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2019 Broadway Spring Preview

The 2019 Broadway Spring Preview

With Glenda Jackson, Nathan Lane, Laurie Metcalf, John Lithgow, and Annette Bening among the names adorning marquees, the lights of Broadway will certainly be shining bright this spring. The second half of the season also promises us exciting new writers, golden classics, and five new musicals. Here’s what’s coming your way between now and the Tony Awards cutoff date in April.


January

The newly opened Choir Boy (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre) marks the Broadway debut of Tarrell Alvin McCraney, Oscar-winning writer of Moonlight. In the inspiring drama, Jeremy Pope makes his Broadway debut playing a talented singer who must fight for leadership of the gospel choir at an elite prep school for young Black men. Broadway veterans Chuck Cooper and Austin Pendleton play the school headmaster and choir faculty advisor, respectively, in the Manhattan Theatre Club production directed by Trip Cullman.

Paul Dano and Ethan Hawke costar in True West (American Airlines Theatre, opens January 24), Sam Shepard’s explosive comedy-drama about sibling rivalry and the myth of the American dream. Dano and Hawke play brothers who are polar opposites — one a screenwriter, the other a petty thief and drifter — who wind up collaborating on a screenplay. Directed by James Macdonald, the Roundabout Theatre Company production also features Marylouise Burke and Gary Wilmes.

Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano Set for Roundabout's True West

Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano Set for Roundabout’s True West

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February

Viral videos and a huge social media fan base helped propel Be More Chill to Broadway. The musical (Lyceum Theatre, starts February 13, opens March 10), with a score by Joe Iconis and a book by Joe Tracz, debuted unnoticed a few years ago at the Two River Theatre in New Jersey, but subsequently went to become a sold-out sensation Off-Broadway last year before making it to the main stem. Based on the novel by Ned Vizzini, it’s about a New Jersey high school student (played by Will Roland) who swallows an illegal pill to make himself really cool. Known as “The Squip” (manifested by actor Jason Tam), the little capsule is actually a mini supercomputer that can alter the mind and change personalities. The production is directed by Stephen Brackett and choreographed by Chase Brock.

Will Roland and Stephanie Hsu in Be More Chill

Will Roland and Stephanie Hsu Embrace Their Characters in Be More Chill

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Kelli O’Hara (Tony Award–winning star of the recent revival of The King and I) spars with Will Chase (Tony nominee for The Mystery of Edwin Drood) in Cole Porter’s gloriously tuneful and witty 1948 musical Kiss Me, Kate (Studio 54, starts February 14, opens March 14). Adapted from Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, the book by Sam and Bella Spewack juxtaposes the offstage battles between an egocentric director/star and his divorced leading-lady wife with the onstage battle of the sexes between Shakespeare’s Petruchio and Katherine. The Roundabout Theatre Company production is directed by Scott Ellis (She Loves Me and the upcoming Tootsie) and choreographed by Warren Carlyle (Hello, Dolly!, She Loves Me).

Ephraim Sykes, Jeremy Pope, Jawan M. Jackson, James Harkness, and Derrick Baskin in <i>Ain't Too Proud</i>. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Ephraim Sykes, Jeremy Pope, Jawan M. Jackson, James Harkness, and Derrick Baskin in Ain’t Too Proud. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Motown comes to Broadway once again with Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations (Imperial Theatre, starts February 28, opens March 21). Derrick Baskin (as Otis Willliams), James Harkness (Paul Williams), Jawan M. Jackson (Melvin Franklin), Jeremy Pope (Eddie Kendricks), and Ephraim Skykes (David Ruffin) bring to life the R&B “Classic Five” who rose to fame from the streets of Detroit in the 1960s. The score is made up of The Temptations’ popular song catalog, which includes “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” Obie Award–winning playwright and Detroit native Dominique Morrisseau makes her Broadway debut as the book writer for the musical, which is based on the memoir by the group’s founder, Otis Williams. The production is directed by two-time Tony Award winner Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys, The Who’s Tommy) and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo (On Your Feet, Memphis).

