PLAYBILL PICKS: Spring Fever! Playbill Contributors Share Titles They're Eager to See in Spring 2013

By Playbill Staff
January 17, 2013

The 2013 theatre season continues with a fresh crop of productions popping up in New York, London and across the country. As we head into the busy theatrical awards season, staffers offer a look at what's piqued our interest in New York and London. What interests you? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter!

Read on!

A scene from the West End premiere of Viva Forever!
photo by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

MATT BLANK, Photo Editor

Cinderella. What can I say, I've always loved this musical and literally wore out my VHS copies of the original 1957 and 1965 TV specials. I'm very intrigued by Douglas Carter Beane's new twist on the tale- and this cast is pretty unbelievable, top to bottom. An especially remarkable "diva" roster punctuated by some of the best in the business: Osnes, Harris, Clark, Harada, Mindelle... and it goes on.

Pippin. Another one of my favorite scores that I have yet to experience in a fully-staged production. I've been eagerly awaiting a true revival since the World AIDS Day benefit concert about seven years ago. If the buzz from Boston is any indication, this should be something pretty special.

I'm spending a few weeks next month in London and Amsterdam, where I'll be eating, relaxing and seeing many shows with my dear Aussie friend Hinh. We have plans so far to see Viva Forever! (the Spice Girls may or may not have been in the first batch of CD's I ever bought with my own money, along with "Jagged Little Pill" and "Doggystyle"), the new production of my beloved Chess at the Union Theatre, a concert staging of The Secret Garden at King's Head and the West End's long-running Les Miz (currently featuring Tam Mutu, Gerónimo Rauch, Linzi Hateley and Danielle Hope among others). Not sure which I'm most excited for, and I still have space in my schedule for one or two more shows!

Matilda. I know, it's an easy choice given the record-breaking Olivier Award sweep and all-around positive chatter. I grew up loving the book, so the idea of a large-scale well-done stage adaptation is extremely exciting. Also will be great to have Lauren Ward back on Broadway. Her work in Violet places her firmly on my Mount Rushmore of musical theatre.

Lea Salonga and Norm Lewis doing Ragtime in concert at Avery Fisher Hall. Too perfect.

The Last Five Years at Second Stage. This breathtaking music has really held up over time as something I never get sick of. I played this CD non-stop in my car during my "freeway commute" days and still bust it out on the iTunes at least once a week. I was able to attend the Southern California and Boston premieres of the show. Really looking forward to seeing what they do with it in this new production with two young musical theatre superstars.

Cinderella stars Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana
Photo by Carol Rosegg

ANDREW GANS, Senior Editor

Clifford Odets' Golden Boy was perhaps the dramatic highlight of the first half of the season, so my hopes are high for the revival of his 1949 play The Big Knife, especially with a cast led by Bobby Cannavale, Marin Ireland and Adam Rapp.

Although I've never read the Roald Dahl book, word of mouth is so strong for Matilda The Musical—plus the fact that the show won the most Olivier Awards in West End history—that it may be the musical I'm most eagerly anticipating.

I'm also quite intrigued by the creative pairing of rocker Cyndi Lauper (score) and Broadway veteran Harvey Fierstein (book), so the new musical they've created, Kinky Boots, which arrives in March, is also high on my list.

I've been a fan of Pippin since my high school performed the Stephen Schwartz musical when I was a freshman. Also an admirer of Diane Paulus' Hair and Porgy and Bess, I'm expecting another top-notch production from this Tony-nominated director.

Who could resist a talented trio of divas—Laura Osnes and Tony winners Victoria Clark and Harriet Harris—in the reworked version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella? Not I.

This one is a bit of a cheat, since I just caught it, but Laurie Metcalf's performance in the gripping, moving drama The Other Place is so brilliant, I hope to make a return trip to the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.

On the concert front, I'm most thrilled about the prospect of seeing the always-sensational Elaine Paige, whose voice remains a force of nature, play Town Hall in March.

