The fall theater season was an appropriate culmination of the Obama era, with an unusual number of innovative, intelligent, and thoughtful shows.
As a new administration comes in, the new season appears to have a lot of pomp and glitz—and we have yet to find out how much substance.
THE OLD SONG AND DANCE
The spring has… revivals. They promise to be good revivals, but it’s slightly disheartening to be looking backward.
Midler’s powerful voice and brash style seem made for the part of the pushy matchmaker. David Hyde Pierce co-stars as the grumpy Horace Vandergelder, the object of her affections. However tired the 1964 play may be by now, this perfect casting could bring it back to life. (Previews begin March 15, opening night April 12.)
The Emmy and Tony-award winning actress played Norma Desmond on Broadway in the 1994 premiere of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.
The producers promise this will be a whole new look at the faded screen goddess, but stand by for that famous line about how she’s ready for her close-up. (Previews from Feb. 2, opening night Feb. 9.)
A gorgeous musical about the transcendence of art, this is one of Sondheim’s most movingly brilliant shows. Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford (as Seurat’s lover Dot) got raves last year for their concert production of the show. Expect them to inspire a don’t-miss-it evening. (Previews from Feb. 8, opening night Feb. 23.)
The small theater always punches well above its weight and Doyle has done three extraordinary productions of Sondheim in recent years, both on Broadway and off. This should continue his run. (Previews from April 6.)
A new production of Miss Saigon from director Cameron Mackintosh returns to Broadway after a hit run in London. This now-classic show about lovers torn apart by war has unforgettable music and almost more emotion than one stage can hold (plus that helicopter). (Previews from March 1, opening night March 23.)
Movies-to-stage have become a staple, and the latest is Groundhog Day, starring Andy Karl in the Bill Murray role. He previously did the stage adaptation of Rocky, so there are high hopes for this one. (Previews from March 16, opening April 17.)
THE NEW SONG AND DANCE
Actress Phillipa Soo originated the leading female role in two musicals that went on to be smash hits—Hamilton and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.
Her winning streak could continue with Amélie. Based on the 2001 film about a pixie-ish girl in Paris, the musical premiered last year at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and is now playing in Los Angeles. Movie whimsy doesn’t always translate to the stage, but Soo is always worth watching. (Previews from March 9, opening April 3.)
If pixies aren’t your style, you might prefer War Paint, starring the formidable Patti LuPone as cosmetic titan Helena Rubinstein and Christine Ebersole as her rival, Elizabeth Arden.
The musical premiered in Chicago last summer, and there couldn’t be a better time to celebrate powerful women who made their mark in business. (Previews from March 7, opening April 6.)
Expect two-time Tony-award winner Christian Borle to be completely delicious as the star of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Borle chewed a lot of scenery (and won his Tonys) playing over-the-top characters on Broadway, but he proved his depth and sensitivity in this past season’s touching revival of Falsettos.
Directed by Sam Mendes, this production of Charlie has been playing in London for a few years and should settle in for a long run in New York. (Previews from March 28, opening April 23.)
Another new family offering, Anastasia, is based on the animated film and should appeal to the little girls who want to believe in fairy princesses. Though maybe better to take them to War Paint? (Previews from March 23, opening night April 24.)
THE PLAY’S THE THING
Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett launches 2017 with a re-imagined version of Anton Chekhov’s first play Platonov, now called The Present.
Blanchett’s husband Andrew Upton updated the rarely-performed play and set it in 1990s Russia. Blanchett and co-star (and fellow Aussie) Richard Roxburgh have done much-praised Chekhov performances before, and this one promises lust, humor, vodka, and a bold point of view. (In previews, opens Jan. 8.)
Sam Gold spent the fall directing Daniel Craig and David Oyelowo in a powerful and original Othello (at New York Theater Workshop through Jan. 18). But instead of enjoying the kudos, Gold is at work on two anticipated Broadway productions.
Oscar-winner Sally Field will play Amanda Wingfield in the Tennessee Williams classic The Glass Menagerie.
A terrific revival starring Cherry Jones came to Broadway just a few years ago, so Gold needs to do something unusual to make this one stand out. He originated this production in Amsterdam, working with the great director Ivo van Hove (and a Dutch cast). (Previews from Feb. 7, opening night March 9.)
Then he’ll be at the helm of a new play based on an old one—A Doll’s House, Part 2. Starring Laurie Metcalf, it catches up with Ibsen’s notorious Nora a few years after she walked out on her husband and children. Now she returns—and we’ll find out why. (Previews from April 1, opening night April 27.)
Joining the season’s throng of movie actors coming to the stage, Kevin Kline will play a self-obsessed star in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter.
With support from Kate Burton, Kristine Nielsen, and Cobie Smulders, it’s the kind of show where you know you’ll laugh despite yourself. (Previews from March 10, opening night April 5.)
The new play Indecent by Paula Vogel looks at the scandal surrounding a play that reflected Jewish culture in 1923. The cast and producers get arrested for obscenity—a chilling reminder of what happens when the culture wars get too hot. (Previews from April 4.)
The Play That Goes Wrong was a huge comedy hit in London, and while English farce doesn’t always translate to the New York stage, this one has been attracting audiences all over the world. (Previews from March 9, opening night April 2.)
Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon will alternate the starring roles in a revival of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes.
The two stars will be onstage each night—but they’ll switch off parts in a show that made headlines in its day. (Previews from March 29, opening April 19.)
Six Degrees of Separation has entered the cultural lexicon, but the actual John Guare play that started it all returns starring Emmy Award winner Allison Janney.
It’s based on the true story of a con man who insinuated himself into the lives of a wealthy New York couple. (Previews from April 5, opening April 25.)
After a run at the Public Theater (original home of Hamilton), the Lynn Nottage play Sweat comes to Broadway.
It’s the story of factory friends pitted against each other in a time of lay-offs—and it sounds painfully relevant for the moment. (Previews March 4, opens March 26.)
Arthur Miller’s The Price, starring John Turturro, Jessica Hecht, and Danny DeVito will be on Broadway at the Roundabout Theater.
After the company’s botched production of The Cherry Orchard in the fall, one can only approach their version of another classic with trepidation. (Previews begin Feb. 16, opening night March 16.)
Off-Broadway, terrific playwright David Ives adapts another French farce for the Classic Stage Company, this one Corneille’s seventeenth century The Liar (previews from Jan. 11, opening Jan. 26).
Zosia Mamet of HBO’s Girls and Maura Tierney of The Affair will star in Hamish Linklater’s The Whirligig at the New Group (previews May 2, opening May 21). Always-impressive Marin Ireland is a college professor who gets a new view of gun violence in On the Exhale (previews from Feb. 7, opening Feb. 28).
And determined not to take steps backward (on stage or off), theater communities across the country are joining together for “The Sanctuary Project,” declaring theaters to be places free of discrimination and where diverse opinions are encouraged. People will be gathering outside theaters the night before the inauguration to light candles. You don’t need a ticket to join in. And maybe theater can bring hope to challenging times ahead.