The 20 best New York theater shows to see in winter 2018

Our preview of the best musicals and plays headed to New York in winter 2018, on Broadway and beyond
Mean Girls
Photograph: Courtesy Joan Marcus Mean Girls
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It may be cold outside, but plenty of hot shows are on their way to New York City in the winter of 2018. Even before the traditionally jam-packed first month of spring, when shows rush to open in time for the Tony Awards, there is a whole lot to choose from. The two biggest Broadway productions, Frozen and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, arrive with huge potential fan bases already in place, so finding cheap Broadway tickets for them will be a challenge. But there are also Broadway revivals of major works by American writers (Tony Kushner, Edward Albee, Kenneth Lonergan, Rodgers and Hammerstein) and potentially thrilling new plays for those willing to venture Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway—not to mention a musical version of Mean Girls. Here are 20 of the winter's most promising productions, listed chronologically.

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Best New York theater shows of winter 2018

Mankind
Photograph: Courtesy Joan Marcus
Theater, Comedy

Mankind

Writer-director Robert O'Hara, whose riotous Bootycandy was a highlight of the 2014 season, returns to Playwrights Horizons with a commissioned play that imagines a future in which women have gone extinct. Anson Mount and Bobby Moreno play a couple facing an unexpected pregnancy; the cast also includes veteran show stealer André De Shields.

Under the Radar 2018
Photograph: Courtesy Wang Chong
Theater, Experimental

Under the Radar 2018

The Public presents edgy new works in a top-notch festival curated by Mark Russell. Among the offerings are shows by Andrew Schneider, Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, Adam Gopnik, Teatro El Público, David Cale, Split Britches, Motus, Théâtre du Rêve Expérimental, Satoshi Miyagi, Roger Guenveur Smith and Nature Theater of Oklahoma.

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Ballyturk
Photograph: Courtesy Richard Gilligan
Theater, Drama

Ballyturk

The isolated storytelling world of two nameless men is disrupted by the arrival of a third person in the American premiere of a dark metatheatrical comedy by one-man Irish theater industry Enda Walsh. The cast comprises Tadgh Murphy, Mikel Murfi and veteran avant-gardist Olwen Fouéré, reprising their roles from the 2017 production at Dublin's Abbey Theatre.

Anna Chlumsky
Photograph: Courtesy Polk PR
Theater, Drama

Cardinal

In the world premiere of a play by Greg Pierce (Slowgirl), a woman's plan to literally paint her town red leads to rivalry and conflict among the local residents. The cast, directed by Kate Whoriskey, includes Anna Chlumsky (Veep), Becky Ann Baker (Girls) and Adam Pally (The Mindy Project).

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Miles for Mary
Photograph: Courtesy the Mad Ones
Theater, Comedy

Miles for Mary

The Mad Ones' bittersweet comedy, about 1989 high-school faculty members organizing a telethon in the name of a much-missed student athlete, stuns us with period particulars and cleverly conceals its plot under a welter of naturalistic conversation. It was pure delight in 2016, and now returns for an encore run, directed again by Lila Neugebauer and with the entire original cast.

Steven Cosson
Photograph: Courtesy Peter Bellamy
Theater, Comedy

The Undertaking

Writer-director Steven Cosson and his culturally essential docutheater troupe, the Civilians (This Beautiful City), journey to the underworld in a piece based on transcripts from interviews with morticians, mystics and others experts on post-death experience. Created in collaboration with visual artist Jessica Mitrani, the show returns for a longer run after a brief stint at BAM in 2016. 

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Martin McDonagh
Photograph: Courtesy Euan Kerr
Theater, Drama

Hangmen

Martin McDonagh's astoundingly productive first decade as a playwright yielded a spate of often shocking hits including The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Pillowman, but he has mostly been focusing on film of late. Directed by Matthew Dunster, his first new play to hit New York since 2010's A Behanding in Spokane focuses on a Northern English executioner (Mark Addy) on the day the U.K. abolishes hanging. Expect gallows humor.

Will Swenson
Photograph: Courtesy the New Group
Theater, Musicals

Jerry Springer—The Opera

Fifteen years after its U.K. debut, and a decade after its New York concert premiere at Carnegie Hall, Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee's outrageous musical finally gets an Off Broadway run. Terrence Mann (Les Misérables) plays Springer, the ringmaster of the 1990s' trashiest talk show, and Will Swenson (Hair) plays Satan. John Rando (Urinetown) directs the show, which includes sex oddities, KKK members and more naughty words than you can count on a hundred hands.

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Aleshea Harris
Photograph: Courtesy Soho Rep
Theater, Drama

Is God Is

After more than a year in exile, the essential Soho Rep returns to its home theater with Aleshea Harris's tale of young African-American twin sisters on a mission of revenge. Taibi Magar (Underground Railroad Game) directs the the world premiere of Harris's Afropunk western, which won the 2016 Relentless Award. 

Vanessa Williams
Photogaph: Courtesy Rod Spicer
Theater, Musicals

Encores!: Hey, Look Me Over!

City Center's Encores! series departs its usual concert stagings of underexposed musicals with this catch-all revue, assembled by Rob Berman, comprising highlights from shows that the series has not yet tackled. Bob Martin, The Drowsy Chaperone's Man in Chair, guides audiences through selections from Greenwillow, All American, Sail Away, George M!, Milk and Honey, Jamaica, Wildcat and fan favorite Mack & Mabel; the cast includes Vanessa Williams, Bebe Neuwirth, Carolee Carmello, Judy Kuhn, Reed Birney, Marc Kudisch and Nancy Opel.