And, should the forthcoming London production of Dear World—starring the inimitable Tony-winning talent Betty Buckley—make its way across the pond, it would be a dear (and exciting) world, indeed.

Betty Buckley
Photo by Myriam Santos

DAVID GEWIRTZMAN, Playbill Special Projects

Dear World (London)
Oh to hear Betty Buckley sing "I Don't Want to Know" – just the thought of it gives me goosebumps. Then again, I'd jump at just about any chance to see a performance of Dear World to finally find out how all of those wonderful, underappreciated Jerry Herman tunes fit into the musical. I still remember the first time I listened to the cast recording and after hearing "The Tea Party," thinking to myself, "I have no idea what is going on in this song, but it's the best thing I've ever heard."

I'll Eat You Last (Broadway)
It's Bette Midler. In a play. On Broadway. Need I say more?

Parsifal (Metropolitan Opera)
As anyone who saw his Siegmund in the Met's production of Die Walküre can attest to, Jonas Kaufmann singing Wagner is a beautiful thing. (Actually, Jonas Kaufmann singing pretty much anything is a beautiful thing.) So the prospect of seeing him take on the title role in Parsifal makes the Met's new production the most exciting event of the spring opera season. That François Girard's production opened to fabulous reviews when it premiered in Lyon last year doesn't hurt any either.

Passion (Off-Broadway)
Finally a chance to see one of Sondheim's most beautiful scores performed live, in the intimacy of Classic Stage Company's theatre. Melissa Errico and Judy Kuhn seem perfect for the roles of Clara and Fosca. And though I'm not always the biggest fan of John Doyle's style of directing, this does seem like a brilliant match of director, material and performance space.

Really Really/Nikolai and the Others (Off-Broadway) I'm a huge fan of David Cromer, having travelled to Chicago and Glencoe, IL (A Streetcar Named Desire, Cherrywood, Sweet Bird of Youth); Williamstown, MA (Streetcar again); and of course across New York City (Our Town, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Tribes) to see various productions he's directed. Lucky me, he's directing TWO plays in New York this season: Really Really at MCC, and Nikolai and the Others at Lincoln Center Theater. All the better since I need my vacation days for a trip to London to see Dear World.

Betsy Wolfe


The Last Five Years (Off-Broadway). When the news broke about a Second Stage Theatre revival of The Last Five Years, I could not wait for this to arrive! I can't express how much I enjoy storytelling through contemporary song, and the work of Jason Robert Brown — a master of contemporary scores — has had such an influence on my musical taste. (Also, how exciting is it that Brown will be directing the show himself?) The concept alone — seeing two sides of a story simultaneously told in chronological and reverse-chronological order — is already so thought-provoking… Add on a score that I've been listening to (and belting along to) for years, and I'm sold. Plus, Betsy Wolfe's limitless range (check out her gorgeous soprano in The Mystery of Edwin Drood before she's gone, and listen to her sassy belt on Ryan Scott Oliver's 35mm album) will be perfect for Cathy Hyatt.

Matilda (Broadway). After watching the highlights from the London production, I was immediately excited by the Broadway transfer. Angry children jumping around on stage? Count me in! This production looks so dark and creative, I'm sure the twisted ten-year-old inside me will be on the edge of his seat.

Jekyll & Hyde (Broadway). There was definitely a point in my life when I was obsessed with the original Broadway cast recording of Jekyll & Hyde — I simply cannot resist a good Frank Wildhorn power ballad. Since I didn't get to see the production in its first Broadway incarnation, I'm looking forward to the re-envisioned revival. Although I believe that Linda Eder and Robert Cuccioli are irreplaceable, I can't turn down a good riff or vocal embellishment from Deborah Cox or Constantine Maroulis. And, if you listen to the recently released concept recording, there is a lot of riffing.

