From The Mountaintop to The Columnist, A Look at the 2011-12 Broadway Season: The Plays
By Playbill Staff
March 24, 2012
With the 2011-12 Broadway season coming to a close next month (April 26 is the cut-off date for eligibility for the 66th Annual Tony Awards), Playbill.com offers a three-part look at the current season. Last up are the plays.
From Katori Hall's award-winning Mountaintop, which co-starred Oscar nominees Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Basset, to The Columnist, the final new play of the season, here is an overview of the 15 plays that have opened or will open in time for the 2012 Tonys, which will take place June 10 at the Beacon Theatre.
Read Playbill.com's look at the 2011-12 musicals and play revivals. Show: The Mountaintop Theatre: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre Preview: Sept. 22, 2011 Opening: Oct. 13, 2011 Closing: Jan. 22, 2012 Creators: Play by Katori Hall. Direction by Kenny Leon. Original Principal Cast: Samuel L. Jackson as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Angela Bassett as Camae. Synopsis: Taking place on April 3, 1968, The Mountaintop, press notes state, is a "gripping reimagining of events the night before the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After delivering his legendary 'I've Been to the Mountaintop' speech, an exhausted Dr. King retires to his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis while a storm rages outside. When a mysterious young woman delivers room service, King is forced to confront his past, as well as his legacy to his people."
Watch Playbill Video's interviews from opening night:
Show: Relatively Speaking Theatre: Brooks Atkinson Theatre Preview: Sept. 20, 2011 Opening: Oct. 20, 2011 Closing: Jan. 29, 2012 Creators: Plays by Elaine May, Woody Allen and Ethan Coen. Direction by John Turturro. Original Principal Cast: Caroline Aaron, Bill Army, Lisa Emery, Ari Graynor, Steve Guttenberg, Danny Hoch, Julie Kavner, Allen Lewis Rickman, Grant Shaud, Marlo Thomas, Katherine Borowitz, Jason Kravits, Richard Libertini, Mark Linn-Baker and Patricia O'Connell. Synopsis: Relatively Speaking comprises three one-act comedies, each springing from different branches of the family tree. Coen's Talking Cure "uncovers the sort of insanity that can come only from family," May's George is Dead "explores the hilarity of death," and Allen's Honeymoon Motel "invites you to the sort of wedding day you won't forget."
Show: Chinglish Theatre: Longacre Theatre Preview: Oct. 11, 2011 Opening: Oct. 27, 2011 Closing: Jan. 29, 2012 Creators: Play by David Henry Hwang. Direction by Leigh Silverman. Original Principal Cast: Jennifer Lim as Xi Yan, Gary Wilmes as Daniel Cavanaugh, Angela Lin as Miss Qian/Prosecutor Li, Christine Lin as Miss Zhao, Stephen Pucci as Peter Timms, Johnny Wu as Bing/Judge Xu Geming and Larry Lei Zhang as Minister Cai Guoliang. Synopsis: According to the producers, "Chinglish is the new comedy about the misadventures of miscommunication. It is the story of an American businessman desperate to launch a new enterprise in China. There are only three things standing in his way: He can't speak the language. He can't learn the customs. And he's falling in love with the one woman he absolutely can't have."
Show: Other Desert Cities Theatre: Booth Theatre Preview: Oct. 12, 2011 Opening: Nov. 3, 2011 Closing: Open-ended Creators: Play by Jon Robin Baitz. Direction by Joe Mantello. Original Principal Cast: Stockard Channing as Polly Wyeth, Stacy Keach as Lyman Wyeth, Rachel Griffiths as Brooke Wyeth, Judith Light as Silda Grauman and Thomas Sadoski as Trip Wyeth. Synopsis: In Other Desert Cities, according to Lincoln Center Theater, "Brooke Wyeth (Griffiths), a once promising novelist, returns home after a six year absence to celebrate Christmas in Palm Springs with her parents, former members of the Reagan inner-circle (Channing and Keach), her brother (Sadoski) and her aunt (Light). When Brooke announces that she is about to publish a memoir focusing on an explosive chapter in the family’s history, the holiday reunion is thrown into turmoil and the Wyeths are both bound together and torn apart as they struggle to come to terms with their past."
