SPRING 2015 BROADWAY PREVIEW: Naughty Puppets, British Royalty and a Fun Home

News   SPRING 2015 BROADWAY PREVIEW: Naughty Puppets, British Royalty and a Fun Home Playbill.com offers a look at the spring 2015 Broadway season, which includes Larry David's Broadway bow and the new musical adaptations of Dr. Zhivago and An American in Paris.

Larry David
Larry David

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Only an entertainment figure as big as Larry David could get away with giving his play a name as infelicitous as Fish in the Dark and expect success.

But success is likely what David will find when his Broadway debut lands at the Cort Theatre Feb. 2, 2015. “Highly anticipated” is the phrase that’s usually trotted out here for such attractions, and its earned here, not least because the “Seinfeld” co-creator and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star is actually acting in the piece, alongside a fine ensemble including Jayne Houdyshell and Rosie Perez, all under the hand of golden-girl director Anna D. Shapiro. This Fish won’t be in the dark for long, what with all the spotlights.

If you’re the sort of American who’s obsessed with the British royalty, this is the season for you. Helen Mirren will hit town Feb. 14 at the Schoenfeld to play the only monarch most of us Yanks have ever known, Elizabeth II, in Peter Morgan’s The Audience. The title is derived from the weekly audience the Queen has given her various Prime Ministers at Buckingham Palace since assuming the throne in 1952. Playing some of the assorted PMs are Judith Ivey (Thatcher) and Dylan Baker (Major). Stephen Daldry directs.

If that royal history isn’t antique enough for you, there’s Wolf Hall, Parts 1 and 2. In the twin works, writers Hilary Mantel (novels) and Mike Poulton (adaptation) take you back to the days of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell — figures who have rarely been known to disappoint, dramatically speaking. The show, which began at the Royal Shakespeare Company, will play the Winter Garden starting March 20. The cast includes Ben Miles, Lydia Leonard and Nathaniel Parker. Broadway producers seem to be finally looking beyond the usual canonic titles by Williams, Miller, Albee and O’Neill to find some plays of more recent vintage to revive. The Main Stem will get its first Wendy Wasserstein revival Feb. 23 when The Heidi Chronicles — the play that made the late writer’s reputation — is brought back at the Music Box. “Mad Men” star Elisabeth Moss will play the title heroine, who sees the opportunities for women change markedly from the ‘60s to the ‘80s. Jason Biggs and Bryce Pinkham are the two main men in her life, and Pam MacKinnon directs.

Also of recent memory is Skylight, one of the more commercial of playwright David Hare’s efforts over the years. The three-hander, which mixes politics and romance as only Hare can, returns to Broadway 20 years after its debut, with Bill Nighy, Carey Mulligan and Matthew Beard in the cast. Stephen Daldry, who is going to have a very busy spring, directs, at the Golden starting March 16.

Steven Boyer
Steven Boyer Photo by Joan Marcus

Off-Broadway lends Broadway two of the more challenging and unique offerings this spring. On March 27, at Circle in the Square, the praised Fun Home gets its Broadway bow. The autobiographical musical by Lisa Kron (book), Jeanine Tesori (music and lyrics), and Alison Bechdel (the graphic novel that inspired it all) is about a graphic novelist named, yes, Alison who tries to dissect the life of the volatile man whose temperament and secrets defined her life.

At the Booth, meanwhile, is Hand to God, Robert Askins’ little play that could. Its Off-Off-Broadway and Off-Broadway stagings behind it, the tale of a devout young Christian man and his foul-mouthed sock puppet is finally ready for its Broadway moment. The ensemble includes original cast members Steven Boyer and Geneva Carr and begins March 14.

Geographically speaking, the spring musical line-up offers a bit of everything: Paris, Moscow, the Far East and Vegas. The last is the locale of the latest musical from Jason Robert Brown, Honeymoon in Vegas. Based on the Andrew Bergman movie comedy of the same name (Bergman’s back to pen the book), the romantic caper stars Rob McClure, Tony Danza and Brynn O'Malley. Opening is Jan. 15 at the Nederlander.

Finding Neverland, the London-based musical telling of how J.M. Barrie came to create Peter Pan, has been through so many incarnations in the past few seasons it’s a wonder the show is finding Broadway. But it did, with a new Barrie in Matthew Morrison, and some fine additional cast members in Laura Michelle Kelley, Kelsey Grammer and Carolee Carmello. March 15 is the first preview at the Lunt-Fontanne.

Kelli O’Hara, one of the reigning queens of the musical theatre, will play a British schoolteacher in the 1860s-Siam-set Rodgers and Hammerstein show The King and I. Bartlett Sher directs this latest Broadway go-round of the classic musical, starting March 12 at the Beaumont. A different Yankee fish out of water is featured in a stage adaptation of the classic movie musical An American in Paris, which arrives at the Palace on March 13. Robert Fairchild steps into the role made famous by Gene Kelly, and Leanne Cope is his Leslie Caron. Christopher Wheeldon directs the piece, which is crammed full of Gershwin songs.

Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal Photo by © Pari Dukovic

Russia is the chilly setting of Dr. Zhivago, a new musical by Lucy Simon, Michael Kori, Amy Powers and Michael Weller, based on the famous Boris Pasternak novel about a young physician and his beautiful mistress who get swept up in the Bolshevik Revolution. The long-in-development show, directed by Des McAnuff, begins at the Broadway Theatre March 27.

With no fixed address, but ever hurtling via high-speed train from Chicago to New York, are the characters in a new production of On the Twentieth Century, the 1978 musical adaptation of Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht’s 1932 showbiz comedy Twentieth Century. Peter Gallagher plays the megalomaniacal Broadway producer trying every trick to coax Kristin Chenoweth’s Hollywood star back to the stage. Previews begin Feb. 12. Scott Ellis directs.

Fast-tracked for a Broadway premiere beginning March 23 at the St. James Theatre is Something Rotten!, a new musical comedy set during Shakespeare's time — in which two brothers, desperate to write a hit play of their own in Shakespeare's shadow, end up creating the next big thing, a musical. Helmed by Tony Award-winning Book of Mormon director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw, the show is written by brothers Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick. It is expected that Christian Borle and Brian D'Arcy James, who were part of a well-received fall workshop of the musical, will reprise their performances.

Among the new plays on the way are Constellations, a Nick Payne work from London about “the boundless potential of a first encounter” — in this case, an encounter between actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson. It opens Jan. 13 at the Friedman. Later on at the same theatre, starting April 1, Joe Mantello directs Lisa D’Amour’s Airline Highway, a play set at a once-glamorous motel on New Orleans' infamous Airline Highway, where a collection of strippers, hustlers, and philosophers come together to celebrate the life of an iconic burlesque performer.

Finally, actor David Hyde Pierce steps into the director’s chair for It Shoulda Been You, a new musical by Barbara Anselmi (music), Brian Hargrove (book and lyrics), at the Atkinson from March 17. The setting is a wedding gone wrong and the group of players set to enact the chaos include Tyne Daly, Harriet Harris, Sierra Boggess, Lisa Howard, David Burtka, Edward Hibbert and Steve Rosen.

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