In the Heights: In Concert. The first time I saw In the Heights was with my college musical theatre class on the final preview before the show's Broadway opening. The energy inside the Richard Rodgers Theatre was indescribable. Coming from the melting pot that is central New Jersey, with an eclectic group of theatre students — from all backgrounds, cultures and ways of life — the piece resonated so strongly with each and every one of us. Lin-Manuel Miranda's language was relatable, the music transcended beyond "musical theatre," and Broadway felt like a place that could be shared by all. At intermission, it felt like dreams really could come true. I think I will relive all of these feelings Feb. 11.

I'm also looking forward to the Broadway debut of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, starring Laura Osnes, whose voice is perfect for the title role; Diane Paulus' re-imagined Pippin, which looks like a gorgeous production from the pictures taken at the American Repertory Theater; and Hands on a Hardbody, which I don't know much about (new work is exciting!).

Bette Midler
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

ADAM HETRICK, Staff Writer

Far From Heaven. The Williamstown Theater Festival developmental production of this new musical by Scott Frankel, Michael Korie and Richard Greenberg showed great promise last summer. I admit, I didn't see the film until weeks before my trip to Williamstown, and the writers pay homage to Todd Haynes' cinematic work, while finding new pathways for the musical. I'm very excited to see the how the work has grown since last summer when it premieres Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons.

Lucky Guy. Two words: Nora Ephron. The night she died I ran home to watch "Heartburn" while New York City gave her an incredible summer sunset. My love for her writing, and the chance to see Tom Hanks reunite with her material – in a new play that promises to capture New York City in the 1980's and late journalist Mike McAlary – makes this a highlight of the Broadway season for me.

Pippin. I was swept away by Hair when Diane Paulus brought it back to audiences a few years ago, and really admired her staging of Porgy and Bess. I've never seen Pippin on stage, so I'm really intrigued to experience this new Broadway production and go on this journey with Paulus and Stephen Schwartz in a new circus-inspired take on the tale.

I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers. Bette Midler as Sue Mengers on Broadway?! I don't know if I really need to say anything more, except that I hope they throw in one of Christine's quotes from "The Last of Sheila" for good measure.

The Testament of Mary. Fiona Shaw and Deborah Warner blew me away with Medea and Happy Days. The idea of bringing the story of Christ to life through Mary's perspective, one which is likely to bring about a lot of heated debate this Broadway season, is the kind of social dialogue I love in theatre.

Hit the Wall. This play about the birth of the Stonewall Riots premiered to acclaim in Chicago. I have loved everything that Scott Morfee, Jean Doumanian and Tom Wirtshafter produced at the Barrow Street Theatre, so I have faith this is going to be a great evening of Off-Broadway theatre. It's especially poignant to me, having stood outside the Stonewall Inn the night Gay Marriage was made legal in New York State, to see this play about the beginning of our revolution, just blocks away from where it took place.

The Assembled Parties. A new Richard Greenberg play on Broadway starring Judith Light and Jessica Hecht as two affluent sisters living on New York City's Upper West Side sounds very promising.

David Larsen in Hands on a Hardbody.
Photo by Kevin Berne

KENNETH JONES, Managing Editor

Rigoletto (Metropolitan Opera). Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening, American Idiot) resets the Verdi opera in 1960s Las Vegas with his favorite Broadway designers, including the visionary Tony winner Christine Jones. Ain't that a kick in the head?

Belleville (New York Theatre Workshop, Off-Broadway). Amy Herzog's delicate way with a drama in 4000 Miles and The Great God Pan returns Off-Broadway with a new play about a young married American couple that moves from the Midwest to Paris. Anne Kauffman directs.

The Flick (Playwrights Horizons, Off-Broadway). The tiny hurts and hopes of the people in Annie Baker's Circle Mirror Transformation (directed by Sam Gold) moved and intrigued me so much that I can't wait to see her new play about ushers in a Massachusetts movie house. Gold, also the director of Baker's Uncle Vanya adaptation in 2012, directs.

