The Most Anticipated New York Theater of 2015
THR's lead theater critic picks 20 eagerly awaited shows of the winter-spring season, with a teen vampire, two English monarchs and a hip-hop founding father
The annual roundups are done and the record-breaking Broadway grosses tallied for another year, but the 2014-15 New York theater season is only at the halfway point.
With close to 20 more Broadway productions to come before the April 23 cutoff date for Tony Awards eligibility, plus countless primo off-Broadway openings, the winter-spring lineup promises a wildly diverse theatrical menu.
It also offers return engagements of two of the most acclaimed new plays of the past year, which is great news for those of us who missed them first time around.
Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins' An Octoroon, an update of Dion Boucicault's mid-19th century slave-era tale that reflects on how we view race in America, will play the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn from Feb. 14.
And Stephen Adly Guirgis' dark comedy Between Riverside and Crazy, which stars Stephen McKinley Henderson as an ex-cop struggling to hold onto his rent-stabilized apartment, moves to Second Stage, beginning performances Jan. 16.
As for new offerings, The Hollywood Reporter rounds up 20 of the most enticing productions, including new plays and musicals as well as some promising revivals.
Nick Payne's playful experimental drama is a boundary-defying exploration of choice and destiny that considers multiple possible developments of a fledgling relationship between a beekeeper and a quantum physicist. Michael Longhurst, who staged the acclaimed 2012 London premiere, directs Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson (The Affair), both making their Broadway debuts in this cosmic two-hander.
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Previews from Dec. 16; opens Jan. 13
'Let the Right One In'
Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist's tender novel about a lonely boy victimized by bullies, and the mutual attraction that binds him to the mysterious young vampire next door yielded a genuinely haunting 2008 coming-of-age horror movie, unequaled by its American remake. Playwright Jack Thorne's stage adaptation for the National Theatre of Scotland, directed by the gifted John Tiffany (Once, The Glass Menagerie), comes to New York following an acclaimed London run.
St. Ann's Warehouse. Previews from Jan. 20; opens Jan. 25
'A Month in the Country'
The erstwhile Tyrion Lannister and Piper Chapman take a breather from the battlegrounds of the Seven Kingdoms and Litchfield Prison while their interpreters, Peter Dinklage and Taylor Schilling, explore the bored lives and crisscrossed loves of the residents of a 19th century Russian estate in Ivan Turgenev's comedy of manners. Dinklage's wife, Erica Schmidt, directs an ensemble that also includes Anthony Edwards, Annabella Sciorra and Elizabeth Franz.
Classic Stage Company. Previews from Jan. 9; opens Jan. 29
'The Iceman Cometh'
Originally seen at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, Robert Falls’ staging of Eugene O'Neill's mammoth 1939 drama drew rave reviews and broke box office records in 2012. That cast reunites for this six-week New York run of the five-hour epic, led by Nathan Lane as Hickey, the traveling salesman determined to strip the boozing dreamers in a seedy Greenwich Village barroom of their delusions, and Brian Dennehy as nihilistic former anarchist Larry Slade.
BAM Harvey Theater. Previews from Feb. 5; opens Feb. 13
Lin-Manuel Miranda brought a welcome infusion of Latin-flavored, hip hop-accented energy to the Broadway barrio with his 2008 Tony winner In the Heights. He returns as writer, composer, lyricist and star, reteaming with director Thomas Kail on this inventive bio-musical inspired by Ron Chernow's book Alexander Hamilton, about the Caribbean-born immigrant who became a trusted political advisor to George Washington and an unlikely founding father.
Public Theater. Previews from Jan. 20; opens Feb. 17
Director Michael Mayer has a strong track record with dynamic new musicals — notably Spring Awakening and American Idiot — and the Vineyard Theatre helped hatch such distinctive shows as Avenue Q and The Scottsboro Boys. Mayer teams with emerging composer Peter Lerman on this musical based on characters created by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, about an idealistic hardware store clerk and a retiring superhero determined to save Brooklyn from impending disaster.
Vineyard Theatre. Previews from Jan. 29; opens Feb. 25
'The Mystery of Love and Sex'
Diane Lane was the tender age of 12 last time she appeared on a New York stage. She returns in this new play by Masters of Sex writer-producer Bathsheba Doran, starring opposite Tony Shalhoub as parents whose college-age daughter shocks them with news that a childhood friendship has taken a romantic turn, making waves across two families. Sam Gold directs.
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. Previews from Feb. 5; opens March 2
'Fish in the Dark'
The comedy of awkwardness exemplified by highly influential TV shows like Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm has so far had minimal impact on Broadway. That looks set to change with the arrival of this debut from Larry David, a comedy about a death in the family that stars the playwright alongside Rita Wilson, Jayne Houdyshell, Rosie Perez and Ben Shenkman. Tony winner Anna D. Shapiro (August: Osage County) directs.
Cort Theatre. Previews from Feb. 2; opens March 5
Helen Mirren returns to Broadway after more than a dozen years’ absence, reprising the role that won her an Oscar in Stephen Frears' The Queen. The same writer, Peter Morgan, penned this star vehicle, which threads together weekly private meetings between the British sovereign and her Prime Ministers, spanning 60 years, from Winston Churchill to David Cameron. Stephen Daldry directs the transfer of the London hit, which features Dylan Baker as John Major and Judith Ivey as Margaret Thatcher.
