The fall theater season is kicking into gear, which means it’s not too early to start thinking about what the New York theater world has in store for us in 2016. Here are 20 of the 2016 musicals and plays, on Broadway and Off Broadway, that we’re most excited about, in order of the dates they start.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best of 2016
20 shows to see in 2016 by date
Some say that Michael Frayn’s uproarious 1982 comedy, which tracks the onstage and offstage disasters of an English troupe on tour with a lousy play, is the funniest farce ever written. We won’t say they’re wrong. The supreme Andrea Martin headlines a company that also includes Megan Hilty, Campbell Scott, Tracee Chimo, Daniel Davis and Jeremy Shamos. Prepare your sides for splitting.
American Airlines Theatre; starts December 17, opens January 14, 2016
Pictured: Andrea Martin
Our Mother’s Brief Affair
Few actors command the stage with as much comic authority as Linda Lavin (The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife). In this new dramedy by the sharp-witted Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out), she plays a dying woman who shocks her adult children by revealing a surprising indiscretion from her past. Manhattan Theatre Club honcho Lynne Meadow directs the New York premiere.
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre; starts December 28, opens January 20, 2016
Pictured: Linda Lavin (Photograph: Walter McBride)
The mind-altering experimental-theater zanies of Banana Bag & Bodice return with their first new production since 2012’s Space//Space: the wild and wooly story of an old woman’s youthful adventures in piracy, wrestling and crack addiction, set against the aggressive inertia of her two sons’ lives. Troupe leaders Jessica Jelliffe and Jason Craig also star in the piece.
Bushwick Starr; starts January 13, 2016
Pictured: Jason Craig and Jessica Jelliffe (Photograph: Christian Oth)
Director-choreographer Martha Clarke, known for her often ravishing imagery, explores the music and rituals of the Shakers—who combined rigid celibacy with ecstatic worship (and excellent furniture making)—in a dance-theater piece created with playwright Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy). The work ran at the Joyce Theatre in 2011; now it gets a longer berth at the Signature, where Clarke is a resident artist.
Pershing Square Signature Center; starts February 2, 2016
Pictured: Martha Clarke (Photograph: Gregory Costanzo)
She Loves Me
If the fall revival of Fiddler on the Roof whets your appetite for the songs of composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick, this is your lucky year: The team’s 1963 charmer She Loves Me is also getting a new airing. Broadway darling Laura Benanti and Chuck’s Zachary Levi play squabbling coworkers who don’t realize that they are also each other’s anonymous romantic pen pals. Ever-cute diva Jane Krakowski (30 Rock) returns to the boards to costar.
Studio 54; starts February 5
Pictured: Zachary Levi (Photograph: Eric Blackmon)
Mark Rylance, arguably the greatest stage thespian of his generation, had Tony Award viewers scratching their heads in 2008 and 2011 when he quirkily accepted his Best Actor laurels by reciting short pieces by Minnesota prose poet Louis Jenkins. Now he and Jenkins have adapted a play from a book of Jenkins’s work, in which Rylance plays a lead role. Claire van Kampen directs the New York premiere.
St. Ann’s Warehouse; starts February 14, 2016
Pictured: Mark Rylance
One of Shakespeare’s most popular plays in his own time, this rollicking and very weird tale of nautical adventure has fallen into relative obscurity since. Here’s a rare chance to see a top-tier production of it, with British megadirector Trevor Nunn—who led the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre for decades and also directed Cats and Les Misérables—at the captain’s wheel.
Theatre for a New Audience; starts February 14, 2016
Pictured: Trevor Nunn (Photograph: Geraint Lewis)
Belgian director Ivo van Hove has been shaking up Off Broadway for years with his ravishing deconstructions of theater classics. This season he makes his Broadway debut at the helm of two Arthur Miller dramas: A View from the Bridge, in November, then the witch-trial tragedy The Crucible, starring Ben Wishaw, Sophie Okonedo, Ciarán Hinds and teenage Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan.
Theater TBA; starts February 29, 2016
Pictured: Ivo van Hove (Photograph: Jan Versweyveld)
Anne Washburn, who blew us away with her apocalyptic, Simpsons-infused 2013 epic, Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play, comes back to Playwrights Horizons with a new piece about once-close friends who reunite at a ranch house for the funeral of a member of their circle. Director Ken Rus Schmoll (Iowa) is an expert at sustained abnormality; expect a smartly flexible approach to questions of time and reality.
Playwrights Horizons; starts March 11, 2016
Pictured: Anne Washburn (Photograph: Zack DeZon)
Shuffle Along or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed
George C. Wolfe, who memorably examined African-American cultural history in Jelly’s Last Jam and Noise/Funk, now shines his intelligence on the 1921 revue Shuffle Along, a signal breakthrough for black entertainers. Savion Glover choreographs; the megawatt cast includes Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Joshua Henry, Brandon Victor Dixon and Tony Award hoarder Audra McDonald.
Music Box Theatre; starts March 14, 2016
Pictured: Audra McDonald (Photograph: Autumn de Wilde)