Old Hats (Signature Theatre, Off-Broadway). Fool Moon clowns Bill Irwin and David Shiner reunite for an original piece using music, technology and movement. Anything that challenges the well-made, well-ordered world of American plays makes me happy. Send in the clowns.

Hands On a Hardbody (Broadway). The new musical by Doug Wright, Amanda Green and Phish pop star Trey Anastasio gives voice to underdogs seeking to win a pickup truck in an endurance contest. Sounds like a cultural pulse-taking whose time has come. Keith Carradine, Hunter Foster and Mary Gordon Murray are among stars. Neil Pepe directs.

The Assembled Parties (Broadway). Richard Greenberg's new play about tensions in a New York City family over a couple of decades is sure to include fireworks. Judith Light and Jessica Hecht are among stars in director Lynne Meadow's production for Manhattan Theatre Club.

Bertie Carvel in Matilda The Musical.
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

BLAKE ROSS, Playbill Magazine Editor

Lucky Guy. The life and career of one of New York's last great newspaper men, the late Mike McAlary, read like a perfect drama. He won the Pulitzer late in life for his expose on the Abner Louima case, but his career hit a low point when he famously accused a woman of faking a rape and was proven wrong. Tom Hanks stars as McAlary in this play – the last one Nora Ephron wrote before her passing – with George C. Wolfe directing. Talk about a trifecta of talent! I predict this will be one of the first big commercial and critical successes of the spring.

Bertie Carvel in Matilda. From what I've heard and read about Matilda, I'm already hedging my bets that Bertie Carvel will be a major contender for a Tony for his portrayal of Trunchbull.

Hands on a Hardbody. This new musical from Phish frontman Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green has been called everything from the new Once to a modern-day Working mixed in with A Chorus Line. That's enough to pique my interest. Plus, I can't wait to see all the Phish heads this brings to Broadway!

Here Lies Love at the Public. Another new musical from music industry bigwigs is on my radar this spring. Here Lies Love has a score from Talking Heads' David Byrne and Fat Boy Slim and is about Filipino First Lady Imedla Marcos and her obsession with shoes. Right up this shoe lover's alley!

Water By the Spoonful at Second Stage. Quiara Alergia Hudes' Water By the Spoonful came seemingly out of nowhere to nab the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama besting higher-profile shows like Other Desert Cities. It has never been seen in New York before coming to Second Stage this month. I'm very much looking forward to seeing this new play from a true star on the rise!

Gavin Creel in The Book of Mormon.
Photo by Joan Marcus

MARK SHENTON, London Correspondent

Once (Phoenix Theatre, London)
Broadway and the West End may be separated by a giant ocean, but talent and shows move freely between the two world capitals of English-speaking theatre. The two most recent Tony Award-winning Best Musicals, 2011's The Book of Mormon and 2012's Once, are both transferring to the West End, less than a month apart, while the UK's biggest award winner Matilda heads to Broadway. It will, of course, be interesting to see how they fare; success is never guaranteed in the other territory, though massive marketing spends for Mormon in London and Matilda on Broadway are certainly helping to create brand awareness.

But Once could be the sleeper hit London needs – and is a homecoming of sorts, too, for this quietly reflective, moving stage version of the Irish indie film hit, since most of the creative team are Anglo-Irish, including director John Tiffany, book writer Enda Walsh, designer Bob Crowley and orchestrator Martin Lowe, each of whom won Tony Awards for their efforts, plus Tony-nominated choreographer Steven Hoggett. It's interesting that they had to come first to New York Theatre Workshop to create the show, rather than originate it closer to home; but now the show is heading to the West End's Phoenix Theatre from March 16, via a try-out in Dublin first at the Gaiety Theatre there from Feb. 22.

The Book of Mormon is importing the two leads of the U.S. national tour; Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner as Elder Price and Elder Cunningham respectively, to head up the cast at London's Prince of Wales from Feb. 25; while Broadway will get to see the inimitable Bertie Carvel as Mrs. Trunchbull in Matilda, at the Shubert from March 4. I plan to be at the opening nights of all three!

