New Broadway shows in April 2017
Ah, the joy of watching theater fail. The looming possibility of malfunction is part of what makes live performance exciting, and disasters remind us of that; the rite requires sacrifice. Mischief Theatre’s The Play That Goes Wrong takes this experience to farcical extremes, as six amateur British actors (and two crew members who get pressed into service onstage) try to perform a hackneyed whodunnit amid challenges that escalate from minor mishaps (stuck doors, missed cues) to bona fide medical emergencies and massive structural calamities.
“Times are hard for dreamers” sings Amélie Poulain (Phillipa Soo) in the new musical that bears her name, but the lyrics aren’t strictly true. During the intermission-free hour and 45 minutes of this promising but never delivering musical fantasy, you can easily (and frequently) dream up ways the creative team might have better turned the 2001 film into a stage event that didn’t cloy and harden into static quirk halfway through. Adaptation is an ancient and noble art, but some things simply work better on film.
What it takes to create an absolutely splendid revival of Noël Coward’s Present Laughter: Step 1: Cast Kevin Kline; Step 2: Hire a director whose name sounds like a punch line Coward might have considered—Moritz von Stuelpnagel. But not any Moritz will do. Find the one who helmed the equally hilarious but tonally rather different demon-possessed–sock-puppet satire Hand to God. There are further details (inviting design, surrounding Kline with a smashing cast), but the simple act of handing America’s greatest exemplar of comic suavity a role he was born to play is half the battle.
At first blush, the new Broadway musical War Paint looks like a face-off between rival 20th-century cosmetics magnates Helena Rubinstein (Patti LuPone) and Elizabeth Arden (Christine Ebersole). In fact, it’s more about putting faces on. Titans of the beauty industry, Rubinstein and Arden made their names in makeup and put their names on it, but they never actually met—a serious challenge for War Paint’s authors. With two narratives to track, and a lot of time soaked up by musical numbers about customers and sales pitches, the show is heavy on primer and contours but light on blending and shading.
J.T. Rogers's drama is an informative and absorbing primer on the secret history of a rare breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The plummy Jefferson Mays and radiantly self-effacing Jennifer Ehle play a Norwegian couple who facilitate back-channel negotiations by creating a space for personal connection and mutual recognition.
The beloved Bill Murray film becomes a Broadway musical with tunes by Australian songwriter Tim Minchin (Matilda). Andy Karl takes on the role of cranky weatherman Phil Connors, who gets caught on a hamster wheel of time until he forces himself to change. The Matthew Warchus production is a much-hyped transfer from London.
Paula Vogel and director Rebecca Taichman survey some 50 years of history related to Sholem Asch’s controversial play God of Vengeance in a drama that has the scope of an epic but the intimacy of a chamber piece.
Last seen deconstructed downtown by Ivo van Hove, Lillian Hellman's 1939 family drama returns to Broadway courtesy of Manhattan Theatre Club. For a treat, two seasoned stage creatures, Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon, trade off the role of greedy Southern schemer Regina Giddens (not in the same performance, silly—in rep). The irreproachable Daniel Sullivan directs.
It's hard to believe, but Bette Midler hasn't been in a Broadway musical for nearly 50 years. Now she is back where she belongs in the title role of Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart's megahit 1964 musical comedy, based on Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker. The supporting cast, directed by stage vet Jerry Zaks, includes Kate Baldwin, Gavin Creel, Jennifer Simard and the ever-delightful David Hyde Pierce.
Roald Dahl's beloved parable about kids, candy and capitalism, which inspired a beloved film with Gene Wilder and also one with Johnny Depp, arrives on Broadway as a musical. Expertly zany two-time Tony winner Christian Borle plays eccentric factory owner Willy Wonka in David Greig's adaptation of Dahl's 1964 book, with a score by Hairspray's Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (augmenting tunes from the 1971 movie). Jack O'Brien directs the production, which features puppets by downtown marvel Basil Twist.
New Broadway shows in March 2017
In Joshua Harmon’s mordantly amusing and well-observed new play, the sweetly tremulous Gideon Glick plays a nice gay Jewish boy whose closest female friends peel away from him on nuptial exit ramps. Directed with a gimlet eye by Trip Cullman, this sharp and bittersweet comedy makes you slap your knees until you notice they’re bruised.
