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The 2019-20 Broadway season hit $1 billion in grosses as it crossed the halfway point this month, but many of the most promising productions are still to come. First-quarter 2020 will usher in a raft of eagerly anticipated theater, from radical revivals of canonical musicals to new work from major American playwrights and New York engagements of acclaimed successes from across the Atlantic. And that doesn’t include the crunch month of April, when producers tend to stack their prestige projects during the end-of-season cutoff period for Tony Awards eligibility.
Here are 20 incoming theater productions that promise to get the year off to a dynamic start, on and off-Broadway.
The curiosity factor arguably is highest around avant-garde Belgian director Ivo van Hove’s fresh take on West Side Story (in previews at the Broadway Theatre ahead of a Feb. 20 official opening). Departing from the signature Jerome Robbins dances long associated with this landmark 1957 musical about racial gang violence in mid-’50s New York City, the production assembles a notably young, culturally diverse ensemble — a record-setting 32 of them making Broadway debuts — and features new choreography from another iconoclastic European artist, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
Rethinks on classic works also are happening off-Broadway, notably when Ruth Negga, the Oscar-nominated star of Loving and AMC’s Preacher, makes her American stage debut in the title role of Hamlet (beginning performances Feb. 1 at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn). Staged by internationally renowned South African director Yael Farber, the production debuted to strong critical response in fall 2018 at the Gate Theatre in Dublin; it shifts the focus from the Danish prince’s anguish and indecision to the ferocious power of his resistance against treachery.
Also in Brooklyn, offstage partners Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale will co-star as separated spouses at war in a contemporary update of Euripides’ Medea (previewing from Jan. 12 ahead of a Jan. 30 opening at BAM Harvey Theater). Dylan Baker also appears in the production directed and adapted by Australian theater-maker Simon Stone, whose bold take on Lorca’s Yerma starring Billie Piper was a critical smash in both London and New York.
Another unconventional approach to an established work will be seen when two-time Tony winner Marianne Elliott’s lauded London revival of Company arrives on Broadway (previewing from March 2 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, with official opening set for March 22). Flipping the gender of the commitment-shy central character in the 1970 concept musical by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth about the challenges of contemporary relationships, the production stars Katrina Lenk (a revelation in Indecent and The Band’s Visit) with a cast that includes Broadway royalty Patti LuPone, toasting “The Ladies Who Lunch” as boozy Joanne, the role made famous by Elaine Stritch.
Revivals are otherwise few on Broadway in the early part of the year, aside from Kenny Leon’s new production of the Pulitzer-winning 1981 drama by Charles Fuller, A Soldier’s Play (in previews at the American Airlines Theatre, opening Jan. 21). Set in an African American Louisiana Army barracks in 1944, and revolving around the murder of a black sergeant, the racially charged ensemble piece features David Alan Grier, Blair Underwood and Jerry O’Connell.
The first Broadway opening of the year is a London import, starring Laura Linney in a stage adaptation by Scottish playwright Rona Munro of Elizabeth Strout’s jewel-like novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton (previewing from Jan. 4 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, with official opening set for Jan. 15). The solo play’s title character is an author scarred by a childhood of poverty and abuse, who wakes up in a hospital with her long-estranged mother at the foot of her bed, stirring uncomfortable memories. Richard Eyre directs.
Also from London and seen to great acclaim at New York’s Park Avenue Armory last March is The Lehman Trilogy (begins performances March 7 at the Nederlander Theatre, officially opening March 26). Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Ben Miles reprise their multitude of roles, playing the German-Jewish immigrant brothers who built a financial empire, as well as countless spouses, descendants, business allies and rivals in Italian playwright Stefano Massini’s epic reflection on American capitalism. Masterfully directed by Sam Mendes, the adaptation by Ben Power spans 160 years. The big question is how designer Es Devlin’s ingenious set — a giant glass rotating cube — will fit in a traditional proscenium theater.
Another play that drew plaudits in both London and New York en route to Broadway is Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen (previewing Feb. 28 at the John Golden Theatre, opening March 19). Mark Addy, Dan Stevens and Ewen Bremner star in the pitch-dark comedy-thriller set in the mid-’60s in a Lancashire pub run by England’s second-most-famous executioner, a skill rendered obsolete by Britain’s abolition of capital punishment.
Brit playwright Alice Birch won the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for Anatomy of a Suicide, her multigenerational exploration of the lives of mothers and daughters marked by trauma. Lileana Blain-Cruz directs an ensemble cast that includes Carla Gugino in the experimental drama’s U.S. premiere (previews from Feb. 1 ahead of a Feb. 18 opening at the Atlantic Theater Company).
American playwrights premiering new work include Tracy Letts with his explosive portrayal of democracy in action, viewed through the satirical prism of a disputatious small-town city council meeting, The Minutes (previewing from Feb. 25 for a March 15 opening at the Cort Theatre). Reuniting with Anna D. Shapiro, the director of his Pulitzer- and Tony-winning play August: Osage County, Letts will join the cast on Broadway, playing the local mayor, alongside Armie Hammer as an idealistic whistle-blower in an ensemble that also includes Blair Brown, K. Todd Freeman, Austin Pendleton and Jessie Mueller.
