It’s rare when a new musical opens in the summer. The new 2023–2024 Broadway season kicked off with three. The Britney Spears alt-fairy-tale tuner Once Upon a One More Time, which officially launched the season, just ended its run; Here Lies Love, David Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s immersive disco take on the rise and fall of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, and the screen-to-stage transition of the time-warp spectacle Back to the Future: The Musical. The three new musicals have joined the amorous farce The Cottage and the behind-the-scenes of Jaws comedy-drama, The Shark is Broken, giving the new season a head start, way before a traditional fall opening.
Here’s what is in store for the rest of the year as the Broadway season continues.
Returning to Broadway for the first time since his triumphant 2016 Tony Award–winning performance as Aaron Burr in Hamilton, Leslie Odom Jr. plays a magnetic and high-spirited preacher who seeks to save a small-town church in Jim Crow–era Georgia — and he’s also going to liberate his congregation from the oppression of their plantation boss. The joyous and subversive comedy from the late Ossie Davis, which is subtitled A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch, premiered on Broadway in 1961 with the playwright Davis and his wife, the late Ruby Dee, in the leads. (A 1963 movie version, Gone Are the Days!, captures those original performances, including that of a young Alan Alda at the start of his career.) The play was subsequently adapted into the 1970 musical Purlie!, but this is the first time Purlie Victorious has been seen on Broadway since its debut 62 years ago. The new revival, directed by Tony Award winner Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun), also stars Kara Young (two-time Tony nominee for Cost of Living and Clydes).
Ghanian American writer/performer Jocelyn Bioh (best known for her 2017 acclaimed Off-Broadway hit, School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play) makes her Broadway playwrighting debut with a comedy about a group of West African immigrant women working in a Harlem hair salon. The women share their dreams and secrets as they create masterpieces on their clients’ heads. Bioh describes her new play as a reflection of the people who have come to live in New York City and their hustle for a better life. Seven newcomers to Broadway feature in the ensemble cast that includes Brittany Adebumola, Maechi Aharanwa, Rachel Christopher, Kalyne Coleman, Somi Kakoma, Lakisha May, Nana Mensah, Michael Oloyede, Dominique Thorne, and Zenzi Williams. The Manhattan Theatre Club production is helmed by Obie winner Whitney White (Our Dear Dead Drug Lord), who makes her Broadway directorial debut.
The raspy-voiced Grammy- and Academy Award–winning rock star brings her confessional musical memoir to Broadway. Cowritten with her wife, Linda Wallam-Etheridge, the solo show, which debuted last year Off-Broadway, is directed by Amy Tinkham. The show features Etheridge’s much-loved hits, including “I’m the Only One,” “Come to My Window,” and “I Want to Come,” interspersed with intimate stories from her childhood in Kansas, her career highlights, and what she calls the “deep spiritual story” of her life.
Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells —last seen together so memorably in The Book of Mormon — team up again for some goofy fun. They will sing all the songs and play all the roles in the meta-musical comedy written by Scott Brown and Anthony King. In the laugh-filled romp, the two Tony Award nominees play a pair of aspiring playwrights at a backers’ audition who hope to sell their musical about the 15th century German inventor Johannes Gutenberg, known to the world as the father of the modern printing press. Acclaimed in 2006 when it premiered Off-Broadway, the musical spoof is once again directed by Alex Timbers, currently represented on Broadway with Moulin Rouge! and Here Lies Love.
We still mourn the loss of Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim, but happily continue to celebrate his memory with a spate of new productions of his work that have lit up each successive season since his death in November 2021. The gender-reversed Company was followed by Into the Woods last season. The 2023 Best Revival Tony nominee Sweeney Todd opened this spring at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, where it continues its popular run. Now comes the highly anticipated transfer of the acclaimed Off-Broadway revival of Merrily, which played to sold-out audiences at the New York Theatre Workshop last year. Daniel Radcliffe (as Charley Kingas), Jonathan Groff (Franklin Shepard), and Lindsay Mendez (Mary Flynn) reprise their lead roles in the production, the work’s first Broadway revival since its debut in 1981. The musical (music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by George Furth) famously moves in reverse chronological order as it charts the fortunes of three close friends whose lives and fortunes diverge over three decades. The production is directed by Maria Friedman and choreographed by Tim Jackson, with music orchestrated by veteran Sondheim collaborator Jonathan Tunick. A note for Sondheim fans: Here We Are, the beloved composer-lyricist’s posthumous musical written with playwright David Ives, premieres Off-Broadway also in late September. Hopefully, this is going to be a new thing — a Sondheim musical playing in New York every season!
Danny DeVito, Emmy and Golden Globe winner (Taxi) and Tony nominee (The Price), stars as Sam, a homebound widower who faces eviction because of the piles of stuff that have accumulated over the years in his apartment. Sam’s daughter (played by DeVito’s real-life daughter Lucy DeVito) and friend (played by Ray Anthony Thomas) try to help him reduce the clutter and make the tough decisions between what is trash and what is treasure. The new comedy was written specifically for father and daughter by Theresa Rebeck (Bernhardt/Hamlet, Seminar). The Roundabout Theatre Company production is directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel (Tony nominee for Hand to God).