Tennessee Williams's oft-revived family drama (last seen on Broadway in 2014) returns starring Sally Field as Amanda Wingfield. She plays opposite Joe Mantello as Tom, remembering days gone by, and Madison Ferris as delicate, damaged Laura. The ingenious Sam Gold directs.
One of the more unlikely musicals on Broadway this season, Come from Away is the tense but humane story of an airport in Gander, Newfoundland, where 38 planes and more than 6,000 passengers were forced to land on September 11, 2001. The book, music and lyrics are by the Canadian team Irene Sankoff and David Hein.
Three superb stage veterans—Jessica Hecht, Mark Ruffalo and Tony Shalhoub—star in this Roundabout Theatre Company revival of Arthur Miller's 1968 family drama. Estranged brothers sift through their dead father's belongings and weigh their value, ethical and otherwise. Danny DeVito plays a savvy appraiser.
Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s follow-up to Les Misérables is explicitly about the fall of Saigon, but in a larger sense, it’s about the fall of the Anglo-European Broadway blockbuster. In terms of musical bombast, visual spectacle and hyperbolic vulgarity, it closed out a sad decade for the serious American musical. With a score heavy on lite rock and anthems, the show may be mostly sung, but it’s less a song-and-dance affair in any recognizable sense than it is an ’80s summer movie, weighed down with ridiculous special F/X.
The core message of Lynn Nottage’s wake-up social tragedy Sweat is clarion clear and to share it does not spoil the show: We must help each other or we’re dead. Whether that means the rich pay more, the poor get health care or trans people enjoy greater legal protections, we have to unite these states. Nottage’s passionate and necessary drama, which transferred to Broadway after a run last year at the Public Theater, is a masterful depiction of the forces that divide and conquer us.
New Broadway shows in February 2017
Jake Gyllenhaal, who revealed surprising musical-theater chops in Little Shop of Horrors in 2015, stars opposite Broadway it girl Annaleigh Ashford (Kinky Boots) in a revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Pulitzer Prize–winning 1984 musical, a gorgeous portrait (in two halves) of artistic ambition and compromise.
Glenn Close returns to the role she last played on Broadway more than 20 years ago: the delusional, fading film star Norma Desmond. Andrew Lloyd Webber continues his renaissance on the Great White Way (Phantom, Cats and School of Rock) with this lush revival staged by Lonny Price.
New Broadway shows in January 2017
All but one of August Wilson's Century Cycle history plays have been on Broadway—until now. Manhattan Theatre Club presents a revival of Wilson's 1970s-set drama about drivers of unlicensed cabs in Pittsburgh. The cast includes John Douglas Thompson, Michael Potts and André Holland. Ruben Santiago-Hudson directs.
Anton Chekhov's untitled, earliest play (usually known as Platonov) makes it to Broadway 112 years after the author's death. Adapted by Andrew Upton, this version takes place in post-perestroika Russia at the birthday party of widow Anna Petrovna (Cate Blanchett). John Crowley directs this transfer from the Sydney Theatre Company. This production marks the formidable Blanchett's Broadway debut.
New Broadway shows in December 2016
Seen in an earlier version at Primary Stages in 2010, this new a cappella tuner features a book and music by Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Frozen), James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth. Eleven New Yorkers explore love, hope, fear and other big issues while shuttling on the subway. Kathleen Marshall choreographs and directs.
A boy must choose between his law-abiding, bus-driving father and a smooth-talking mob boss in Chazz Palminteri’s coming-of-age story, which began as a monologue, became a movie and now returns as a Broadway musical. With songs by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater (Leap of Faith), the piece is directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks.
New Broadway shows in November 2016
Nine master magicians and assorted tricksters descend on Broadway to shock, amaze and make you disbelieve your eyes. This year's edition—featuring Jinger Leigh, Rick Thomas, Mark Kalin and others—sports an Edwardian style, hearkening back to an earlier time of sorcery and enchantment.
In this captivating original musical, Ben Platt gives a Tony-caliber performance—funny, sweet, beautifully sung and exquisitely worked-out in its physical details—as a high school student thrust into social relevance after a classmate's suicide. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's score combines well-crafted lyrics with an exciting pop sound, and Steven Levenson’s book gives all the characters shaded motives. The production has moved to Broadway after its sold-out run at Second Stage Theatre.
