This winter you better lace up your snow boots, because you’ll be out trying to score cheap Broadway tickets and big discounts on Off Broadway shows and Off-Off Broadway shows. We still have to wait for the spring for the rush of new musicals vying for the Tony Awards, but there’s lots to warm up the winter months. For the seasoned playgoer, there’s new work by Wallace Shawn and a fresh musical scored by the great John Kander (Chicago). There’s a bold new version of Sondheim’s classic Sweeney Todd, set in a pie shop, appropriately. And on Broadway you will find revivals of August Wilson and Arthur Miller and the megamusicals Miss Saigon and Sunset Boulevard. Below is the list, ranked chronologically.
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Best New York theater shows this winter
All but one of August Wilson’s Century Cycle history plays has 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 all-male cast includes John Douglas Thompson, Michael Potts and André Holland. Ruben Santiago-Hudson directs.
Nearly two decades ago, Marie Mullen won a Tony Award for playing the spinster daughter of a horrid mother in Martin McDonagh’s black Irish comedy of dysfunctional interdependency. Now she plays the smothering mother in this revival, directed as before by Garry Hynes for the estimable company Druid.
Having graced St. Ann’s Warehouse with two previous all-female stagings of Shakespeare, Julius Caesar and Henry V, director Phyllida Lloyd now returns with a third and final one. The great Harriet Walter (Mary Stuart) stars in this Donmar Warehouse production of Shakespeare’s jigsaw-puzzle play, whose pieces include a sorcerer’s revenge, a young romance, a shipwreck, a monster and a fairy slave.
On the heels of his Tony-winning turn in The Humans, stage treasure Reed Birney stars as a man who has lost his religious faith and searches for meaning on a London vacation in the overdue New York premiere of a 2003 drama by Tracy Letts (August: Osage County). David Cromer directs a cast that also includes Annette O'Toole.
Though Wallace Shawn may be best known for his adorable persona as a character actor, he is cherished by theater fans as the author of such smart, dark and menacing plays as The Designated Mourner and Aunt Dan and Lemon. His latest seems to be set in an unpleasant future. Matthew Broderick stars as a playwright; the supporting cast includes married couple Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker, Larry Pine, Claudia Shear, John Epperson and Shawn himself, directed by Scott Elliott for his New Group.
John Kander, who wrote such classics as Cabaret and Chicago with Fred Ebb, is pushing 90 now, but he’s still composing music that would make many a younger songsmith envious. Liesl Tommy (Eclipsed) directs the world premiere of his latest musical, written with librettist Greg Pierce: the story of a teenager who returns to his Kansas hometown after a mysterious one-year absence.
As Steven Levenson’s Dear Evan Hansen burns up the box office on Broadway, Roundabout mounts his new nonmusical drama, in which a Jewish family argues about its history and its future at the turn of the 21st century. The expert Daniel Sullivan (Good People) directs a promising ensemble cast that comprises Larry Bryggman, Maria Dizzia, Tasha Lawrence, Jeremy Shamos, Seth Steinberg, Kate Walsh and Gary Wilmes.
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.
The venerable experimentalists of the Wooster Group share a piece based on the 1979 film Town Bloody Hall, which documents a fiery panel discussion on feminism in which Norman Mailer butted heads with Germaine Greer and three other women. Elizabeth LeCompte directs a cast that includes Maura Tierney along with Wooster regulars Kate Valk, Scott Shepherd and Ari Fliakos.
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.
England’s Janie Dee, fondly remembered here for her exceptional performance as a robot in Alan Ayckbourn’s Comic Potential, returns to MTC to star as a business exec trying to fight the invisibility of women over 50 in a dark comedy by Penelope Skinner (The Village Bike). Lynne Meadow directs the American premiere.
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.
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. Estraged brothers sift through their dead father’s belonging and weigh their value, ethical and otherwise. Danny DeVito plays a savvy appraiser.
Originally staged in a real London pie shop, Bill Buckhurt’s intimate revival of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s killer-cannibal masterpiece now arrives at Barrow Street Theatre, where it hopes to reproduce its celebrated immersive environment. Four of the English productions stars kick off the run for eight weeks; in April, locals Norm Lewis and Carolee Carmello assume the leading roles. (The supporting cast includes Matt Doyle, Brad Oscar, Betsy Morgan and Alex Finke.)
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.
British playwright Caryl Churchill is a master of combining the ordinary with the outrageous and absurd, as in such modern classics as Cloud Nine and Far Away. Her latest play, directed by her freuqent collaborator James Macdonald, is set in a sunlit garden and imagines the gradual creep of apocalypse in a world gone daft.
The hard lives of factory workers being squeezed to death in the new economy is the subject of Lynn Nottage’s gripping new play. Featuring a full-bodied, passionate cast and solid direction by Kate Whoriskey, Sweat communicates its points with minimal fuss and maximum grit. And yes, along with the rage, despair and violence, there's humor and abundant humanity.
The brilliant minds of the Debate Society—playwrights Hanna Bos and Paul Thureen and director Oliver Butler—have previously given us such treasures as Jacuzzi and Buddy Cop 2. Their latest group effort spans 40 years in the life of Steele MacKaye, a hugely ambitious and now-forgotten 19th-century theatrical impresario played by Rocco Sisto.
Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s epic musical returns to its original home, the Broadway Theater, for a limited revival through Jan 14. If you caught the show during its original 10-year Broadway run, you know that the story concerns an American G.I. during the Vietnam War who falls in love with a local girl. Laurence Connor directs the production, which includes, yes, amazing helicopter stage FX.