With a dedicated and sophisticated audience, it’s no surprise Washington, D.C. often serves as a testing ground for Broadway hopefuls. Two of the most celebrated Broadway musicals in 2017, Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away, both appeared in D.C. first, generating buzz for their runs on the Great White Way. Lynn Nottage’s 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning Sweat was co-commissioned by Arena Stage and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. On Halloween night 2017, Mean Girls, a musical based on Tina Fey’s hit 2004 film of the same name, made its world premiere at D.C.’s National Theatre prior to its Broadway run this March.
D.C. has been a pre-Broadway destination as far back as 1927 when Show Boat premiered at the National Theatre. Other shows that have made the “transfer” include West Side Story (National) in 1957, Next to Normal (Arena) in 2009, and Glory Days (Signature Theatre) in 2008.
But the nation’s captiol is more than a Broadway incubator. Thanks to the 12-year-old Capital Fringe Festival, Cultural D.C.’s Source Festival—which ended a ten-year run this year, giving way to its new initiative, SPACE4: Arts—and the upcoming Women’s Voices Theater Festival featuring 24 plays penned by female playwrights presented at D.C.’s leading theatres, the area is also a hotbed for theatrical innovation, new voices, and progress.
With a majestic collection of theatres, including the Kennedy Center, Shakespeare Theatre Company, and Ford’s, as well as intimate stages such as Woolly Mammoth Theatre, NextStop Theatre Company and Studio Theatre. From short-run musicals starring Broadway names (see: Chess starring Raul Esparza, Karen Olivo, and more) to world premiere plays by award-winning playwrights (see: Annalisa Dias’ 4,380 Nights), here’s a selection of what’s on tap at some of D.C.’s most notable stages this spring:
(Note: Productions are listed chronologically by date of first performance.)
This year marks Molly Smith’s 20th season as artistic director of Arena Stage, and she has crafted a spring season of shows that explore a dynamic America.
January 12: The world premiere of Mary Kathryn Nagle’s Sovereignty follows the story of Sarah Ridge Polson, a young Cherokee lawyer fighting to restore her Nation’s jurisdiction, all the while dealing with the ever-present ghosts of her grandfathers. It runs through February 18. Click here for tickets and information.
February 2: Robert Schenkkan’s The Great Society, the conclusion to his Tony Award-winning play, All the Way, sees Jack Willis reprising his role of LBJ. The play runs through March 11. Click here for tickets and information.
February 23: Hold These Truths by Jeanne Sakata explores the inspirational true story of Gordon Hirabayashi, the American son of Japanese immigrants who defied an unjust court order after the infamous Pearl Harbor attack. The show runs through April 8. Click here for tickets and information.
March 30: Two Trains Running from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, tells a moving story in 1969 Pittsburgh, with the Civil Rights movement in full swing. The play runs through April 29. Click here for tickets and information.
April 13: Eowyn Ivey’s debut novel The Snow Child has been transformed into a new musical, showcasing a score that combines Alaskan backcountry string-band traditions and contemporary musical theatre. Molly Smith directs. The musical runs through May 20. Click here for tickets and information.
January 19: Jefferson’s Garden by Timberlake Wertenbaker (Our Country’s Good) examines the American Revolution, the fight for independence, and the writing of the American Constitution. Nataki Garrett directs this American premiere, which is part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. The show runs through February 8. Click here for tickets and information.
March 9: The seven-time Tony-winning musical, The Wiz eases down the road under the direction of Kent Gash, founding director of NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ New Studio on Broadway. The soulful musical follows Dorothy and her friends Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion on their quest to meet The Wiz. It runs through May 12. Click here for tickets and information.
January 9: On Your Feet!, Alexander Dinelaris’ jukebox bio-musical exploring the highs and lows of the lives of Emilio and Gloria Estefan, features many of the hits from Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. The musical plays until January 28. Click here for tickets and information.
January 9: Stephen Karam’s Tony Award-winning play The Humans follows a complicated family over the course of a charged Thanksgiving dinner. The play stars Emmy winner and Tony nominee Richard Thomas, Tony winner Daisy Eagan, and Drama Desk Award winner Pamela Reed. It runs until January 28. Click here for tickets and information.
February 14: As part of the Kennedy Center’s new Broadway Center Stage series, Raúl Esparza, Ramin Karimloo, Karen Olivo, and Ruthie Ann Miles star in Chess under the direction of Michael Mayer. The rock opera details a love triangle between a churlish American chess star, a Russian champion, and the assistant torn between the two. The one-week engagement runs through February 18. Click here for tickets and information.
March 21: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s (Hamilton) other Tony-winning show, In the Heights, follows the dynamics of New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood set against a Tony-winning score. The semi-staged concert performance concludes March 25. Click here for tickets and information.
NEXTSTOP THEATRE COMPANY
January 11: A series of 45 two-minute plays, one each about the men who have served as president, are performed by a cast of five women in 45 Plays for 45 Presidents. Highlights include a Nixon kick-line and “spot on” impressions. Meghan Behm directs. The show runs through February 4. Click here for tickets and information.
SHAKESPEARE THEATRE COMPANY
January 16: Michael Urie (Buyer & Cellar, Torch Song) stars as the titular Danish prince for STC’s production of Hamlet, directed by Michael Kahn. The Bard’s play runs through March 4. Click here for tickets and information.
February 6: The world-premiere production of Noura by Heather Raffo challenges notions of modern marriage and motherhood through a portrait of Iraqi immigrants living in New York. The show is directed by Joanna Settle. Click here for tickets and information.
April 17: The Druid Theatre Company begin the U.S. tour of their critically acclaimed production of Waiting for Godot. Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece will be directed by Garry Hynes, who has the distinction of being the first woman to win the Tony Award for Best Director, 20 years ago. The show runs through May 20. Click here for tickets and information.
January 16: The world premiere of D.C. playwright Annalisa Dias’ new play, 4,380 Nights, offers an intriguing look at an American worldview created in the wake of September 11. Kathleen Akerley directs. The play runs through February 18. Click here for tickets and information.
February 6: Light Years, a new musical from indie folk rock artist Robbie Schaefer of Eddie From Ohio, tells the story of Schaefer’s upbringing, his cherished relationship with his father, and his choice to follow his passion. Signature favorite Bobby Smith stars alongside Schaefer himself. The musical runs through March 4. Click here for tickets and information.
April 3: The Washington premiere of Putlizter Prize winner Annie Baker’s hit play, John, tells the story of a young Brooklyn couple who escape to a cozy bed-and-breakfast for a much needed getaway, but supernatural elements get in the way. It runs through April 29. Click here for tickets and information.
April 17: The power pop emotion of Matthew Sweet’s alternative rock album Girlfriend comes alive in the Washington premiere of Todd Almond and Sweet’s Girlfriend, a coming-of-age story following a college-bound jock and self-assured but aimless gay teen. The show runs through June 10. Click here for tickets and information.
January 17: Sarah Delappe’s The Wolves follows a pack of 16-year-old female soccer players and examines the turmoil and teamwork of sports and adolescence. Directed by Marti Lyons, the show runs through March 4. Click here for tickets and information.
March 21: Irish master Brian Friel’s Translations looks at the events of an Irish-language hedge school in 1833 County Donegal. Matt Torney, Studio’s Belfast-born associate artistic director, directs. The show runs through April 22. Click here for tickets and information.
Note: The above is not a complete listing of all productions or theatrical houses in the D.C. area. We encourage you to continue to explore all Washington, D.C. as to offer.