As the new Broadway season kicks in, pundits will be scratching their heads, trying to discern any trends or patterns in the themes on stage. Sure, it is not likely to be as richly diverse — culturally and ethnically — as last season. And at this point, no one can predict whether this season will throw up another Hamilton-like cultural phenomenon. But between now and the end of the year, theatregoers can certainly look forward to a varied and assorted slate: a wide range of musicals and plays; the return of some modern classics with stellar casts; and some theatrical experiences that defy classification.
The season officially began this spring with two productions dominated by bravura displays of acrobatics and choreography. Paramour (at the Lyric Theatre), which marks Cirque du Soleil’s first Broadway venture, mingles the company’s trademark death-defying feats with a showbiz yarn set in the Golden Age of Hollywood. The return of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s perennial favorite Cats (at the Neil Simon Theatre) finds the celebrated British composer lording over the Great White Way once again with three hit shows running simultaneously; the other two are The Phantom of the Opera and School of Rock.
And here’s what coming up through the end of the year.
Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical, Studio 54 Theatre
Previews September 1, opens October 6, plays through January 1
The new musical from the Roundabout Theatre Company uses the 1942 Bing Crosby–Fred Astaire hit movie as its starting point and features a string of hits from the Irving Berlin catalogue, including “Stepping out With My Baby,” “Shaking the Blues Away,” “Easter Parade,” “Cheek to Cheek,” and “Heatwave.” Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge have written a new book for the production directed by Gordon Greenberg and choreographed by Denis Jones. The plot: Jim (Bryce Pinkham, Tony nominee for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder) and Lina (Lora Lee Gayer) put on showbiz extravaganzas to celebrate each holiday far from the bright lights of Broadway in a Connecticut farmhouse; Ted (Corbin Bleu), Jim’s best friend and fellow song-and-dance man, poses a threat when he tries to lure Linda away to greater fame in Hollywood.
Lewis Black: Black to the Future, Marquis Theatre
September 12, 19, and 16, October 10, 17, and 24
On six Monday nights, when On Your Feet! is resting, comedian Lewis Black (best known for his dyspeptic rants on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show) will take over the Marquis stage to wax apoplectic about what’s wrong with the world, not to mention the preposterous presidential campaign.
The Encounter, John Golden Theatre
Previews September 20, opens September 29, plays through January 8
A solo work unlike anything you might have experienced before: Writer, director, and performer Simon McBurney takes you deep into a Brazilian rain forest and inside the mind of an explorer. Adapted from Amazon Beaming by Petri Popescu, McBurney re-creates the experiences of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntrye. What you see on stage is enhanced by a unique aural experience — delivered through individual headsets — as the intrepid traveler ventures into the unknown to encounter an indigenous tribe in the jungles of the Amazon.
The Cherry Orchard, American Airlines Theatre
Previews September 15, opens October 16, plays through December 4
Oscar nominee Diane Lane (Unfaithful) returns to Broadway to play Madam Ranevskaya in the Roundabout Theatre Company revival of Chekhov’s final masterpiece. The 1904 rueful comedy revolving around the sale of a Russian country estate, signaling changes in pre-revolution Russian society, is newly adapted by Stephen Karam (The Humans). The production, directed by Simon Godwin, also features Chuck Cooper, Tavi Gevinson, John Glover, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Harold Perrineau, and Joel Grey.
Heisenberg, Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
Previews September 20, opens October 13
The new play by Simon Stephens (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) is about a series of encounters, triggered by a random incident in a crowded London train station when a woman plants a kiss on the neck of an older man (Denis Arndt). The woman is played by Mary-Louise Parker (2001 Tony Award winner for Proof), who you may recall was at the opposite end of another life-changing kiss in her 1990 Broadway debut, Prelude to a Kiss. The Manhattan Theatre Club production, directed by Mark Brokaw, charmed critics during its sold-out premiere run Off-Broadway last year.
The Front Page, Broadhurst Theatre
Previews September 20, opens October 20, plays through January 29
Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s rapid-fire comedy about streetwise newspaper reporters in the pressroom of Chicago’s Criminal Courts Building, chasing after the big scoop, is a perennial favorite. Since its smash debut in 1928, it has been revived on Broadway three times. The latest revival, directed by multiple Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien, boasts a high-wattage cast that includes Nathan Lane, John Slattery, John Goodman, Jefferson Mays, Robert Morse, Sheri Rene Scott, Holland Taylor, Dylan Baker, and Patricia Conolly.
Oh, Hello on Broadway, Lyceum Theatre
Previews September 23, opens October 10, plays through January 8
Writer-comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney bring to life Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland — the two seventysomething reprobates from New York’s Upper West Side they introduced on Comedy Central’s Kroll Show. The part scripted, part improvised evening of comedy from the duo who honed their skills performing at alternative comedy stages for more than a decade is overseen by Tony-nominated director Alex Timbers (Rocky, Peter and the Starcatcher and Bloody, Bloody, Andrew Jackson).
Falsettos, Walter Kerr Theatre
Previews September 29, opens October 27, plays through January 8
The Lincoln Center Theater revives William Finn and James Lapine’s funny and heartbreaking musical, which won Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Score in 1992. One of the first Broadway musicals about the family life of a same-sex couple, the work began as two separate one-act Off-Broadway musicals, March of the Falsettos (1981) and Falsettoland (1990). Set in New York City between 1979 and 1981, the musical chronicles the lives of Marvin, a neurotic gay Jewish man; his wife, Trina; their son, Jason; his male lover, Whizzer; and their psychiatrist, Mendel. The cast is headed by Stephanie J. Block (Tony nominee for The Mystery of Edwin Drood), Andrew Rannells (Tony nominee for The Book of Mormon), and two-time Tony winner Christian Borle (Something Rotten! and Peter and the Starcatcher) as Marvin. The production is directed by Lapine, who helmed the original Off-Broadway productions as well as the original combined version on Broadway.
Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Booth Theatre
Previews October 8, opens October 30, plays through January 22
Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 1782 epistolary novel about sex, revenge, and the power play among decadent French aristocrats has held a fascination for readers through the centuries. Christopher Hampton’s stylish stage adaptation first seduced Broadway audiences in 1987 and then again in a 2008 revival. Tony winners Janet McTeer (A Doll’s House) and Liev Schreiber (Glengarry Glen Ross) challenge each other to new heights of cruelty in this current revival, which transfers after a sold-out engagement at London’s Donmar Warehouse, under the direction of the Donmar’s artistic director, Josie Rourke.
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Imperial Theatre
Previews October 18, opens November 14
The theatre that most recently housed Les Misérables is undergoing a radical transformation to accommodate the musical adaptation of another literary classic, this time from Imperial Russia. Composer-lyricist Dave Malloy’s audacious “electropop opera” is adapted from a bittersweet romantic slice of Leo Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace. The immersive theater experience (set design by Mimi Lien), which begins even as you enter the restructured auditorium and locate your seat, is directed with panache by Rachel Chavkin (Small Mouth Sounds), a downtown theater experimenter who is making her Broadway debut. The talented cast features multiplatinum recording artist Josh Groban, Denée Benton, and Lucas Steele. Pierogies and vodka will be served to get the audience in the mood.
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons on Broadway, Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
October 21 through October 29
While the behind-the-scenes musical about the Jersey Boys’ rise to fame continues to draw fans to Broadway, the real-life Frankie Valli returns with a seven-performance concert engagement to celebrate his career as a solo artist and with the Four Seasons. Expect the group’s greatest hits — and Valli’s celebrated solos, including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “December ’63 (Oh What a Night).”
A Bronx Tale: The Musical, Longacre Theatre
Previews November 3, opens December 1
Chazz Palminteri’s semiautobiographical story, about a young man growing up in the 1960s who is torn between love for his father and allegiance to the local mob boss in the Bronx, began life as a solo play Off-Broadway starring Palminteri before becoming the highly successful 1993 movie directed by Robert De Niro. Paliminteri has now penned the book for the musical version of the story, which features a doo-wop score by Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Aladdin) and lyrics by Glen Slater (The Little Mermaid, School of Rock). The production is codirected by De Niro and four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks.
In Transit, Circle in the Square Theatre
Previews November 10, opens December 11
Kristen Anderson-Lopez (one-half of the team that wrote Frozen), James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan, and Sara Wordsworth, along with vocal arranger Deke Sharon (Pitch Perfect), team up for this unusual a cappella musical that captures the vibrant rhythms and sounds of 11 New Yorkers whose lives are linked through the city’s subway system. Previously seen Off-Broadway several seasons ago, this new Broadway version is directed and choreographed by three-time Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall (Anything Goes, The Pajama Game, Wonderful Town).
Dear Evan Hansen, Belasco Theatre
Previews November 14, opens December 4
The story of lonely teenage high-school misfit who catapults to fame through a misunderstanding that mushrooms out of proportion via social media features Pitch Perfect’s Ben Platt in the lead. Composers Ben Pasek and Justin Paul (Tony nominees for A Christmas Story: The Musical) and book writer Steven Levenson were inspired by a real-life event to create this musical, which enjoyed a critically acclaimed, sold-out run Off-Broadway earlier this spring. The production is directed by Michael Greif, who has expertly explored teenage angst on stage in his productions of Rent and Next to Normal.
Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science, Ethel Barrymore Theatre
November 22 through November 27
Food Network star Alton Brown brings his touring comedy feast, which combines science, music, and food, to Broadway. The comedic chef, who enhances his routines with patter, multimedia presentations, and puppets, has famously declared that “food is just poo waiting to happen.” He promises the new show will feature “large, potentially dangerous, and impractical culinary demonstrations.”
The Illusionists — Turn of the Century, Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
November 25 through January 1
For a third season in succession, the cream of world-class magicians is materializing on the Great White Way with a new show designed to transport audiences to the turn of the last century, the Golden Age of magic. The Illusionists in this current engagement — Dana Daniels (The Charlatan), Charlie Frye (The Eccentric), Mark Kalin (The Showman), Jinger Leigh (The Conjuress), Thommy Ten and Amélie van Tass (The Clairvoyants), Justo Thaus Jin (The Grand Carlini), Rick Thomas (The Immortal), and Jonathan Goodwin (The Daredevil) — will trace the origins of legendary illusions of the past and re-create conjuring feats from more than 100 years ago.
The Present, Ethel Barrymore Theatre
Previews December 17, opens January 8, plays through March 19
Australian stage and screen star Cate Blanchett (Carol and Blue Jasmine on film; A Streetcar Named Desire and The Maids Off-Broadway) will make her Broadway debut in the Sydney Theater Company (STC) production of an adaptation of an early, untitled work by the Russian master Anton Chekhov. Former artistic director of the Sydney company Andrew Upton has revised, updated, and transformed the unfinished work into a comic tragedy about unfulfilled potential and wasted lives. Broadway audiences encountered a version of Chekhov’s abandoned apprentice work (often referred to as Platonov) in 1986 as Wild Honey, adapted by Michael Frayn. Upton’s new adaptation, which is transposed to mid-1990s post-perestroika Russia takes place during a 40th birthday celebration for Anna Petrovna (Blanchett), who is surrounded by her friends and former lover Platonov, played by veteran Australian STC star Richard Roxburgh. The production is directed by Tony Award nominee John Crowley (The Pillowman).