Clifford Odets's 1949 drama about scandal and damage control at a Hollywood studio, where executives use every trick to keep stars' transgressions out of the gossip pages. The cast under Doug Hughes's direction includes Bobby Cannavale and Marin Ireland. Between this and the recent, smashing Golden Boy, looks like we're in an Odets resurgence.

  • Photograph: Zack DeZon

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    The Call
    Playwrights Horizons
    Previews start March 22; opens April 14
    A couple waits expectantly for news about a baby they're adopting from Africa. Need we add that the hopeful parents are white Americans? Tanya Barfield (pictured) explores the tricky intersection of race and nontraditional families in this button-pushing new drama, staged by Leigh Silverman and featuring Kerry Butler, Kelly AuCoin and Crystal A. Dickinson (Clybourne Park).

  • Photograph: Michael J. Lutch

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    Pippin
    Music Box Theatre
    Previews start March 23; opens April 25
    Long before Wicked soared high and far, Stephen Schwartz penned this enchanting 1972 musical about a prince on a quest. It ran for five years and won original director Bob Fosse a Tony. Now the beloved show returns to Broadway in a much-hyped circus-inflected staging by Diane Paulus (who also dusted off last year's Porgy and Bess).

  • Photograph: Hugo Glendinning

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    The Testament of Mary
    Walter Kerr Theatre
    Previews start March 26; opens April 22
    The magnificent Anglo-Irish diva Fiona Shaw returns to Broadway for the first time since 2002's Medea, again with director Deborah Warner. This time, they take on Colm Tóibín's adaptation of his first-person novella, narrated by the mother of Christ 20 years after the crucifixion. Shaw goes it alone in this tale of motherhood, grief and the loss of faith.

  • Photograph: Charles Eshelman

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    The Trip to Bountiful
    Stephen Sondheim Theatre
    Previews start March 30; opens April 23
    African-American acting icon Cicely Tyson stars in an all-black revival of Horton Foote's touching drama, in which an elederly woman endeavors to return to her hometown in Texas. The cast of this limited engagement, directed by Michael Wilson, also includes Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Williams and rising scion Condola Rashad.

  • Photograph: Joseph Moran

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    Here Lies Love
    Public Theater
    April 2–May 5
    Under ordinary circumstances, the phrase disco musical would send us running for the hills; but not when the incomparable David Byrne is involved. He and Fatboy Slim (a.k.a. Norman Cook) are behind this new tuner, which tracks the rise—and shoe obsession—of former Filipino first lady Imelda Marcos. Based on Byrne and Cook’s 2010 concept album of the same name, the dance-packed, beat-heavy piece is being helmed by hotshot director Alex Timbers (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Peter and the Starcatcher). Here Lies Love is set in a nightclub environment—unless you opt for a seat in the balcony or a box, you’ll be standing and moving with the performers; audience booty-shaking is encouraged.

  • Photograph: Jonathan Pushnick

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers
    Booth Theatre
    Previews start April 5; opens April 24
    Bette Midler comes back to the Great White Way for her first nonconcert show since playing Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof some 45 years ago. Her vehicle is a one-woman show about the late Sue Mengers, survivor of Hitler's Germany and quippy superagent of 1970s Hollywood. John Logan, of the Mark Rothko bioplay Red, wrote the script; Joe Mantello (Wicked) directs.

  • Photograph: Chris Bennion

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    Jekyll & Hyde
    Marquis Theatre
    Previews begin April 5; opens April 18
    This 1997 musical adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's tale is the show that helped composer Frank Wildhorn make his name on Broadway. Now, whether that name is "retro-'80s schlockmeister" or "thrilling tunesmith" depends on your taste. This revival features Constantine Maroulis as the divided Doctor Jekyll and ex-pop-tart Deborah Cox as a prostitute threatened by his dark side.

  • Photograph: Kwame Lestrade

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    Julius Caesar
    BAM Harvey Theater
    Apr 10–28
    The definitive Shakespearean theater troupe comes to BAM with a new take on the Bard’s great political play, set in modern-day Africa. Featuring an all-black cast, this is the first production helmed by Gregory Doran as artistic director of the RSC. Caesar garnered acclaim for its powerful performances and sense of immediacy when it ran last year in Bill S.’s birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon; we can’t wait to see this fresh perspective on Brutus, Cassius and the whole stabby gang.

  • Photograph: Joe Kolbrow

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    Mass
    Brick Theater
    April 11–28, 2013
    Playwright-composer Robert Honeywell, a leading light of Williamsburg's Brick Theater, presents his all-female rock musical based on the tumultuous friendship between Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. The futuristic riff spans 2015 to 2026 in New York, Vancouver and Shanghai. Bewitching Moira Stone, Rebecca Gray Davis and Esther Crow headline the punkish production, directed by Edward Elefterion.

  • Photograph: Carol Rosegg

    Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

    The Memory Show
    Duke on 42nd St
    April 16–May 18
    Catherine Cox and Leslie Kritzer star as mother and daughter in this musical with an unlikely (and challenging) subject: moving back home and caring for an aging parent. The fresh new team behind the show is book writer and lyricist Sara Cooper and composer Zach Redler. Joe Calarco directs the New York premiere for Transport Group.

Photograph: Jason Bell

Spring theater preview: 20 shows to see on and Off Broadway

Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Cort Theatre
In previews; opens March 20
Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out) adapts the 1958 Truman Capote novella  about the fascinating, socially ambitious Holly Golightly. Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen from HBO’s Game of Thrones) takes on the glamorous role in this classic New York tale of self-reinvention, romance and escape.


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