Two-time Academy Award and Emmy Award winner Glenda Jackson received her second Tony Award for her triumphant return to Broadway last season in Three Tall Women. The great English actress is back, to tackle one of the most challenging parts in English drama: the title role in William Shakespeare’s King Lear (Cort Theatre, starts February 28, opens April 4). Jackson first played the role in 2016, in a different production across the pond. That marked her return to the London stage, at age 80, after the 23-year break she took from acting to serve in the British Parliament. The current Broadway production is directed by Sam Gold, Tony Award winner for Fun Home. The cast includes Tony Award winner Jayne Houdyshell (The Humans), who plays the Earl of Gloucester; three-time Obie Award winner Elizabeth Marvell as Goneril; Aisling O’Sullivan as Regan; Pedro Pascal as Edmund; Sean Carvajal as Edgar; two- time Drama Desk winner John Douglas Thompson as the Earl of Kent; and two-time Olivier Award winner and Golden Globe winner Ruth Wilson, who doubles as Cordelia and The Fool. Original music is by Philip Glass.

March

Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus (Booth Theatre, starts March 5, opens April 11) marks the exciting Broadway playwriting debut of avant-garde writer/performance artist and MacArthur Genius Grant fellow Taylor Mac. Gary picks up where Shakespeare’s gory tragedy Titus Andronicus ends: two servants — played by Tony Award–winning actors Nathan Lane and Andrea Martin — are tasked with cleaning up a room full of corpses left behind after a bloody coup. According to Mac, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for the epic 24-Decade History of Popular Music, the theatrically imaginative comedy, set during the fall of the Roman Empire, reflects the “cycles of mess and cycles of revenge” that have dominated the past four decades of contemporary American politics. Tony nominee Kristine Nielsen completes the high-voltage cast, playing a fatal casualty of the past civil war. The production is directed by Tony Award winner George C. Wolfe.

Lanford Wilson’s explosive romantic drama Burn This (Hudson Theatre, starts March 15, opens April 16) returns three decades after it first played on Broadway. Adam Driver (Star Wars star and Golden Globe nominee for BlacKkKlansman) plays Pale, a volatile restaurant manager who bursts unexpectedly into the life of dancer-choreographer Anna, played by Kerri Russell (Golden Globe Award winner for the TV series Felicity and Emmy nominee for The Americans). The current revival, which also features David Furr and Brandon Uranowitz, is directed by Michael Mayer (Head Over Heels, Hedwig and the Angry Inch).

Playwright Lucas Hnath made his Broadway debut in 2017, scoring a Tony nomination for his audacious Ibsen sequel, A Doll’s House, Part 2. He returns this season with Hillary and Clinton (Golden Theatre, starts March 16, opens April 18), a political drama which revisits the 2008 New Hampshire primaries, where a former first lady makes her bid to become president of the United States. In Hnath’s tale about marriage, gender roles, and political experience, two-time Tony Award winner Laurie Metcalf (Three Tall Women, A Doll’s House, Part 2) plays Hillary; John Lithgow (The Columnist, Sweet Smell of Success) plays her husband, Bill; Peter Francis James plays Barack; and Zak Orth, campaign manager Mark. The production is directed by two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello, who most recently directed The Humans and Three Tall Women on Broadway.

The Bard SummerScape production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Circle in the Square, starts March 19, opens April 7) offers a fresh look at the great American musical-theater classic, which celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. The production, which played to great acclaim last fall at Off-Broadway’s St. Anne’s Warehouse, is directed by Daniel Fish. The beloved musical, with a score by Richard Rodgers and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, is reimagined for an intimate setting and reorchestrated for a bluegrass band. The cast at St. Anne’s included Rebecca Naomi Jones as Laurey, Damon Duanno as Curly, two-time Tony Award nominee Mary Testa as Aunt Eller, Patrick Vaill as Jud Fry, and Ali Stroker as Ado Annie.

