The 2017 Broadway Fall Preview

The 2017 Broadway Fall Preview

As the summer winds down, it’s time to take a sneak peek at what’s coming up on Broadway in the fall.

The new Broadway season kicked off early, in May, with 1984 (Hudson Theatre), a scary and disturbing look at life under a totalitarian regime. In July, Oscar-winning filmmaker, writer, and provocateur Michael Moore raised a giant American flag on stage to challenge a presidency that seems to be veering toward authoritarianism in his comedic solo turn, The Terms of My Surrender (Belasco Theatre), calling on each person in the audience to take action themselves. And, earlier this month, the long-awaited musical revue Prince of Broadway (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre) opened — a celebration of the six-decade-long Broadway career of legendary producer and director Hal Prince.

Among the productions coming up in the next four months, there are six new plays and two new musicals slated to open. Here is a month-by-month roundup of what’s in store on Broadway for theater lovers.


September

In English playwright J.B. Priestley’s prescient Time and the Conways (from September 14, American Airlines Theatre), a peek into a future that runs parallel with the present offers a poignant portrait of a British family — and their hopes and dreams — in the period between the two World Wars. Presented by the Roundabout Theatre Company, the first Broadway revival of the classic Priestley drama since its debut in 1938 is directed by Rebecca Taichman (Best Director Tony Award winner this year for Indecent); the ensemble cast is led by Downton Abbey star Elizabeth McGovern.

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October

Junk (from October 5, Vivian Beaumont Theatre) is the latest from Ayad Akhtar, Pulitzer Prize winner and Tony nominee for his provocative Disgraced. The fast-paced epic, which plays like a modern Shakespearean history play, relates the history of junk-bond financing and its effect on our way of life. Set in the mid-1980s when “greed is good” ruled the day, the play is said to be loosely based on the real-life histories of infamous Wall Street traders Michael Miliken and Ivan Boesky. The Lincoln Center Theatre production is directed by Doug Hughes (Tony winner for Doubt) and features a cast that includes Steven Pasquale, Michael Siberry, and Henry Stram.

A welcome reminder of the difference between “Born in the USA” and “Make America Great Again,” Bruce Springsteen makes his debut on the Great White Way in Springsteen on Broadway (from October 3, Walter Kerr Theatre). The Boss has said that he chose Broadway so he could do as personal and intimate a show as possible. “My show is just me, the guitar, the piano, and the words and music. Some of the show is spoken, some of it is sung. It loosely follows the arc of my life and my work. All of it together is in pursuit of my constant goal to provide an entertaining evening and to communicate something of value,” he promises.

Hailed as the best musical of the year when it debuted Off-Broadway last winter, The Band’s Visit (from October 7, Ethel Barrymore Theatre) is a touching affirmation that small human connections can transcend the political crises played out on the world’s stages. Music and lyrics are by David Yazbek (Tony nominee for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and The Full Monty) and the book is by Itamar Moses. The new musical is based on an Israeli movie written and directed by Eran Kolirin in which, due to a mix-up at the border, the members of an Egyptian police band find themselves stranded in a small town in the middle of the Israeli desert. With no bus until the next day and no hotel in the town, they must rely on the kindness of the locals. Tony Shalhoub (seen earlier this year on Broadway in The Price) plays the band conductor and Katrina Lenk (seen recently in Indecent) plays an Israeli woman who befriends the group; the production is directed by David Cromer.

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A gender-confused love story, Chinese spies, and a political scandal: David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly (from October 7, Cort Theatre), winner of the 1988 Best Play Tony Award, gains new resonance three decades later in the current revival directed by Julie Taymor, creative genius of The Lion King. Clive Owen plays Rene Gallimard, the French diplomat smitten by Chinese opera star Song Liling (Jin Ha, making his Broadway debut), who Gallimard apparently believes is a woman. Hwang says he has revisited his original work in light of new information that has become available about his characters’ real-life counterparts: diplomat Bernard Boursicot and opera star Shi Pei Pu. The new production features an original score by Elliott Goldenthal, sets by Paul Steinberg, and costumes by Constance Hoffman.

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At a time when we seem to need it most, playwright-comedian John Leguizamo brings us Latin History for Morons (from October 19, Studio 54). In a highly energetic comic romp through three millennia of history — going back to the Mayan, Inca, and Aztec indigenous civilizations — Leguizamo (last seen on Broadway in Ghetto Klown) discovers that due to centuries of suppression of information in history books and school texts, Latino contributions to the story of America are virtually unknown. The acclaimed solo show, which played earlier this year Off-Broadway at the Public Theater, is directed by Tony Taccone (Wishful Drinking, Bridge & Tunnel).


