The ending of one season – marked by the presentation of the Tony Awards at the beginning of June, but in fact deemed to end with the closing of eligibility for nominations at the start of the month before – means the beginning of another. Usually, however, there is a summer hiatus, with few producers willing to brave the heat of the streets, let alone the heat of the critics, during the dog days of July and August.
This year, however, the season’s bucking the trend with a host of new productions taking to the boards this month and next, and continuing unabated to the year’s end. To help you plan your way through this minefield, here’s a guide to what’s hot onstage as well as in the weather, should you be contemplating a late summer or autumn trip to New York (and September/October is always the best time to go: while it’s still hot but no longer hopefully sweltering).
This Month & Next
Last week previews began for Hairspray, the latest screen-to-stage musical adaptation based on the 1988 cult John Waters movie. Directed by Jack O'Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell (the same team behind the screen-to-stage The Full Monty, now advertising its final weeks in New York though still running successfully in London), it opens at the Neil Simon Theatre on 15 August, with a cast that includes Harvey Fierstein making a long-overdue return to the Broadway stage in the role taken on film by the late, great Divine. Beginning previews this week, on 24 July, is a revival of The Boys from Syracuse, Rodgers’ and Hart’s 1938 musical version of The Comedy of Errors, produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre on West 42nd Street. Scott Ellis’s production, with choreography by Rob Ashford (this year’s Tony winner for his work on Thoroughly Modern Millie), has a cast that includes such Broadway stalwarts as Walter Charles, Tom Hewitt, Lauren Mitchell, Lee Wilkof and Chip Zien; it opens officially on 18 August.
Meanwhile, uptown at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theatre on W125th Street, Harlem Song is a new revue that pays tribute to the historic black neighborhood in vibrant song and dance under the direction of the Public Theatre’s George C Wolfe who was also behind the Tony-winning Bring in ‘da Noise/Bring in ‘da Funk a few seasons ago. It is currently previewing prior to opening 4 August.
But it’s not all musicals. Broadway offers revivals of Herb Gardner’s 1985 play I’m Not Rappaport (featuring Judd Hirsch, who starred in the original production and won a Tony for his efforts then, now opposite Ben Vereen), already previewing at the Booth Theatre prior to opening on 25 July, and Terrence McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, which originally starred Kathy Bates and F Murray Abraham back in 1987 when Manhattan Theatre Club originally produced it, now features Edie Falco (best known for television’s The Sopranos and seen both on Broadway and in the West End transfer of Side Man) and Stanley Tucci, previewing at the Belasco from 26 July prior to an 8 August opening.
Off-Broadway sees another 80s revival: Lanford Wilson’s Burn This will be revived at Union Square Theatre, under the auspices of the Signature Theatre Company, from 27 August, with a cast that includes young movie actor Edward Norton.
Come September, there are yet more musicals on the way: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1958 show Flower Drum Song gets a rare revival, with a revised book by David Henry Hwang (author of M Butterfly), under the direction of Robert Longbottom and with a cast that includes Lea Salonga, best known of course for her starring role in the original London production of Miss Saigon. This production, first presented last autumn in LA, now opens at the Virginia Theatre on 17 October, following previews from 23 September.
Two new musicals, or at least new to New York, join it on the boards. Amour, with songs by Michel Legrand and an English adaptation by the prolific Jeremy Sams (currently represented in London by his revival of Benefactors and on Broadway by Noises Off), has its New York premiere at the Music Box on 20 October, following previews from 17 September. Malcolm Gets and Melissa Errico lead the company under the direction of James Lapine (best known for his collaborations with Stephen Sondheim on Into the Woods, currently itself being revived on Broadway, and Sunday in the Park with George). Then there’s Movin’ Out, a dance revue based on the songs and music of Billy Joel, in which the legendary choreographer Twyla Tharp has set some 24 Joel songs to dance steps. It opens at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on 24 October, following previews from 30 September.