Hadestown (Walter Kerr Theatre, starts March 22, opens April 17), a new musical by Anaïs Mitchell, blends American folk music with New Orleans–inspired jazz to bring new life to ancient mythology. Intertwining the love stories of Orpheus and Eurydice and King Hades and his wife, Persephone, Mitchell and director Rachel Chavkin (acclaimed Tony Award–nominated director of Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812) take the audience on a poetic journey down to the underworld and back. The musical, which premiered at the New York Theatre Workshop Off-Broadway in 2016, is currently playing through January at London’s National Theatre with a cast that includes Reeve Carney, Andre De Shields, Amber Gray, Eva Noblezada, and Patrick Page.

Alex Brightman and Sophia Anne Caruso in <i>Beetlejuice</i>. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Alex Brightman and Sophia Anne Caruso in Beetlejuice. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Someone must have said the name three times: Here comes Beetlejuice (Winter Garden, starts March 28, opens April 25). The new musical, based on the popular Tim Burton movie, is written by Eddie Perfect (music and lyrics) with a book by Scott Brown and Anthony King. In the macabre comedy fantasy, a rebellious teenage girl unleashes mayhem after she befriends the resident demon living in the haunted house where their family has just moved. Directed by Alex Timbers (Peter and the Starcatcher and the upcoming Moulin Rouge!) and choreographed by Connor Gallagher and featuring a metamorphosing set designed by David Korins, the production stars Alex Brightman (2016 Tony nominee for School of Rock) in the title role, along with Rob McClure, Kerry Butler, Leslie Kritzer, and Adam Dannheisser.

A desperate, unemployed actor, played by Santino Fontana (Tony nominee for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella), pulls off a daring stunt to get work in Tootsie (Marriot Marquis Theatre, starts March 29, opens April 23). The new musical comedy, with an original score by David Yazbek (Tony winner last year for The Band’s Visit) and a book by Robert Horn (13), is based on the acclaimed 1982 movie memorialized by Dustin Hoffman’s drag performance in the title role. In the musical, Fontana’s transformation is aided with costumes by Tony Award–winning designer William Ivey Long. The production is directed by multiple Tony nominee Scott Ellis (also represented this season with Kiss Me, Kate) and choreographed by Denis Jones (Holiday Inn). The cast includes Lilli Cooper, Sarah Stiles, John Behlman, Andy Grotelueschen, Julie Halston, Michael McGrath, and Reg Rogers.

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Reg Rogers and Company in Tootsie. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

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April

James Graham’s riveting new play, Ink (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, starts April 2, opens April 24), charts the rise of an ambitious young Rupert Murdoch over the course of a single year, from 1969 to 1970. Bertie Carvel re-creates his Olivier Award–winning performance as the Australian media tycoon who purchased a struggling London newspaper and launched an influential career in news and entertainment. Johnny Lee Miller plays the maverick tabloid editor Larry Lamb, who helped Murdoch create a revolution on Fleet Street and gave birth to the aggressive populist style of journalism practiced on both sides of the Atlantic today. The hit production comes from London’s Almeida Theatre and is directed by Rupert Goold (Tony nominee for King Charles III).

Tony nominee Annette Bening (Coastal Disturbances) returns to Broadway after a three-decade absence to star opposite Tracy Letts (Tony Award winner for the 2013 revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) in the third Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s postwar drama All My Sons (American Airlines Theatre, starts April 4, opens April 22). Bening and Letts play parents who harbor a dark secret that comes devastatingly to light when their son confronts his father about his business ethics during the war. Miller’s 1947 play launched the eminent playwright’s career and helped established his reputation as the moral voice of the American theater. The Roundabout Theatre Company production is directed by Jack O’Brien, Tony Award–winning director of The Coast of Utopia, Henry IV, and Hairspray.