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Michael Cyril Creighton
Photograph: Courtesy Zack DeZon
Theater, Comedy

The Amateurs

Jordan Harrison (Marjorie Prime) examines the connection points between crisis and artistic creativity in a new play that looks at a 14th-century troupe of actors trying to stay one step ahead of the Black Plague. The very promising cast, directed by Oliver Butler (of the Debate Society), comprises Kyle Beltran, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Michael Cyril Creighton, Greg Keller, Jennifer Kim and Thomas Jay Ryan.

Jessica Hecht
Photograph: Courtesy Lincoln Center Theater
Theater, Drama

Admissions

In a new play by Joshua Harmon (Bad Jews), the captivating Jessica Hecht stars as a high-school admissions officer whose progressive aims to diversify the student body come into conflict with her own son's college ambitions. Daniel Aukin (4000 Miles) directs for Lincoln Center Theater.

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Frozen
Photograph: Courtesy Deen van Meer
Theater, Musicals

Frozen

icon-location-pin Midtown West
icon-calendar
Open run

The movie that launched a thousand YouTube covers of "Let It Go" arrives on Broadway as a full-fledged Disney live musical. Screenwriter Jennifer Lee and songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez expand their 2013 animated megahit, the tale of a princess on a quest to save the kingdom from her frosty sister (Caissie Levy). Erstwhile Donmar Warehouse honcho Michael Grandage directs.

Angels In America
Photograph: Courtesy Helen Maybanks
Theater, Drama

Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes

Broadway gets a 25th-anniversary revival of Tony Kushner's era-defining two-part masterwork. Marianne Elliott (War Horse) directs the production, which was mounted in 2017 at London's National Theatre and features most of that version's cast, including Nathan Lane as the demoniac power lawyer Roy Cohn, Andrew Garfield as a gay man with AIDS and Denise Gough (People, Places & Things) as a neglected wife. For the U.S. production, Lee Pace joins them as a Mormon closet case.

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Laurie Metcalf
Photograph: Courtesy Corey Nickols
Theater, Drama

Three Tall Women

The ascendancy of Laurie Metcalf continues as the marvelous actor, coming off triumphs on stage (A Doll's House, Part 2) and film (Lady Bird), returns to the boards for the Broadway premiere of Edward Albee's Pulitzer Prize–winning 1994 drama, in which an elderly woman shares the stage with two younger versions of herself. Metcalf plays the middle-aged one; bookending her are Alison Pill (The Miracle Worker) and two-time Oscar winner Glenda Jackson (returning to Broadway for the first time since 1988). Joe Mantello directs.

Jessie Mueller
Photograph: Courtesy Krista Schlueter
Theater, Musicals

Carousel

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's groundbreaking 1945 musical, about a rough-hewn carnival barker and the girl he loves and abuses, is a whole lot darker and weirder than you might remember. Jack O'Brien directs the latest Broadway revival, with a cast that includes Joshua Henry (Shuffle Along), Jessie Mueller (Waitress), Lindsay Mendez, Alexander Gemignani and Margaret Colin. Opera star Renée Fleming is also on hand to sing "You'll Never Walk Alone."

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Michael Cera
Photograph: Danielle Levitt
Theater, Drama

Lobby Hero

With its acquisition of intimate Hayes Hayes venue, Second Stage Theater joins the small club of nonprofits with devoted Broadway houses. To christen its newly renovated flagship, the company revives Kenneth Lonergan's 2001 play about a conflicted security guard, directed by Trip Cullman (Six Degrees of Separation). Awkwardness avatar Michael Cera, who headlined the 2014 Broadway revival of Lonergan's This Is Our Youth, leads an ensemble that also includes Brian Tyree Henry, Bel Powley and handsome movie person Chris Evans.

Mean Girls
Photgraph: Courtesy Joan Marcus
Theater, Musicals

Mean Girls

icon-location-pin Midtown West
icon-calendar
Open run

We want to say one word to you, just one word: Plastics. Tina Fey adapts her cult-fave 2004 film comedy, a sly depiction of predators in the high-school food chain, into a Broadway musical with tunes by her husband, Jeff Richmond, and lyrics by Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde). The cast includes Erika Henningsen, Taylor Louderman, Ashley Park, Kate Rockwell and Barrett Wilbert Weed, directed and choreographed by The Book of Mormon's Casey Nicholaw.

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Lauren Ambrose
Photograph: Courtesy Brian To/WENN.com
Theater, Musicals

My Fair Lady

icon-location-pin Upper West Side
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Open run

Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) and Harry Hadden-Paton (Downton Abbey) star in this beloved 1956 adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, the show's first Broadway revival since 1993. Continuing to work his way through the musical-theater canon, Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, Fiddler on the Roof) directs Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's tale of a fussy Englishman who transforms a flower girl into a lady through the magic of proper enunciation. The supporting cast includes Norbert Leo Butz and the peerless Dame Diana Rigg.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Photograph: Courtesy Charlie Gray
Theater, Musicals

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

icon-location-pin Midtown West
icon-calendar
Open run

Set nearly two decades after J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter heptology, Jack Thorne's authorized stage sequel concerns the time-traveling misadventures of Harry's son and his wizard-school pal, the son of Harry's onetime enemy. Based on a story by Rowling, Thorne and director John Tiffany, the show is divided into two full-length halves. The principal cast of the original West End production—which cleaned up at the 2017 Olivier Awards—hops the pond to open the show in New York. Good luck getting tickets; we hear the series has fans.

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