Show: Venus in Fur Theatre: Samuel J. Friedman Theatre Preview: Oct. 13, 2011 Opening: Nov. 8, 2011 Closing: Dec. 18, 2011 Theatre: Lyceum Theatre Opening: Feb. 7, 2012 Closing: June 17, 2012 Creators: Play by David Ives. Direction by Walter Bobbie. Original Principal Cast: Nina Arianda as Vanda and Hugh Dancy as Thomas. Synopsis: According to producers, "Vanda (Arianda) is a preternaturally talented young actress determined to land the lead in Thomas' (Dancy) new play based on the classic erotic novel, 'Venus in Fur.' Her emotionally-charged audition for the gifted but demanding playwright/director becomes an electrifying game of cat and mouse, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, seduction and power, love and sex."
Show: Seminar Theatre: John Golden Theatre Preview: Oct. 27, 2011 Opening: Nov. 20, 2011 Closing: Open-ended Creators: Play by Theresa Rebeck. Direction by Sam Gold. Original Principal Cast: Alan Rickman as Leonard, Lily Rabe as Kate, Hamish Linklater as Martin, Jerry O'Connell as Douglas and Hettienne Park as Izzy. Synopsis: In Seminar, according to the producers, "four aspiring young novelists sign up for private writing classes with Leonard, an international literary figure. Under his recklessly brilliant and unorthodox instruction, some thrive and others flounder, alliances are made and broken, sex is used as a weapon and hearts are unmoored. The wordplay is not the only thing that turns vicious as innocence collides with experience in this provocative new comedy."
Show: Stick Fly Theatre: Cort Theatre Preview: Nov. 18, 2011 Opening: Dec. 8, 2011 Closing: Feb. 26, 2012 Creators: Play by Lydia R. Diamond. Direction by Kenny Leon. Original Principal Cast: Dulé Hill as Spoon (Kent) LeVay, Mekhi Phifer as Flip (Harold) LeVay, Tracie Thoms as Taylor, Ruben Santiago-Hudson as Joe LeVay, Rosie Benton as Kimber and Condola Rashad as Cheryl. Synopsis: According to producers, "It was supposed to be a relaxing weekend at the family home on Martha’s Vineyard… until the baggage got unpacked. Set at the elegant summer home of the well-to-do LeVay family, Stick Fly begins when two adult sons bring their significant others (one a fiancée, the other a new girlfriend) home to meet their parents for the first time. Soon, secrets are revealed, civilities are dropped and identities are explored in a harsh new light. Race and rivalry, class and family, all come together for an explosive comedy of manners about today’s complex world."
Show: Shatner's World: We Just Live in It Theatre: Music Box Theatre Preview: Feb. 14, 2012 Opening: Feb. 16, 2012 Closing: March 4, 2012 Creators: Play by William Shatner. Direction by Scott Faris. Original Principal Cast: William Shatner as himself. Synopsis: The two-hour show, according to press notes, takes "audiences on a voyage through Shatner's life and career, from Shakespearean stage actor to internationally known icon and raconteur, known as much for his unique persona as for his expansive body of work on television and film."
Show: End of the Rainbow Theatre: Belasco Theatre Preview: March 19, 2012 Opening: April 2, 2012 Closing: Open-ended Creators: Play by Peter Quilter. Direction by Terry Johnson. Original Principal Cast: Tracie Bennett as Judy Garland, Michael Cumpsty as Anthony, Tom Pelphrey as Mickey Deans and Jay Russell as BBC Interviewer/Porter/ASM. Synopsis: According to the producers, "End of the Rainbow is set in December 1968 and Judy Garland is about to make her comeback... again. In a London hotel room preparing for a series of concerts, with both her new young fiancé and her adoring accompanist, Garland struggles to get 'beyond the rainbow' with her signature cocktail of talent, tenacity, and razor-sharp wit. This savagely funny drama offers unique insight into the inner conflict that inspired and consumed one of the most beloved figures in American popular culture. End of the Rainbow features some of Garland’s most memorable songs, performed with the show-stopping gusto for which she will always be remembered."
Show: Magic/Bird Theatre: Longacre Theatre Preview: March 21, 2012 Opening: April 11, 2012 Closing: Open-ended Creators: Play by Eric Simonson. Direction by Thomas Kail. Original Principal Cast: Kevin Daniels as Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Tug Coker as Larry Bird. Synopsis: Here's how the producers bill Magic/Bird: "At the heart of one of the fiercest rivalries in sports history, two of the greatest basketball players of all-time battled for three championships, bragging rights, and the future of their sport in the 1980s. Johnson and Bird electrified the nation on the court, reinvigorated the NBA, and turned their rivalry into one of the greatest and most famous friendships in professional sports."
