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New Year’s went off with a bang on Broadway, wrapping up the annual box-office tally with a record total of $1.637 billion, a whopping increase of $270 million over 2016. But the 2017-18 theater season is only halfway through, with lots of choice offerings still to come.
For lovers of classic musicals, anticipation could scarcely be higher than for two lavish productions of shows that rank among the very finest of the canon, Lerner & Loewe’s My Fair Lady and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel.
Bartlett Sher, who has shepherded superlative revivals of South Pacific, The King and I and Fiddler on the Roof to Broadway in recent years, will direct Lauren Ambrose, Harry Hadden-Paton, Norbert Leo Butz and Diana Rigg in My Fair Lady, the beloved musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, opening April 19 at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater.
Three-time Tony winner Jack O’Brien will stage Carousel, the dark musical drama about the tragic romance of carnival barker Billy Bigelow and millworker Julie Jordan. Opening April 12 at the Imperial, the production stars Jessie Mueller, Joshua Henry, Renee Fleming and Lindsay Mendez. Significantly, for a show that broke new ground in its integration of dance into musical storytelling, Justin Peck of New York City Ballet will make his debut as a Broadway choreographer.
Commercial expectations are sky-high for Disney’s stage version of the all-time top-grossing animated feature Frozen, which redefined the female-empowerment anthem with “Let It Go.” Michael Grandage’s production opens March 22 at the St. James, with Caissie Levy and Patti Murin as the fairy tale’s conflicted sisters, Elsa and Anna.
And deep affection for the source material also seems sure to serve as a magnet for Mean Girls, the long-gestating musical version of the screen comedy about an imperious high-school clique taught a lesson in humility. Tina Fey adapted her screenplay, with music by her husband Jeff Richmond and lyrics by Nell Benjamin. Hitmaker Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin) directs the show, opening April 8 at the August Wilson.
On the nonmusical front, expect stratospheric ticket demand for the two-part continuation of J.K. Rowling’s fantasy saga, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, written by Jack Thorne and directed by John Tiffany. That production opens April 22 at the refurbished Lyric Theatre, bringing its key cast from London, where its commercial success was equaled by critical plaudits.
Promising play revivals include another acclaimed Brit import, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, with Andrew Garfield, Nathan Lane, Lee Pace and Denise Gough (opening March 25 at the Neil Simon); and Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, which marks the return to Broadway after a 30-year absence of stage legend Glenda Jackson, appearing alongside Laurie Metcalf and Alison Pill (opening March 29 at the Golden).
There’s also Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero, which inaugurates Second Stage Theater’s new Broadway home, the Helen Hayes, and stars Michael Cera, Chris Evans, Brian Tyree Henry and Bel Powley (opening March 26); Denzel Washington in Eugene O’Neill’s brutal barfly epic, The Iceman Cometh, directed by the brilliant George C. Wolfe (opening April 26 at the Jacobs); and a New York transfer of Patrick Marber’s well-received London staging of Tom Stoppard’s Travesties, starring Tom Hollander (opening April 24 at the American Airlines).
With more and more of Broadway’s traditional playhouses monopolized by musicals, it’s necessary to look chiefly to off-Broadway for the spring’s crop of new drama.
Inexplicably, it’s taken more than two years to get here from London, where it dazzled critics, but the Atlantic Theater Company will finally present Hangmen, Martin McDonagh’s return to playwriting after a five-year break. Opening Feb. 5, the scalding comedy revolves around Britain’s second-best executioner on the day in 1965 when hanging is abolished. Director Matthew Dunster’s production features London holdovers Johnny Flynn, Reece Shearsmith and Sally Rogers, as well as fresh recruits including Mark Addy.
New American plays in the pipeline include Mlima’s Tale from two-time Pulitzer winner Lynn Nottage, which takes its title from an African elephant caught up in the clandestine international ivory trade (opening March 27 at the Public); Martyna Majok’s queens, about the collision of two generations of immigrant women (opening Feb. 26 at Lincoln Center’s Claire Tow Theater); and the New York premiere of David Rabe’s probing drama about mental illness, Good for Otto, starring Ed Harris and Amy Madigan (opening March 8 at the Signature Center).
Beginning performances in the same space in May is the world premiere of Lily Thorne’s Peace for Mary Frances, which returns the indefatigable Lois Smith to the New York stage as a 90-year-old daughter of Armenian genocide refugees, preparing to die peacefully until three generations of volatile women descend on her New England home. Lila Neugebauer directs, fresh off her knockout staging of The Wolves.
Smith is one of a handful of gifted female stage performers returning in what promise to be juicy roles. Recent Tony winner Jayne Houdyshell stars in JC Lee’s Relevance, which examines the intersection between race and generation in feminism (opening Feb. 20 at the Lucille Lortel); Jessica Hecht will play the progressive head of the eponymous department at a starchy school she’s fighting to drag into the 21st century in Joshua Harmon’s Admissions (opening March 12 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse); and Greg Pierce’s Cardinal (opening Jan. 30 at Second Stage) pits Anna Chlumsky against Becky Ann Baker in one woman’s embattled plan to invigorate her Rust Belt town.
One of America’s most distinctive dramatists, Adrienne Kennedy, will premiere her first new play in 10 years, He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box, which weaves together such disparate strands as Jim Crow racism, rising Nazism, sexual hypocrisy and Christopher Marlowe in a monologue-driven work set in Georgia and New York City in 1941 (opening Jan. 30 at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center).
Promising new musicals include Miss You Like Hell, which chronicles the road trip across a changing America of an imaginative teenager and her free-spirited Latina mother, written by In the Heights co-creator Quiara Alegria Hudes with music by Erin McKeown (opening April 10 at the Public); and This Ain’t No Disco, about uptown/downtown revelers in late 1970s New York, which teams Hedwig and the Angry Inch composer-lyricist Stephen Trask with Peter Yanowitz of The Wallflowers and Jersey Boys writer Rick Elice (opening June 12 at the Atlantic).
Finally, one of New York’s most atmospheric performance spaces, the massive Drill Hall at the Park Avenue Armory, will house the Young Vic’s award-winning staging of Lorca’s classic about a childless woman driven to madness, Yerma, transported to 21st-century London. Opening March 23, the play will be performed within towering glass walls built to scale and will mark the North American stage debuts of director-adapter Simon Stone and, in the title role, Billie Piper, in an interpretation hailed by Brit critics as a revelation.
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