Summer Guide to Broadway: First Looks, Family-Friendly Shows and Tony-Winning Dramas
THR breaks down what's buzzy on Broadway, including ballet-driven romance, irreverent religious satire, heartwarming musicals and even an early contender for the 2016 Tonys.
Every year, following the Tony Awards, Broadway settles in for the summer, celebrating its freshly-minted winners and welcoming a few brave new productions for tourists and locals alike. While the new season doesn't really gear up until the fall, there's no shortage of offerings in which to escape the sweltering New York heat.
Beyond the favorites of previous seasons (Matilda, Aladdin, Kinky Boots, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder, The Book of Mormon, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and Les Miserables) and the long-running smashes (Jersey Boys, Wicked, The Lion King and The Phantom of the Opera), The Hollywood Reporter breaks down what's buzzy on Broadway — including ballet-driven romance, irreverent religious satire, heartwarming musicals and even an early contender for the 2016 Tonys.
The Sam Gold-directed production about coming out, coming of age and coming to grips with the past is the first-ever Broadway show centering on a lesbian protagonist, and the first best musical Tony winner written entirely by women. Its intimate staging at the Circle in the Square Theatre stars three actresses as cartoonist Alison Bechdel at various ages, plus an emotionally powerful, Tony-winning performance by Michael Cerveris as her closeted dad Bruce.
The King and I
With its full-size orchestra and massive cast, director Bartlett Sher's breathtaking revival of The King and I, the 1951 Rodgers & Hammerstein classic about a widowed English schoolteacher who butts heads with the King of Siam, is a return to the magnificent scale of Broadway's golden age. The Lincoln Center Theater production — complete with the ageless standards "Getting to Know You" and "Shall We Dance?" — nabbed Kelli O'Hara and Ruthie Ann Miles their first Tony wins, plus a nomination for Broadway newbie Ken Watanabe as the mid-century monarch. Jose Llana, last seen starring opposite Miles in Here Lies Love, steps into the role of the king on July 14.
An American in Paris
The classic romance inspired by the beloved 1951 MGM movie-musical — about a World War II veteran who stays on in Paris, becoming a painter and falling for a beautiful shop girl — gets new life on Broadway. New York City Ballet principal and Tony nominee Robert Fairchild follows in the suave footsteps of Gene Kelly, under the direction of Tony-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.
On the Town
Another musical made famous as a Kelly screen vehicle, John Rando's revival follows a trio of World War II sailor buddies who dock in New York for a day in search of romance, fun and adventure. It stars an ideally cast Tony Yazbeck and another NYC Ballet dancer, Megan Fairchild, executing Joshua Bergasse's buoyant choreography. Newly promoted American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Misty Copeland steps into the production later this summer, making her Broadway debut in a special two-week run Aug. 25-Sept. 6.
On the Twentieth Century
Kristin Chenoweth hits all the high notes alongside Peter Gallagher, Andy Karl and Mary Louise Wilson in Scott Ellis’ staging of this 1932-set musical farce. The revival of the comedy, which centers on a temperamental screen diva and a failing theater producer and takes place aboard a luxury train traveling from Chicago to New York, runs through July 19.
It Shoulda Been You
Director David Hyde Pierce puts a comedic spin on the stress of a wedding day between a Jewish bride and Catholic groom. Starring Lisa Howard, Tyne Daly, Harriet Harris, Edward Hibbert and David Burtka, the swiftly staged ensemble show is packed with sitcom-like punchlines and heartfelt surprise twists. The musical comedy runs through Aug. 9.
This musical comedy is a witty revisionist take on the roots of the genre that simultaneously pays tribute to a slew of popular contemporary musicals and Shakespeare works alike. Directed by Casey Nicholaw, the Renaissance-set show nabbed Christian Borle a second Tony, plus nominations for Brian d’Arcy James and Brad Oscar.
PLAYS TO PICK
Hand to God
This subversive comedy follows a confused Christian teenager in Texas whose life is taken over by a foul-mouthed Satanic sock puppet. Director Moritz von Stuelpnagel and playwright Robert Askins both nabbed Tony nominations for their hilarious exploration of the psychology of grief, the repression of human nature and adolescent unease, as did possessed protagonist Steven Boyer and castmates Geneva Carr and Sarah Stiles.
Fish in the Dark
The Anna D. Shapiro-directed play about the fallout from a death in the family marks Larry David’s first venture into Broadway playwriting, reprising the laughs of his TV classics Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld. Currently starring Jason Alexander with Rosie Perez, the hit boulevard comedy has been extended through Aug. 1.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
This London transfer is a mystery story following a 15-year-old boy with a high-functioning behavioral disorder as he sets out to discover who killed a neighbor's dog while slowly coming to grips with traumatic changes in his own family. The National Theatre production won five Tonys, including best play for Simon Stephens, direction for Marianne Elliott, and lead actor for fresh-out-of-Juilliard newcomer Alex Sharp.
Based on the 2004 film, this heartwarming show marks the first Broadway venture as lead producer for Harvey Weinstein. It stars Matthew Morrison as Peter Pan playwright J. M. Barrie, who conjures up the beloved story after getting to know a mother (Laura Michelle Kelly) and her four young sons. Barrie then works on the idea with his producer while grappling with his inner creativity's dark side — both embodied by Kelsey Grammer — in the musical directed by Diane Paulus.
Penn & Teller
The magic-comedy duo returns to Broadway 30 years after their initial New York premiere in 1985 and 40 years after they first debuted as a team. Their limited run — which will include elements of their Las Vegas show, as well as classics from their repertoire — begins July 7 and runs through Aug. 16.
THE NEW SEASON
An Act of God
This satirical comedy delivers a revised version of the Ten Commandments, starring Jim Parsons as God. Written by former Daily Show head writer David Javerbaum and directed by Joe Mantello, the clever show — which runs through Aug. 2 — is both outrageously irreverent and deeply thoughtful in its exploration of religious issues.
The buzzy off-Broadway import follows the political and personal fortunes of Alexander Hamilton and his dealings with figures like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as they forge an independent nation. It uses rap, hip-hop, R&B and pop balladry to translate late-18th-century American history into a vigorously contemporary, multi-cultural urban vernacular and stars Lin-Manuel Miranda, Renee Elise Goldsberry and Jonathan Groff. It begins previews July 13 before its Aug. 6 opening; after winning virtually every award for which it was eligible in its Public Theater debut, the show is already a frontrunner in next year's Tonys.
Directed by Gabriel Barre, the faith-based musical is based on the history behind the beloved hymn, following one man’s journey that led to the abolitionist movement. It stars Josh Young, a Tony nominee for the 2012 revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, as the son of a British slave trader, torn between loyalty to his father and the more humanistic views of his childhood sweetheart. It is currently in previews with an official opening scheduled for July 16.
Brandy is the latest famous face to play deadly housewife Roxie Hart, making her one of a handful of African-American women to play the role in the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. The Walter Bobbie-directed, 1920s-set revival about murder and media opened in 1996 and won six Tony Awards. Brandy's limited engagement concludes Aug. 2.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
The Tony-winning revival of John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask's cult rock opera — about an East German rocker bouncing back from botched transgender surgery, who comes to America in search of fame and a truer sense of herself — has been a star parade over the past year, with Darren Criss playing the title role until July 19. Taye Diggs then steps into her wig and heels through Oct. 11.