A labor of love from Barry Manilow (music) and Bruce Sussman (book and lyrics). For more than two decades, the Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award winning singer/songwriter and his longtime collaborator have striven to celebrate the Comedian Harmonists, a once internationally famous, all-male German a capella sextet. The vaudeville troupe sold millions of records and made dozens of movies, but because three of them were Jews, they were ultimately forced to disband in 1935 by the anti-Semitic Nazi regime and were all but erased from history. Their extraordinary story was previously the subject of a 1997 German movie, and Band in Berlin, a very short-lived, poorly received 1999 Broadway musical. Harmony moves back and forth from 1927, when the group first formed in Berlin, to their Carnegie Hall debut at the height of their fame in 1933 (when they met the great Josephine Baker). The six band members are played by Sean Bell, Danny Kornfeld, Zal Owen, Eric Peters, Blake Roman, and Steven Telsey. The cast also includes Sierra Boggess (The Little Mermaid), Julie Benko (Funny Girl), and Chip Zien (Caroline, or Change). The production is directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Warren Carlyle.
Monty Python silliness is back in all its irreverent glory: the horses with the coconut-shell hooves, Not Dead Yet Plague victims, flying cows, missing shrubbery, flatulent knights, a Vegas-themed Camelot, the lamenting diva, Lady of the Lake with her Laker Girl cheerleaders. And the killer rabbit. Unashamedly poached from the satirical movie parody of the King Arthur legend, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the musical-theater spoof (winner of the 2005 Best Musical Tony Award) is written by Eric Idle (book, lyrics, and music) and John du Prez (music). The new revival is directed and choreographed by Josh Rhodes (Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella). Mining the musical comedy gold: Tony Award nominee Christopher Fritzgerald (Waitress, Young Frankenstein), Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart (Aladdin), Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer (Beetlejuice), Tony nominee Ethan Slater (SpongeBob SquarePants), Jimmy Smagula (Billy Elliot: The Musical), Drama Desk winner Michael Urie (Buyer and Cellar), and Nik Walker (Hamilton).
A coming-of-age story based on the award-winning HBO documentary by Alexandra Shiva. Seven young adults with autism at a group counseling center in Columbus prepare to face the challenges and the excitement of an upcoming spring dance. The uplifting new musical is written by Broadway newcomers Jacob Yandura (music) and Rebekah Greer Melocik (book and lyrics). Autistic actors Desmond Edwards, Amelia Fei, Madison Kopec, Liam Pearce, Imani Russell, Conor Tague, and Ashley Wool will make their Broadway debuts playing the youths. The cast also includes Haven Burton (Shrek the Musical) and Darlesia Cearcy (Once on this Island). The production, directed by Sammi Cannold and choreographed by Mayte Natalio, is dedicated to the memory of producer/director Harold Prince. The legendary winner of 21 Tony Awards spearheaded the original development of the musical and was slated to direct it prior to his passing in 2019. Director Cannold has noted that their creative team has “honored the DNA” of what Prince began over the evolution of this musical.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and Obie Award–winning playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (An Octoroon) makes a welcome Broadway debut with his acclaimed subversive dark comedy, previously seen Off-Broadway in 2014. Deftly taking possession of themes from American family drama classics (with nods to Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Sam Shepard, and others), as well as skillfully appropriating the ghost thriller genre, Jacobs-Jenkins has fashioned a tale of a dysfunctional family who gathers at their dilapidated ancestral mansion in Arkansas to sort out the remains of the late patriarch’s estate. The family meets some nasty surprises as they learn more about their deceased father’s legacy and the true nature of their inheritance. Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG Award–winning star of American Horror Story Sarah Paulson (last seen on Broadway in Collected Stories) plays the eldest of the siblings. The Second Stage Theater production is directed by Lila Neugebauer (The Waverly Gallery).
An epic generational family drama that spans 70 decades, written by Joshua Harmon, who made his playwriting debut on Broadway with Significant Other in 2017. The play, which received a critically acclaimed Off-Broadway run (2022 winner of best play awards from the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle), centers around a contemporary French Jewish family in Paris who is hosting a visiting cousin from New York. The newcomer sparks lively discussions and spirited arguments among the family on pressing topics: anti-Semitism from past to present; the political positions of the Israeli government; what it means to be a Jew today. The modern-day scenes bleed into scenes from the lives of the great-grandparents from one strand of the family who survived the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. Betsy Aidem (Leopoldstadt), Francis Benhamou, Ari Brand, Molly Ranson, and Nancy Robinette reprise their roles from the Off-Broadway production, joined by Anthony Edwards and Aria Shahghasemi. The Manhattan Theatre Club production is directed by David Cromer (Tony Award winner for The Band’s Visit).