Wednesday night, Broadway holds its collective breath for reviews of the season’s most buzzed-about shows—Something Rotten!. The Elizabethan-set spoof is about a couple of London playwright-brothers squirming in the shadow of Shakespeare, who decide that the only way to beat the Bard is by presenting the world’s first musical. The script and score are peppered with jokey allusions to Shakespeare’s plots and quote him copiously. However, Christian Borle’s puffed-up opportunist (above) is hardly what you’d call a flattering portrait of sweet Will.
Something Rotten! is the unofficial kickoff to a year of Shakespeare in various forms around the city. And while there’s never a shortage of his work being done on big stages and small, we thought we’d round them up for you. Plus, 2016 will be the quadricentenary of the Swan of Avon’s death, so the drinking starts early.
Starting April 24, the feisty troupe Fiasco Theater dives into The Two Gentlemen of Verona, his lesser-revived romantic comedy, at Theatre for a New Audience. Expect lots of hectic multiple role-playing and resourceful theatrical tricks.
Shakespeare in the Park: This year the Public Theater’s beloved free tradition presents The Tempest and Cymbeline under the stars from May 27 to August 23. Performers include Sam Waterston, Jesse Tyler Fergson, Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater.
If you prefer your Shakespeare indoors and possibly with an Irish lilt, there’s DruidShakespeare in Lincoln Center Festival. Galway, Ireland’s esteemed Druid Theatre Company presents the four plays sometimes called the Henriad: Richard II, Henry IV Parts One and Two and Richard III. This epic presentation is adapted by the sensational Irish verse dramatist Mark O’Rowe; we’re curious to see what he does with the language. It runs July 7-19 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater.
If you’re one of the thousands of poor souls who weren’t able to score tickets to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet in London this summer, you can at least see his performance on the big screen. NT Live will start broadcasting taped performances on October 15. For times and locations, check here. Perhaps Coriolanus and Tom Hiddleston are more your speed; you can see the NT Live Donmar Warehouse broadcasts starting November 12. Details here.
As if one Henriad a season weren’t enough, we have another coming next spring at BAM. The Royal Shakespeare Company sets up shop from March 24 through May 1 with King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings, also combining Richard II, Henry IV Parts One and Two and Richard III. The four are performed in repertory and directed by RSC head Gregory Doran. That’s a lot of Falstaff for one year.
But wait! There's more! St. Ann's Warehouse announced its 2015-16 season, and it is bringing an all-female Henry IV from the Donmar Warehouse to Brooklyn in November (directed by the formidable Phyllida Lloyd). Yes, that's three times to see Prince Hal and Sir John Falstaff trading insults in nine months. Lloyd also directed an estrogen-heavy Julius Caesar in 2013 that we loved.
There’s plenty more Shakespeare to be seen in free outdoor fashion this summer, but those above should be the high points. And we haven’t even gotten to These Paper Bullets!, a Beatles-esque spin on Much Ado About Nothing, with songs by Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong (starting at the Atlantic Theater Company this November). Plus Bardheads on both sides of the Atlantic are panting to learn broadcast dates for The Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses, in which, yes, Benedict Cumberbatch plays our favorite physically challenged crown-grabber, Richard III.