Show: Peter and the Starcatcher Theatre: Brooks Atkinson Theatre Preview: March 28, 2012 Opening: April 15, 2012 Closing: Open-ended Creators: Play by Rick Elice. Direction by Roger Rees. Original Principal Cast: Christian Borle as Black Stache, Celia Keenan-Bolger as Molly and Adam Chanler-Berat as Boy. Synopsis: According to the producers, "In this innovative and imaginative new play based on The New York Times best selling Disney-Hyperion novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, a company of 12 actors plays more than a hundred unforgettable characters, all on a journey to answer the century-old question: How did Peter Pan become The Boy Who Never Grew Up? This epic origin story of one of popular culture’s most enduring and beloved characters proves that an audience's imagination can be the most captivating place in the world."
Show: One Man, Two Guvnors Theatre: Music Box Theatre Preview: April 6, 2012 Opening: April 18, 2012 Closing: Open-ended Creators: Play by Richard Bean. Direction by Nicholas Hytner. Original Principal Cast: James Corden as Francis Henshall, Oliver Chris as Stanley Stubbers, Jemima Rooper as Rachel Crabble, Tom Edden as Alfie, Martyn Ellis as Harry Dangle, Trevor Laird as Lloyd Boateng, Claire Lams as Pauline Clench and Fred Ridgeway as Charlie Clench. Synopsis: According to production notes, "In One Man, Two Guvnors, Corden stars as Francis Henshall [the title's "one man"]. Always-famished and easily-confused, Henshall agrees to work for a local gangster as well as a criminal in hiding [ the "two guvnors"], both of whom are linked in a tangled web of schemes and romantic associations... none of which Francis can keep straight. So he has to do everything in his power to keep his two guvnors from meeting while trying to eat anything in sight along the way. Simple. Falling trousers, flying fish heads, star-crossed lovers, cross-dressing mobsters and a fabulous on-stage band are just some of what awaits [in the acclaimed] play…"
Show: Clybourne Park Theatre: Walter Kerr Theatre Preview: March 26, 2012 Opening: April 19, 2012 Closing: Open-ended Creators: Play by Bruce Norris. Direction by Pam MacKinnon. Original Principal Cast: Crystal A. Dickinson as Francine/Lena, Brendan Griffin as Jim/Tom/Kenneth, Damon Gupton as Albert/Kevin, Christina Kirk as Bev/Kathy, Annie Parisse as Betsy/Lindsey, Jeremy Shamos as Karl/Steve and Frank Wood as Russ/Dan. Synopsis: In Clybourne Park, which also won the Olivier Award for Best New Play, "Norris imagines the history of one of the more important houses in literary history, both before and after it becomes a focal point in Lorraine Hansberry's classic A Raisin in the Sun," according to previous press notes. "In 1959, the house, which is located in a white neighborhood at 406 Clybourne St. in Chicago, is sold to an African-American family (the Younger family in A Raisin in the Sun). Then in 2009 after the neighborhood has changed into an African-American community, the house is sold to a white couple. It is through this prism of property ownership that Norris' lacerating sense of humor dissects race relations and middle class hypocrisies in America."
Show: The Lyons Theatre: Cort Theatre Preview: April 5, 2012 Opening: April 23, 2012 Closing: Open-ended Creators: Play by Nicky Silver. Direction by Mark Brokaw. Original Principal Cast: Linda Lavin as Rita Lyons, Dick Latessa as Ben Lyons, Michael Esper as Curtis Lyons, Kate Jennings Grant as Lisa Lyons, Brenda Pressley as Nurse and Gregory Woddell as Brian. Synopsis: Here's how the play, which debuted Off-Broadway earlier this season, is billed: "The Lyons is a funny and edgy work starring Linda Lavin as Rita Lyons, the indomitable matriarch of a family at a major crossroads: her husband is dying, her son's in a dubious relationship, her daughter's struggling to stay sober and on top of it all, she can't settle on a new design for the living room."
Check out production photos from the show. Show: The Columnist Theatre: Samuel J. Friedman Theatre Preview: April 4, 2012 Opening: April 25, 2012 Closing: June 17, 2012 Creators: Play by David Auburn. Direction by Daniel Sullivan. Original Principal Cast: John Lithgow as Joseph Alsop, Margaret Colin as Susan Alsop, Boyd Gaines as Stewart Alsop, Stephen Kunken as David Halberstam, Grace Gummer as Abigail and Brian J. Smith as Andrei. Synopsis: According to Manhattan Theatre Club, "Columnists are kings in midcentury America and Joseph Alsop (Tony and Emmy Award winner John Lithgow) wears the crown. Joe is beloved, feared and courted in equal measure by the Washington political world at whose center he sits. But as the '60s dawn and America undergoes dizzying change, the intense political drama Joe is embroiled in becomes deeply personal as well."