The New York Season — Always in Flux

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By Karen Isaacs

 The New York theater season has officially started, but for the most par, shows are only in preview.  Every season starts optimistically — we all look forward to great performances, wonderful new plays and musicals, stellar revivals and more.  Sometimes we are rewarded and sometimes when we look back over the season, we are disappointed.

Previews of the New York theater scene are difficult.  Many shows that will arrive in the Spring are still not definite — some may disappear and others will suddenly find a theater and open on Broadway.  Stars will have scheduling conflicts or suddenly become available.  Off-Broadway is even more in flux.  But I will give you my thoughts on some of the shows that may be big hits at the box office, big hits critically or major disappointments.


The Plays — Revivals

At least at the moment, the revivals are plays that are less commonly seen. No productions of Streetcar, Cat on a Hot Tim Roof, Death of Salesman or some of the other frequently plays have been announced.

Plus, some of my favorite playwrights are represented — A. R. Gurney, Kaufman and Hart, Tom Stoppard, Edward Albee and Terence McNally.

            Ever changing pairs of stars will grace A. R. Gurney’s sweet Love Letters.  Among those already signed up are Brian Dennehy, Mia Farrow, Carol Burnett, Alan Alda, Diana Rigg, Anjelica Huston, Martin Sheen and probably many more. I have fond memories of seeing this play at Long Wharf.

Anytime you can see James Earl Jones on stage is a red letter day.  He’s now in previews with the Kaufman and Hart  comedy You Can’t Take It with You. He’s joined on stage by Kristine Nielsen, Mark Linn-Baker, Julie Halston, Byron Jennings, Elizabeth Ashley and others. It’s directed by Scott Ellis and Jason Robert Brown has written original music for it.

October is going to bring us three major revivals.

Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing is being revived by the Roundabout Theater starring Ewan McGreggor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cynthia Nixon and Josh Hamilton.  I always like Stoppard’s intellectualism.

Glenn Close is returning to Broadway with John Lithgow andMartha Plimpton in Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance. This limited run is directed by Pam MacKinnon.

Another limited run is The Elephant Man starring Bradley Cooper with Patricia Clarkson and Alessandra Nivola.  Cooper got raves in the Berkshires a year ago but this is the first opportunity his scheduled has permitted bringing to New York.


The New (or new to Broadway) Plays

             It’s Only a Play, the McNally farce about playwright on Broadway, is already a box office hit.  It’s now in previews and with a cast including Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Stockard Channing, F. Murray Abraham, Megan Mulally and Jack O’Brien as director, I am certainly looking forward to it.

             The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, may get the award for the longest title of the season.  This play is coming to us from the National Theater; you may remember that this play was underway when that theater roof in London collapsed.  It is billed as a fantasy.

Blythe Danner is a favorite actress of mine – she was terrific in The Commons of Pensacola last year. The Country House is by Connecticut’s Donald Marguilies, its directed by Daniel Sullivan, and Daniel Sunjata also stars.  It’s a Manhattan Theater Club production so the runs is limited unless it is a hug hit and can move to another theater.

It won the Pulitzer Prize, so Disgraced is finally making it to Broadway thanks to Lincoln Center. The outline of the plot — a Pakistani lawyer and a political dinner party — may make this production “iffy” given all of the recent terrorist attacks.

Hugh Jackman.  A play.  Need I say more.  The box office will be booming for The River which runs just 75 minutes but will have high ticket prices.

Come the spring, it will be hard to snag a ticket for The Audience starring Helen Mirren.  She won ALL the awards in London last season playing Queen Elizabeth II.  It is about the meetings the Queen has had over the years with her various Prime Ministers.


The New Musicals

             Sting is following in the footsteps of other rock giants and writing a musical. The Last Ship is based on his childhood in a English shipping town now in economic ruins.  I’m interested.

When it played New Jersey’s PaperMill Playhouse, Honeymoon in Vegas won raves but no theater was available last spring to bring it to Broadway.  Now it is arriving with the same major cast members — Tony Danza and Rob McClure. The score is by Jason Robert Brown.  Yes, it is an adaptation of the film.

Another film to musical will arrive next Spring, after it previews in Paris: An American in Paris.  Who will play the Gene Kelly role? But it has great Gershwin songs though many were just recently heard in Nice Work If You Can Get It.

             When  the Jeanine Tesori- Lisa Kron musical Fun Home opened off Broadway last year, it won raves. Now it is heading to Broadway.  Sometimes making the transition is hard.


The Musicals — Revivals

            On the Town, the musical that introduced us to Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green is returning to Broadway in a production that began life at the Barrington Stage Company in 2013.  Tony Yazbeck is in the cast as is Jackie Hoffman and lots of others.  John Rando directs.

Another musical featuring lyrics by Comden and Green is returning to Broadway. On the Twentieth Century with music by Cy Coleman and based on the Harold Hawks film Twentieth Century, a screwball comedy.  Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher star as the temperamental actress and the down-on-his-luck producer.  Roundabout is producing with Scott Ellis directing.

Let me see Kelli O’Hara in anything. But will she finally get the leading actress in a musical Tony?  It’s been almost 20 years since The King & I has been on Broadway.  In the Spring it is back at Lincoln Center.  I can’t wait.

                       When Side Show opened in 1997,  critics raved at the performances of Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner as the co-joined sisters who went into vaudeville.  The show did not run long but has had many, many devoted fans.  Now,  a reworked version of the show was a big hit at the Kennedy Center and is returning to Broadway with Erin Davie and Emily Padgett as the sisters.

 Some Shows That May Make It to Broadway

            Paper Mill Playhouse is producing a revised version of Cole Porter’s Can-Can starring Kate Baldwin and Jason Danieley — if it goes well, it might cross the river.

Goodspeed is opening a musical version of the film Holiday Inn which starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and introduced “White Christmas.”  Major players are backing the conversion to stage.  It wouldn’t surprise me if it makes the transition to Broadway IF all goes well.



            Off-Broadway is a mixture of revivals and new works; often details are sketchy until the last minute.

A  show that is a getting Connecticut production is also scheduled for off-Broadway: Brownsville song ((b-side for tray) is at the Mitzi Newhouse Theater in Lincoln Center; in Connecticut it is at Long Wharf.

I’m looking forward to Indian Ink at Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theater. It is one of Tom Stoppard’s plays that have not been seen in NYC.  Plus it stars Rosemary Harris.

Classic Stage Company is producing one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s lesser known works: Allegro directed by John Doyle.  This work may have been ahead of its time.

Lee Blessing’s  A Walk in the Woods about Soviet and American arms negotiators premiered at Yale Rep.  The Keen Company is producing it with Kathleen Chalfant as the Soviet negotiator.  The company is also producing the musical John & Jen.

Neil La Bute’s The Money Shot  is being produced by Manhattan Class Company.

  The New Group is reviving David Rabe’s Sticks & Bones. This play about a son’s return from Vietnam won the Tony in 1972.

As a Nöel Coward fan, I’d like to see I’ll Leave it to You at The Actors Company Theater.

Plus, I’ll be keeping an eye on the productions by The Mint Theater (lesser known early 20th century British and American plays), the Irish Rep, Signature Theater Company, Pearl Theater.  

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