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Previews from Feb. 14; opens March 8
'On the Twentieth Century'
Who better than Kristin Chenoweth to take on a role played by both the legendary Madeline Kahn and musical-theater treasure Judy Kaye? She stars as temperamental Hollywood glamourpuss Lily Garland in this long-planned revival of the musical by Cy Coleman, Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Scott Ellis (The Elephant Man) directs a cast that includes Peter Gallagher as the cash-strapped theater producer trying to woo Lily into a role in his nonexistent epic drama.
American Airlines Theatre. Previews from Feb. 12; opens March 12
'The Heidi Chronicles'
Elisabeth Moss spent years tapping away at the glass ceiling as Peggy Olson on Mad Men. Now she steps into the shoes of playwright Wendy Wasserstein's beloved heroine, an art historian who emerges out of high school to join the 1970s feminist frontlines, only to feel betrayed by the movement a decade later. Tony winner Pam MacKinnon (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) directs the revival, which also stars Jason Biggs, Bryce Pinkham and Tracee Chimo.
Music Box Theatre. Previews from Feb. 23; opens March 19
Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy dazzled West End critics in this revival of David Hare's 1995 drama about changing values on either side of the capitalism divide. The busy Stephen Daldry directs the unpredictable encounter on a cold winter's night between an underpaid London schoolteacher and her wealthy, recently widowed former lover.
John Golden Theatre. Previews from March 16; opens April 2
'Hand to God'
Rather than being shy about the formidable commercial odds against them, the producers behind this Broadway transfer are trumpeting their underdog status in a cheeky ad campaign: "No Movie Stars; No London Transfer; No Film Adaptation; Pray For Us…" But while it's true that the original American play has become an endangered species on Broadway, Robert Askins' black comedy about a teenage Texan Christian possessed by a profane sock puppet comes swathed in critical adoration from multiple extended off-Broadway runs. Steven Boyer and the original cast return, along with director Moritz von Stuelpnagel.
Booth Theatre. Previews from March 12; opens April 7
'Wolf Hall: Parts 1 & 2'
Hilary Mantel's Man Booker Prize-winning historical novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, have become international publishing sensations and will soon be dramatized in a series for BBC and PBS. This epic two-part Royal Shakespeare Company production, adapted by Mike Poulton and directed by Jeremy Herrin, depicts the nasty intrigues of Henry VIII's court with a theatrical sweep that had British reviewers gasping for superlatives. Ben Miles as Thomas Cromwell, Lydia Leonard as Anne Boleyn and Nathaniel Parker as the King lead a company of more than 20 actors.
Winter Garden Theatre. Previews from March 20; opens April 9
'An American in Paris'
The source material could hardly be better. The classic 1951 MGM movie musical about a Yankee expatriate who falls for an otherwise engaged young French beauty gets stage treatment, courtesy of playwright Craig Lucas. Animating those timeless Gershwin numbers is ballet luminary Christopher Wheeldon, making his Broadway debut as director-choreographer.
Palace Theatre. Previews from March 13; opens April 12
'The King and I'
Director Bartlett Sher and leading lady Kelli O'Hara made magic together on the glorious 2008 revival of South Pacific. They reunite on another Rodgers & Hammerstein classic, with O'Hara this time lending her creamy soprano to the role of Anna Leonowens, the British schoolteacher locked in a tempestuous battle with Ken Watanabe's arrogant monarch in 1860s Bangkok. With a 51-member cast and a 29-piece orchestra, this promises to be a time-travel ticket back to the golden age of the Broadway musical.
Vivian Beaumont Theater. Previews from March 12; opens April 16
Composer Jeanine Tesori and writer-lyricist Lisa Kron won pretty much every award for which they were eligible with this coming out-meets-coming of age musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel's tragicomic graphic memoir about growing up in a funeral home with a closeted gay dad. Extended four times in its 2013 Public Theater run, Sam Gold's production now moves to Broadway with most of its original cast returning, including Michael Cerveris, Judy Kuhn and Beth Malone.
Circle in the Square. Previews from March 27; opens April 19
The wild card of the Broadway season, this recent addition is already being tipped as a potential sleeper hit, after enthusiastic buzz from workshop presentations prompted producers to skip a planned Seattle tryout and head straight to New York. Set in England in 1595, the show focuses on the Bottom brothers, a theatrical writing team struggling to compete against Shakespeare, who stumble upon the idea of staging the world's first musical. Director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw's crowdpleasing credentials include The Book of Mormon and Aladdin, while the writing team brings fresh blood in songwriter Wayne Kirkpatrick, his screenwriter-director brother Karey Kirkpatrick and British comic author John O'Farrell.
St. James Theatre. Previews from March 23; opens April 22
Playwright Lisa D'Amour brought gimlet-eyed observation and spiky humor to the precarious minefield of middle-class stability in Detroit. Her Broadway-bound new play, which drew an ecstatic response in its December premiere at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, is a populous mosaic of New Orleans life, depicting authentic experience from the sordid to the sublime. Joe Mantello directs.
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Previews from April 1; opens April 23
Writer-composer Dave Malloy and director Rachel Chavkin scored a hit in 2013 with Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, a Russian dinner-theater electropop treatment of a chapter from War and Peace. They reteam on another musical fantasia, this one journeying inside the hypnotized mind of the young Sergei Rachmaninov, plagued by writer's block.
Claire Tow Theater. Previews from May 23; opens June 15