Somethin's Comin': Your Guide to the 2016 Spring Theatre Season

News   Somethin's Comin': Your Guide to the 2016 Spring Theatre Season
 
Nothing like a theatrical forecast to put a little spring in your step. Here's a look at the eight musicals, ten plays and innumerable anticipated performances beginning on Broadway in the coming months. Get excited.

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Actors Ben Whishaw, Saoirse Ronan (now of Golden Globe nomination fame), Ciaran Hinds and Sophie Okonedo (whose last Broadway appearance earned her a Tony Award) fall under the guidance of Belgian director Ivo van Hove, who stirred up notice this season on Broadway with A View From The Bridge and Off-Broadway with his staging of the David Bowie musical Lazarus. No word on how the director will tackle The Crucible, Miller’s tale of intolerance and hysteria in 1690s Salem. But, then, predicting van Hove’s directorial approaches to classics has never been an odds-on bet. Previews begin Feb. 29 at the Walter Kerr Theatre.

Saoirse Ronan in a promotional photo for <i>The Crucible</i>
Saoirse Ronan in a promotional photo for The Crucible Photo by James Minchin III

The buckets of stage blood spilled in van Hove’s A View From the Bridge would not be out of place in one of the oddest entries in the spring season: American Psycho, the musical version of Bret Easton Ellis’ 1991 novel, by composer Duncan Sheik and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Benjamin Walker (previously took a "bloody turn as Andrew Jackson on Broadway) plays the well-dressed, 1980s Manhattan serial killer Patrick Bateman in the show, which had a London debut in 2014. Previews begin March 24 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.

Considerably sunnier in temperament will be the new musical Waitress, which, owing to its duo of composer Sara Bareilles and headliner, Beautiful Tony-winner Jessie Mueller, is one of the more anticipated attractions of the season. Mueller plays the title wage-slave in the show, which librettist Jessie Nelson have drawn from the 2007 movie of the same name by the late Adrienne Shelly. The story follows an unhappily married, pregnant waitress in the Deep South who hopes that her panache for baking pies might be the secret ingredient to happiness. Previews commence March 25 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

Jessie Mueller
Jessie Mueller Photo by Evgenia Eliseeva

Also from the south is the heroine of Bright Star, a new musical which represents the Broadway debut for the unlikely writing duo of film comedian Steve Martin (book and lyrics) and pop singer Edie Brickell (music and lyrics). Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina between 1923 and 1945, it tells the true story of a young soldier and the editor of a southern literary journal falling in love. Feb. 25 marks the first preview at the Cort Theatre.

A further musical love story is available via the Roundabout Theatre Company’s new revival of Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joe Masteroff’s classic She Loves Me. Interestingly, the new production is staged by Scott Ellis, who had a success with the title when it last visited Broadway back in 1993. This time around, the leads included Zachary Levi, Laura Benanti and Jane Krakowski. Studio 54 has it beginning Feb. 19.

In a season rich with new musicals, yet another one arrives in the form of Tuck Everlasting, from Nathan Tysen (lyrics), Chris Miller (music) and Claudia Shear (book), director Casey Nicholaw. The show features long-loved players such as Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Carolee Carmello and Terrence Mann (who currently appear together in Broadway's Finding Neverland). The show is based on the beloved novel by Natalie Babbitt. Previews start March 31 at the Broadhurst Theatre.

Rounding out the musical line-up this season is Shuffle Along, or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. The title says it all. Shuffle Along was indeed a musical smash nearly a century ago, with music by the legendary Eubie Blake. Director George C. Wolfe, who is also writing the libretto, aims to tell the backstage story behind the making of the original. He’s got some decent help on the project. The cast includes Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter. Choreography is by tap master Savion Glover, who teams up with Wolfe for the first time since 1996’s hit Bring in ‘Da Funk, Bring in ‘Da Noise. Previews begin at the Music Box Theatre on March 15.

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Perhaps the spring’s tensest drama swoops in with Blackbird, the David Harrower play which had an acclaimed Off-Broadway run in 2007. The discomfiting story tells of a young woman who tracks down and confronts the much-older man with whom she had a relationship when she was 12 — with unexpected results. Jeff Daniels starred in the original, and he’s back for the Broadway bow, as is his director, Joe MantelloMichelle Williams steps into the female lead. Feb. 5 is the first preview at the Belasco Theatre.

Mantello is also at the helm of another drama, The Humans by Stephen Karam. Cassie Beck, Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, Lauren Klein, Arian Moayed and Sarah Steele star as members of a family gathering for Thanksgiving. The play was a critical success Off-Broadway earlier this season before being snatched up by producer Scott Rudin for a Broadway bid. (The busy Rudin is also behind Blackbird, The Crucible and Shuffle Along.) Previews begin Jan. 23 at the Helen Hayes Theatre.

Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, Cassie Beck, Sarah Steele and Arian Moayed in <i>The Humans</i>
Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, Cassie Beck, Sarah Steele and Arian Moayed in The Humans Photo by Joan Marcus

Another critically praised Off-Broadway play, Eclipsed, is also making a swift journey to Broadway. The Danai Gurira drama tells of a group of women held captive in Liberia. The cast includes Lupita Nyong'o, the Mexican-Kenyan actress who won an Oscar for “12 Years a Slave.” Previews commence Feb. 23 at the John Golden Theatre. Playwright Richard Greenberg returns to Broadway with his first new play in three seasons: Our Mother’s Brief Affair starring Linda Lavin in the sort of family-rocking, force-of-nature character the actress is known for. Lynne Meadow directs the story of a dying woman whose last confession casts her clan into turmoil. The show opens at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre Jan. 20.

Pascale Armand, Saycon Sengbloh and Lupita Nyong’o in <i>Eclipsed</i>
Pascale Armand, Saycon Sengbloh and Lupita Nyong’o in Eclipsed Photo by Joan Marcus

It’s a good spring for showboating solo performances. Forest Whitaker makes his Broadway debut as talkative, small-time hustler Erie Smith in O’Neill’s one-act, Hughie, directed by Michael Grandage. (Frank Wood plays his largely silent audience.) Previews start Feb. 5 at the Booth Theatre. And, Jesse Tyler Ferguson is the harried would-be actor holding down the reservations phone line at a hot restaurant Becky Mode’s 1999 hit comedy Fully Committed, directed by Jason Moore beginning April 2 at the Lyceum Theatre.

If, after Hughie, you want more O’Neill, you’ll get a heapin’ helping in the new revival of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, starting March 31 at the American Airlines Theatre. Jessica Lange, Gabriel Byrne, John Gallagher, Jr., and Michael Shannon are the members of the toweringly unhappy Tyrone family this time around. Jonathan Kent directs.

Also coming this spring will be a new version of Michael Frayn’s classic farce Noises Off, at the American Airlines, opening Jan. 14; The Father, a mysterious look into the mind of a retired dancer, played by Frank Langella, starts March 22 at the Friedman; and Paramour, the first Cirque du Soleil show assembled expressly for Broadway begins April 16 at the Lyric.

Last, and silliest, is Disaster!, a musical spoof of 1970s disaster movies co-written by Jack Plotnick and the theatre world’s own Zelig figure, musician-writer-personality Seth Rudetsky. The remarkable cast of stage vets includes Roger Bart, Kerry Butler, Kevin Chamberlin, Adam Pascal, Faith Prince, Rachel York, Jennifer Simard, Max Crumm, Lacretta Nicole and, of course, Rudetsky.

Rudetsky and the original Off-Broadway company of <i>Disaster!</i>
Rudetsky and the original Off-Broadway company of Disaster! Photo by Jeremy Daniel
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