A Chorus Line (London Palladium, London)
I also can't wait to see A Chorus Line back on the London stage. The transfer of the original Broadway production to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane was the first West End musical I saw after moving to London in 1979, on the last day of its run then; this is the first time it has been back since, with Bob Avian, co-choreographer on the original production, recreating it at the London Palladium from Feb. 2 with a new British cast led by John Partridge as Zach, Scarlett Strallen as Cassie, Leigh Zimmerman as Sheila, and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as Diana.

I'm also looking forward to seeing Jerry Herman's 1969 Broadway flop Dear World receive its British premiere at the Charing Cross Theatre, beginning performances from Feb. 4. Broadway's Betty Buckley will play the role originally created by Angela Lansbury, joined by a cast that also includes Paul Nicholas, Peter Land, Robert Meadmore and Stuart Matthew Price, under the direction of Gillian Lynne, choreographer of the original productions of Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.

Pippin (Broadway's Music Box Theatre)

London recently had a seriously revamped, futuristic outing for Stephen Schwartz and Roger Hirson's 1972 Broadway musical Pippin, set as if inside a giant video game, at the Menier Chocolate Factory. But now, as the show marks its 40th anniversary, it'll be great to see it back on Broadway, via the circus-based production recently premiered at Cambridge's A.R.T. It is directed by Diane Paulus, whose controversial take on Porgy and Bess also travelled from A.R.T. to Broadway. This has long been one of my all-time favourite Broadway scores, with my favourite theatre song of all time: "Corner of the Sky."

Douglas Hodge
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)
After the success of Matilda, I can't wait to see another Roald Dahl story make its way to the stage, when Sam Mendes – fresh from directing "Skyfall" – returns to the theatre to direct a new stage adpatation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane from May 18. Featuring a book by David Greig and new songs from Hairspray's Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, it will star Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka, returning to musicals for the first time since his Olivier and Tony-winning performance in La Cage Aux Folles.

The Audience (Gielgud)/Peter and Alice (Wyndham's)
There is nothing like a Dame (or two) -- and two of our most illustrious cross-over stage-to-Oscar-winning film dames are both returning to the London stage to play real-life characters: in The Audience, Helen Mirren reprises the role of Britain's ruling monarch that she previously did to Oscar-winning glory in "The Queen," at the Gielgud from Feb. 15; while in John Logan's Peter and Alice, Judi Dench is Alice Liddell Hargreaves (the original Alice in Wonderland) opposite Ben Whishaw as Peter Llewelyn Davies (the original Peter Pan), at the Noel Coward Theatre from March 9.

Of new plays on Broadway, I'm also looking forward to seeing Tom Hanks in Nora Ephron's Lucky Guy (at the Broadhurst from March 1), and Nathan Lane in Douglas Carter Beane's The Nance (at the Lyceum from March 21).

The Cripple of Inishmaan (Noel Coward)/Much Ado About Nothing (Old Vic)
There's lots of star power in the West End – led by the Michael Grandage company season of productions at the Noel Coward of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan with Daniel Radcliffe from June 8. What an interesting, post-Harry Potter career young Radcliffe is having: After making his West End and Broadway stage debut in the buff in Equus, he has proved that he is not bluffing when it comes to testing his mettle as a stage actor, segueing to a musical (Broadway's How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying) and now McDonagh's dark Irish drama. He is followed at the Coward by two classics: Sheridan Smith as Titania and David Walliams as Bottom in A Midsmmer Night's Dream from Sept. 7, then Jude Law as Henry V from Nov. 13.

It will also be fun to see Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones reuniting after their previous Broadway and West End triumphs in Driving Miss Daisy to star as an unusually older Beatrice and Benedick in Mark Rylance's production of Much Ado About Nothing (at the Old Vic from Sept. 7).