November

Things go seriously awry in Meteor Shower (from November 1, Booth Theatre) when two couples get together to witness an astronomical phenomenon on a hot night in the Ojai colony of Santa Barbara, California. The wacky new comedy from Steve Martin promises to be a kind of reverse Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? where the couple who is invited over for the night turn tables on their hosts in a series of sexually charged games. The multitalented Martin — stand-up comic, movie actor and screenwriter, novelist, banjo player, and, most recently, writer and composer of the Broadway musical Bright Star — has attracted a dazzling array of talent for his new work: Amy Schumer, Keegan-Michael Key, Laura Benanti, and Alan Tudyk will star in the production directed by four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks.

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The denizens of Bikini Bottom rally together to save their underwater world from an impending catastrophe in SpongeBob SquarePants (from November 6, Palace Theatre), a new musical based on the characters from the hit Nickelodeon television series created by marine biologist and animator Stephen Hillenberg. In addition to the eternally optimistic titular sea sponge (Ethan Slater, making his Broadway debut), the musical brings to life many of the beloved characters from the whimsical cartoon series, including the squirrel Sandy Cheeks (Lilli Cooper), the not-too-bright pink starfish Patrick (Danny Skinner), and the hostile and permanently bad-tempered octopus Squidward (Gavin Lee). The stage adaptation is conceived and directed by Tina Landau and written by Kyle Jarrow. The score comprises original songs written specifically for the show by an eclectic group of distinguished artists, including Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, The Flaming Lips, John Legend, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper, Panic! at the Disco, Plain White T’s, They Might be Giants, and T.I. The music — which also includes a song by David Bowie — is arranged and orchestrated by Tom Kitt (Tony winner for Next to Normal). The production is designed by David Zinn (Tony winner for The Humans) and is choreographed by Christopher Gattelli (Tony winner for Newsies).

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Movie star Uma Thurman plays a cultured Washington, D.C., socialite determined to secure a plum political post for her husband in The Parisian Woman (from November 7, Hudson Theatre), a new play by Beau Willimon. Inspired by a French 19th century boulevard farce, the witty and entertaining comedy from the creator of House of Cards exposes internecine battles in the corridors of government as the various players jockey for sex, power, and government posts. The cast includes Blair Brown and Josh Lucas; the production is directed by Pam MacKinnon, who received a 2013 Tony Award for her revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

In the Caribbean fable Once on this Island, island gods intervene in a star-crossed romance between a peasant girl and a wealthy boy to bring about a reconciliation between two divided cultures in (from November 9, Circle in the Square Theatre). The popular 1990 musical written by Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (book and lyrics) returns to Broadway in a new production directed by Michael Arden (Tony nominee for the recent revival of Spring Awakening) and choreographed by Camille A. Brown. According to orchestrator Michael Starobin, this production aims for a new sound, utilizing human vocalizations and replacing traditional orchestral instruments with everyday objects. The cast includes Lea Salonga, Philip Boykin, Quentin Earl Darrington, and Merle Dandridge; Hailey Kilgore and Isaac Powell make their Broadway debuts as the young lovers, Ti Moune and Daniel.

Lucy Kirkwood’s new play The Children (from November 28, Samuel J. Friedman Theatre), about two retired nuclear engineers whose life in their remote cottage on the British coast is disrupted when an old friend shows up at their door, is an unsparing look at the baby boomer generation. The thought-provoking work from a new playwright to watch asks the compelling question: What do we owe the generation that comes after us? The play arrives at a time when the world feels, once again, threatened by potential nuclear disasters. Presented by the Manhattan Theatre Club, the production, directed by James Macdonald and starring Francesca Annis, Ron Cook, and Deborah Findlay, was first seen last year at London’s Royal Court.


December

Three-time Tony Award winner Mark Rylance returns to Broadway with another bravura role: playing a bipolar king in Farinelli and the King (from December 5, Belasco Theatre). In the new play written and directed by Claire van Kampen, based on historical material, the cure for Spain’s manic-depressive King Philipe V is the sublime voice Farinelli, a world-famous castrato currently at the peak of his career in London. Philip’s wife, Queen Isabella (Melody Grove), brings Farinelli to the Spanish court in 1737 in the hope that he can comfort the melancholic king. The role of Farinelli is performed by an actor (Sam Crane) as well as a singer: At select performances, the several arias from Handel and other composers of the period will be sung by countertenor Iestyn Davies. The production, which re-creates the candlelit glow of the baroque era, received six 2016 Olivier nominations following its premiere at the Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London.

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