After turning heads with Small Mouth Sounds, her terrific play set at a silent meditation retreat, Bess Wohl makes her Broadway debut with the comedy-drama Grand Horizons (in previews at the Hayes Theatre, opening Jan. 23). Leigh Silverman directs Jane Alexander and James Cromwell as parents whose potential separation after 50 years of marriage shakes up their extended family, played by Ben McKenzie, Priscilla Lopez, Maulik Pancholy, Ashley Park and Michael Urie.
Patrick Breen, Margaret Colin, Gregg Edelman and Frank Wood are among the cast of Richard Greenberg’s new play The Perplexed (City Center Stage I, previewing from Feb. 11 for a March 3 opening). Lynne Meadow, who directed the playwright’s exquisite domestic drama The Assembled Parties, again will stage this account of the petty jealousies and deep-seated grudges that surface when two clans gather to celebrate the nuptials of their children in a swanky Fifth Avenue apartment. (Greenberg also will be represented later in the Broadway season with a revival of his 2003 Tony winner, Take Me Out.)
Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band (previewing from Feb. 4 ahead of a Feb. 24 opening at the Pershing Square Signature Center) will make its New York debut following hit productions at a string of prominent regional theaters. Comedy, mystery and racial identity drama meet rock concert in this deep dive into family secrets as a father and daughter are pulled into the dark past of a notorious Khmer Rouge war criminal. Chay Yew directs a cast that includes Francis Jue, Joe Ngo and Courtney Reed in a play featuring live music by Los Angeles band Dengue Fever.
Celebrated parodist and drag performer Charles Busch continues to ransack the vaults of vintage Hollywood for inspiration with his latest, The Confession of Lily Dare (previewing from Jan. 11 before a Jan. 29 opening at the Cherry Lane Theatre). Busch stars alongside Nancy Anderson, Christopher Borg, Howard McGillin, Kendal Sparks and Jennifer Van Dyck in this comic melodrama riffing on pre-Code 1930s tearjerkers.
On the musical front, writer-director Conor McPherson’s tone poem set in Minnesota during the Great Depression and interlaced with the songs of Bob Dylan, Girl From the North Country (previews start Feb. 7 at the Belasco Theatre, with a March 5 opening night), moves to Broadway following a sold-out, extended run in fall 2018 at the Public Theater. The large ensemble cast includes Mare Winningham, Marc Kudisch, Todd Almond, Jay O. Sanders, Kimber Elayne Sprawl and Austin Scott.
The Public also will debut two new musicals, starting with Coal Country (previews from Feb. 18 for a March 3 opening), about the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 men and destroyed countless other lives. Based on first-person accounts from survivors and family members, the show is written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen (The Exonerated), directed by Blank and features an original score by country-folk legend Steve Earle.
Also at the Public, Tony winners David Hyde Pierce and Ari’el Stachel star with Jacqueline Antaramian and Joaquina Kalukango in the musical adaptation of Tom McCarthy’s 2007 indie film The Visitor (previews from March 24, opening date to be announced), about a widowed college professor whose stagnant life is upended when he finds a young immigrant couple occupying his Manhattan apartment. The Next to Normal team of composer Tom Kitt and lyricist Brian Yorkey reunite on the score, with a book by Kwame Kwei-Armah and Yorkey, and direction by Daniel Sullivan.
Going further back for its movie source is Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (at the Pershing Square Signature Center from Jan. 16, opening Feb. 4). Adapted by playwright Jonathan Marc Sherman from the 1969 Paul Mazursky comedy about two Los Angeles couples grappling with the sexual revolution, the show’s original score is by Duncan Sheik, with Scott Elliott directing. Sheik also appears in the cast, alongside Jennifer Damiano, Ana Nogueira, Joel Perez and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel regular Michael Zegen.
Finally, two Broadway musicals will revisit vastly different chapters of English royal history, separated by more than four centuries.
A fringe hit that became a West End smash in London, Six (previewing from Feb. 13 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, officially opening March 12) lets the wives of Henry VIII reframe their narrative as a 21st century girl-power pop concert. “Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived,” they sing in this sassy reappraisal by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, co-directed by Moss and Jamie Armitage. The six-member cast is backed by an all-female band dubbed the “Ladies in Waiting.”
Writer Joe DiPietro and composer (and Bon Jovi keyboardist) David Bryan — 2010 Tony winners for Memphis — collaborate again on Diana (previews start March 2 at the Longacre Theatre, with a March 31 opening). Christopher Ashley, who won a Tony for Come From Away, directs this bio-musical about the iconic figure known as “The People’s Princess,” her difficult marriage to Prince Charles and her tragic death in 1997.
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