Two weeks ago Playbill published our list of 10 musicals overdue for a Broadway revival.
When the time came to assemble a list of plays we want to see come around again, we decided to expand the reach beyond what had already played the Main Stem. Here are seven straight plays deserving of a new life on Broadway.
Staged in and around an actual pool, director-playwright Mary Zimmerman’s loose adaptation of Ovid’s classic Metamorphoses is a stirring work of theatrical storytelling that distills the human condition to a series of interconnected vignettes based on mythology including Midas, Eros and Psyche, Orpheus and Eurydice, and the deeply affecting final tale, Baucis and Philemon—told completely in candle light that flickered off the surface of the water. Metamorphoses played Chicago (originally titled Six Myths) prior to its New York bow Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theatre in 2001. It transferred to Broadway’s Circle in the Square in March 2002. Zimmerman won the Tony Award for Best Direction, and her original staging is often recreated by theatres and schools across the globe.
2. for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf
Ntozake Shange’s acclaimed 1976 theatre piece combined dance, poetry, and music to illuminate a series of monologues in which women (who are identified only as their assigned color) address rape, abandonment, relationships, love, self-acceptance, and other vulnerable topics. For colored girls... was Tony-nominated for Best Play, and Shange became the second African-American female playwright to have her work produced on Broadway, after Lorraine Hansberry broke ground 17 years before with A Raisin in the Sun. In 2008, plans were announced to revive for colored girls… starring India.Arie at Circle in the Square. The show’s producers “temporarily postponed” the revival due to the economic downturn, but the project was never revisited.
Martin Sherman’s seminal drama Bent centers on the lives of gay men living in 1930s Berlin as the Nazi regime rises to power. The play premiered in London in 1979, helping to raise public awareness of historic accounts of Nazi persecution of homosexuals. Ian McKellen starred in the original London run and reprised his role on screen in 1997. Richard Gere starred in the 1980 Broadway premiere of the play. Sean Matthias directed the original London and New York runs, as well as the 1997 film. A first-class 2015 production of Bent, billed as the first major U.S. revival of the work since its 1979 premiere, was staged at the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, with a cast that included Andy Mientus and Scissor Sisters’ front man Jake Shears. Time to see it back in New York.
4. Auntie Mame
It seems unfathomable that Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s masterful stage play based on Patrick Dennis’ memoir hasn’t returned to Broadway since its 1956 premiere. (We aren’t counting Jerry Herman’s hit musical, which is its own theatrical animal.) For younger theatre fans unfamiliar with the play, the film is required viewing. Auntie Mame captures the sharp-witted cosmopolitan humor that defined an era, and was among the first films to introduce the concept of the unconventional “found” family. This is one of those instances where Hollywood did right by Broadway, and much of the original cast (including Rosalind Russell in the title role) reprised their performances for the untouchable 1958 film based on the play. (Betty Comden and Adolf Green wrote the screenplay).
5. Intimate Apparel
Set in 1905, the story of Intimate Apparel focuses on a much sought-after African-American seamstress—who sews elegant intimates for socialites and harlots alike—as she looks for love and respect in turn of-the-20th-century Manhattan. The work, inspired by Nottage’s grandmother who made lingerie in the same time period, debuted Off-Broadway in 2004 as the inaugural production of Roundabout Theatre Company’s Laura Pels Theatre. Viola Davis starred in the Off-Broadway premiere.
Paul Rudnick helped a community heal with his tender-hearted and zany portrait of gay life in New York City during the AIDS epidemic. The romantic comedy, which captures the hesitation, fear, and unabashed romance and defiance of the era, premiered Off-Broadway December 31, 1992, at the WPA Theatre, with a cast featuring Bryan Batt, Harriet Harris, and Edward Hibbert. It transferred to the Minetta Lane three months later, where it ran for more than a year. Rudnick wrote the screenplay for an excellent 1995 film adaptation, for which Batt reprised his performance as Cats chorus member Darius, alongside Patrick Stewart, Steven Weber, Michael T. Weiss, Nathan Lane, Christine Baranski, and Debra Monk. The play has yet to be produced on Broadway, though a private reading took place in 2015 with Michael Urie as Jeffrey, in a cast that also featured Annaleigh Ashford, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, and original cast member Batt.
7. Nicholas Nickleby
The late, great Roger Rees won a Tony Award for his performance as Nicholas Nickleby in the original 1981 stage production based on Charles Dickens’ novel of the same name. The two-part, eight-and-a-half-hour play, detailed the efforts of young Nicholas to provide for his mother and sister; it was an awe-inspiring (if uneven) achievement in theatrical craft. Despite a brief run of just over 50 performances, theatregoers who saw the original continue to recount its thrilling moments of theatrical wonder more than 30 years after it closed.