Off-Broadway, Little Ham is described as a “Harlem jazzical” and is based on Langston Hughes’s play of the same name, opening at the John Houseman Theatre on W42nd Street on 26 September following previews from 12 September. Also beginning previews on the same day is A Man of No Importance, a new musical reuniting lyricist Lynne Ahrens, composer Stephen Flaherty and librettist Terrence McNally (all of whom fulfilled the same duties on Ragtime) based on the 1994 film of the same title and featuring English actor Roger Rees in the role played on film by Albert Finney. It opens at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theatre on 10 October with a cast that will also include Faith Prince, Sally Murphy and Jessica Molaskey.
On the plays front, 28 September sees previews beginning for the long-overdue New York premiere of DMW Greer’s Burning Blue, first produced in London many seasons ago in a production that began at the King’s Head and subsequently transferred to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. This American military drama will play at off-Broadway’s Samuel Beckett Theatre, opening on 16 October.
The return of Carol Burnett and Michael Crawford to Broadway is heralded in October. Burnett has, together with her late daughter Carrie Hamilton, adapted her own 1986 memoir, One More Time, for the stage as Hollywood Arms, which premiered under Hal Prince’s direction in Chicago in April. It will now begin performances at Broadway’s Cort Theatre from 7 October. Meanwhile, Crawford – arguably the biggest male star in modern musicals, thanks to The Phantom of the Opera – leads the cast of Dance of the Vampires, a new musical by Jim Steinman based on the 1967 Polanski film The Fearless Vampire Killers. It is scheduled to begin previews at the Minskoff Theatre on 14 October, prior to opening 21 November.
Also returning to Broadway in October: perennial Broadway funnyman, Jackie Mason, with his latest show, Prune Danish, opening at the Royale Theatre.
Britain’s Jonathan Kent launches his career outside the Almeida that he recently left by directing a Broadway revival of the classic 1965 musical, Man of La Mancha, previewing at the Martin Beck Theatre from 19 November and featuring Brian Stokes Mitchell in the title role. The cast will also include movie actress Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Ernie Sabella.
And Australia’s Baz Luhrmann, fresh from his film triumph with Moulin Rouge, will present a production of Puccini’s La Boheme, at Broadway’s Broadway Theatre, previewing from 26 November and opening on 8 December. Relocated to the 1950s, it is sung in the original Italian by a cast of fifty, with the principal characters of Mimi and Rodolfo being performed alternately by three different singers each. Luhrmann originally staged this production at Sydney Opera House over a decade ago, and twice revived there since. Prior to New York, it will go to San Francisco’s Curran Theatre from 8 October to 10 November.
Also in November, Imaginary Friends is the world premiere of a new play by Nora Ephron with music by Marvin Hamlisch to lyrics by Craig Carnelia, telling of the literary feud between Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy (respectively being played by Broadway stalwarts Swoosie Kurtz and Cherry Jones). It is scheduled to preview from 25 November, prior to opening 12 December, at a theatre to be announced.
Highlights for next year are set to include a revival of Sondheim and Styne’s Gypsy, starring Bernadette Peters in the role of Mama Rose under the direction of Sam Mendes; while many are questioning this piece of casting, it is will intriguing to see what Mendes makes of the show and his leading lady. Another English director, David Leveaux, will restage his Donmar production of Maury Yeston’s Nine for the Roundabout Theatre Company, with Antonio Banderas said to be set to play Guido Contini, the only adult male role in a show that is otherwise all-women (and one boy). There are also plans for Natasha Richardson and Philip Seymour Hoffman to star in a revival of Strindberg’s Miss Julie.
Finally, news of a couple of unmissable one-offs: on 30 September, the original cast of Sondheim and Furth’s flop 1981 musical Merrily We Roll Along will reunite for a one-off benefit performance in New York; and on 2 November, the glorious Audra McDonald will make her solo Carnegie Hall debut.