A Starburst on Broadway: Spring Preview 2017, Part 1

A Starburst on Broadway: Spring Preview 2017, Part 1

Even in the dead of winter, you can feel the heat from the stars aligned for the second half of the Broadway season.

To pick just few from the bright cluster: Glenn Close, Sally Field, Patti LuPone, Bette Midler, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Kevin Kline — not to mention Cate Blanchett, who arrived last month — who will all be adorning the marquees on the Great White Way from now through the Tony cutoff date at the end of April.
With about two dozen new productions opening in the upcoming four months, 11 are musicals, of which a bountiful seven are brand-new. Look out for details on the forthcoming plays in our second Spring Preview installment next week.

THE MUSICALS

The English National Opera revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard (Palace Theatre, starts February 2, opens February 9) joins The Phantom of the OperaSchool of Rock: The Musical, and Cats to become the celebrated English composer’s fourth musical playing simultaneously on Broadway. Glenn Close reprises her Tony Award–winning performance as Norma Desmond, the reclusive silent screen diva poised for a comeback. Lonny Price’s minimalist production incorporates a 40-piece orchestra — billed as the largest on Broadway — which lends operatic grandeur to Webber’s lush score.

Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal and Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford play painter George Seurat and his lover Dot, respectively, in the acclaimed New York City Center concert production of Stephen Sondheim’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Sunday in the Park With George. The revival, directed by Sarna Lapine (niece of the bookwriter and original director, James Lapine), marks first Broadway production in nearly half a century at the historic Hudson Theatre (starts February 11, opens February 23).

In the immediate aftermath of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, 38 flights were rerouted to Gander, Newfoundland. Come From Away (Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, starts February 18, opens March 12) is a new musical, written by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, that tells the inspirational story of how the residents of that small Canadian town rallied together to welcome the nearly 7,000 stressed-out and frightened passengers dropped suddenly in their midst. The production is directed by Christopher Ashley and features Chad Kimball (Tony nominee for Memphis) and Jenn Colella.

A quarter century since its debut at the Broadway Theatre, Miss Saigon will return to the same venue (starts March 1, opens March 23). The hit musical written by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, inspired by Madame Butterfly, is about a doomed romance between an American GI and a Vietnamese woman in the waning days of the war in 1975. Produced once again by Cameron Mackintosh, this revival is directed by Laurence Connor (who also directed the recent revival of Boublil and Schönberg’s Les Misérables and Webber’s School of Rock) and stars Jon Jon Briones and Eva Noblezada.

Amélie (Walter Kerr Theatre, starts March 9, opens April 3) is the captivating story of a young Parisian woman with a vivid imagination who performs random acts of kindness toward others. The musical is adapted by composer Daniel Messé, lyricist Nathan Tysen, and bookwriter Craig Lucas from the much-loved 2001 Oscar-nominated French movie. Directed by Tony Award winner Pam MacKinnon, the production stars Philippa Soo (nominated for a Tony last year for Hamilton) and Adam Chanler-Berat (Peter and the Starcatcher).

Two bona fide Broadway divas, Tony Award winners Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, playing Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden, respectively, go head-to-head in a fierce rivalry to create and dominate the cosmetics industry in War Paint (Nederlander Theatre, starts March 7, opens April 6). The new musical by the team who wrote Grey Gardens — Doug Wright (book) and Scott Frankel and Michael Korie (music and lyrics) — is directed by Michael Greif (Rent and Next to Normal) and also features John Dossett and Douglas Sills.

That great matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi did promise that she’ll never go away. Well, look at the old girl now, fellas: Bette Midler makes a highly anticipated return to Broadway headlining a new revival of Hello, Dolly! (Shubert Theatre, starts March 15, opens April 20). The beloved 1964 hit musical, written by Jerry Herman (music and lyrics) and Michael Stewart (book), costarring David Hyde Pierce, is directed by four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks and choreographed by Warren Carlyle (Tony winner for After Midnight).

Movies continue to be a rich source for new musicals these days: Groundhog Day (August Wilson Theatre, starts March 16, opens April 17) is based on the popular 1993 comedy about a weatherman who is mysteriously forced to live the same day over and over. Andy Karl (Rocky and On the Twentieth Century) received rave reviews for playing the role created by Bill Murray in the movie when this production debuted in London last year. The musical is written by Tim Minchin (composer and lyricist of Matilda, the Musical) and bookwriter Danny Rubin, who cowrote the screenplay of the movie. The production is directed by Matthew Warchus, choreographed by Peter Darling, and designed by Rob Howell, who also collaborated on Matilda.

Two-time Tony Award winner Christian Borle (Something Rotten) plays Willie Wonka, the famous inventor in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, starts March 28, opens April 23), a new musical based on the beloved Roald Dahl story about the boy who gets a golden ticket to visit a world of mystery and chocolate fantasy. The score is by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (the award-winning team who gave us Hairspray), the book by playwright David Greig, the production is directed by three-time Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien, and it is choreographed by Emmy Award winner Joshua Bergasse.

The new musical Anastasia (Broadhurst Theatre, starts March 23, opens April 24), from playwright Terrence McNally, composer Stephen Flaherty, and lyricist Lynn Ahrens (the Tony Award–wining team that wrote Ragtime), taps into the romance and adventure of a young woman who travels from Moscow to Paris to unravel the mystery of her past. The story is inspired by the persistent legend that the youngest daughter of the Russian Imperial family survived the upheaval of the Revolution and lived through adulthood. The production is directed by Darko Tresnjak, Tony Award winner for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

A group of World War II veterans and a young war widow form a band in 1945 to take part in a nationwide radio contest in the new musical Bandstand (Bernard P. Jacobs Theatre, starts March 31, opens April 26). The sounds of the big-band era are evoked by composer/lyricist Richard Oberacker and bookwriter/lyricist Robert Taylor. Tony nominee Laura Osnes (Cinderella), Corey Cott (Gigi), and Tony Award winner Beth Leavel (The Drowsy Chaperone) head the cast in the production directed and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuler, a Tony winner last year for his work on Hamilton.

Check in next week for the Spring 2017 Play Preview.