Dave Malloy's dazzlingly eclectic rock-pop musical, adapted from a portion of Tolstoy's War and Peace, conveys its story of high-society Muscovites in stirring and surprising ways. Directed by Rachel Chavkin, this Broadway transfer of the 2012 Off Broadway hit stars global sensation Josh Groban and newcomer Denée Benton.
New Broadway shows in October 2016
Janet McTeer and Liev Schreiber dance a wicked minuet of squandered love and cruelty in Christopher Hampton's 1985 hit play, directed with ghostly flair by Josie Rourke. While Alan Rickman may have put his stamp on the Vicomte de Valmont 30 years ago, Schreiber's takes a more bullish, saturnine approach. McTeer is, as usual, fiery brilliance.
Composer-lyricist William Finn and book writer James Lapine's buoyant, lovable 1992 musical follows a married man who has come out as gay in 1980s NYC, at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Wit and heartbreak follow. The amazing cast for this revival includes Christian Borle, Andrew Rannells and Stephanie J. Block.
The print media may be hanging by a thread, but Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's crackling 1928 newspaper drama still has plenty of life. And what a cast director Jack O'Brien has assembled: Nathan Lane, John Slattery, Jefferson Mays, Patricia Conolly, Sherie Rene Scott and a dozen more greats. Part screwball, part black satire, the play still has much to teach us about journalism and ethics.
Stephen Karam, already represented on Broadway with his Tony-winning family drama The Humans, turns to Russian subjects with this adaptation of the Chekhov classic. British director Simon Godwin stages the production, which stars Diane Lane as landscaping-averse Ranevskaya.
In Simon Stephens’s unusual romantic two-hander, Mary-Louise Parker is irresistible as an incandescent kook who surprises an older stranger (the soulful Denis Arndt) by kissing his neck in a London train station. He allows her to disrupt his stasis, and they bounce off each other in odd directions.
Nick Kroll and John Mulaney devote an evening to a pair of funny characters they played on Kroll Show: aging Upper West Side deli enthusiasts, ’70s nostalgists and would-be pranksters ("Too Much Tuna") Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland. Alex Timbers directs the production, which tested its legs Off Broadway last year.
This new musical follows the same story as the 1942 movie, which starred Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby singing Irving Berlin tunes: A showbiz veteran turns a sleepy Connecticut farmhouse into a song-and-dance inn. Gordon Greenberg directs a cast that includes the charming Bryce Pinkham (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder).
New Broadway shows in September 2016
A combination of radio drama and art-house podcast, Simon McBurney's ingeniously designed solo is piped to audience members all individually wearing headphones. A sort of dislocating jungle adventure, the story is based on the true stoy of a photojournalist who got lost in the Amazon and fell in with Brazilian tribespeople. It's a meeting of ear, mind and soul you will never forget.
New Broadway shows in July 2016
Andrew Lloyd Webber's iconic musical returns as a taxidermied pet. In other words, this is the same tacky and tedious '80s spectacle that ran an inexplicable 18 years on Broadway. Very little can freshen up the synth-heavy tunes or bolster the scattershot book. If you loved Cats as a kid, this could sour your "Memory."
New Broadway shows in May 2016
The acrobats, contortionists, and trapeze artists far outshine the book and music in this Cirque du Soleil production. A love triangle between a movie director, young ingénue, and songwriter never captures the audience's attention the way the quadruple backflips, elaborate chases, and elegant trapeze routines do. Generic music and lyrics aside, the artists in Paramour have some ultra-rare talents. It's too bad they have to share the spotlight.
New Broadway shows in April 2016
Like the main character's inventive pies, Waitress has an excellent ratio of sweet to tart. The bright, poppy score by Sara Bareilles is delightful and packed with earworms. Lead actress Jessie Mueller portrays down-on-her-luck waitress Jenna with warmth and poise. The supporting actors are pitch perfect as well, adding just the right amounts of their flaky, crusty, and bubbly personalities. Best of all, the musical doesn't try to hide the painful emotional realities of the characters—but serves them right up.