It’s been frigid for weeks in New York, and there’s fresh snow on the ground, but as far as Broadway’s concerned, it’s time to start up the spring season. March and April are the busiest times in the theater calendar, with shows rushing to open before the Tony nominations’ deadline of April 23. Of the 37 plays and musicals scheduled to open in the 2014-2015 Broadway season, a full 18 of them premiere over eight weeks in March and April. Here are the 10 (plus one opening this summer) that I’m most excited about.
Fish in the Dark
(Photo: Walter McBride/Getty Images)
So what if it seems mostly like an overlong, overstuffed, overly mediocre episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm? Even so, this 18-character comedy about a family feuding in the wake of Dad’s death is Curb and Seinfeld creator Larry David’s stage debut, both as writer and star. He’s got a top-notch supporting cast, a great director, and you’ll laugh, if not quite as much as you might have hoped. It opened on Thursday, March 5, at the Cort Theatre.
(Photo: Walter McBride/WireImage)
Helen Mirren is only a dame, but on Broadway, she’s the queen. In The Audience, Mirren plays Elizabeth II, and the play tracks the monarch’s six-decade reign through her regular weekly meetings with the 12 prime ministers who’ve served her. Playwright Peter Morgan also wrote the 2006 movie The Queen, in which Mirren also played Elizabeth. The Audience was a huge hit last year in London and is a ticket in demand now. It opened on Sunday, March 8, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.
Hand to God
(Photo: Hand To God/Facebook)There aren’t any celebrities, it’s not British, and it isn’t based on a book or movie.
Hand to God was one of the most memorable shows I saw last year, when it played off Broadway’s MCC Theatre. Set in a God-fearing Texas town, it’s a hilarious, bawdy, pleasantly disturbing play about a lonely boy and his possessed hand puppet. Steven Boyer, who plays young Jason and also his violent puppet, Tyrone, gives a knockout performance. The play opens on Tuesday, April 7, at the Booth Theatre.
(Photo: Gigi on Broadway/Facebook)
The 1973 debut of this Lerner and Loewe musical was a flop, running for only 103 performances. But the 1958 movie on which it was based, about a young woman in turn-of-the-last-century Paris and starring Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier, remains a classic. So now there’s a new script and a new production of Gigi, starring High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens in the title role. Thank heaven, as they say, for little girls. Opening Wednesday, April 8, at the Neil Simon Theatre.
Wolf Hall: Parts 1 & 2
(Photo: Johan Persson/Wolf Hall on Broadway)
Based on Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker prize-winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, this marathon experience — the equivalent of two full-length plays, with a dinner break in between — focuses on the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell at the court of Henry VIII. It’s a Royal Shakespeare Company production, and, well, this is a good spring for theatrical Anglophilia. It opens on Thursday, April 9, at the Winter Garden.
An American in Paris
This spring, it’s all about classic movie musicals. An American in Paris, with its unforgettable Gershwin score, won the 1951 Oscar for Best Picture. (Like Gigi, it starred Leslie Caron, this time with Gene Kelly, and it was scripted by Alan Jay Lerner and directed by Vincente Minnelli.) Today, it’s a stage musical that had its world premiere in Paris this winter and is now coming to New York. Opens on Sunday, April 12, at the Palace Theatre.
(Photo: Finding Neverland/Facebook)
Sure, everyone loves a Peter Pan backstory. (See Peter and the Starcatcher, a multiple Tony winner.) And, yep, everyone loved the 2004 movie of Finding Neverland. And, of course, everyone also loves stars Kelsey Grammer and Matthew Morrison and director Diane Paulus, of Hair and Pippin fame. But most important, the big-budget musical Finding Neverland is superproducer Harvey Weinstein’s first time out on Broadway; he wants a hit, and he’s used to getting what he wants. It opens on Wednesday, April 15, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.
The King and I
(Photo: Lincoln Center Theater/Facebook)
Seven years ago, Bartlett Sher directed Kelli O’Hara in a magisterial revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic South Pacific at Lincoln Center Theater’s Vivian Beaumont. It quickly became a long-running, sold-out, beloved megahit. Starting next month, in the same theater, Sher directs O’Hara in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera (one hopes). Opens on Thursday, April 16, at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre.
(Photo: Fun Home the Musical/Facebook)
Fun Home premiered off Broadway last season, and it was the best musical of the year. (It’s not just me saying so; the New York Drama Critics Circle, which unlike the Tony Awards consider both on- and off-Broadway work, agreed.) Based on Alison Bechdel’s remarkable graphic memoir — she went off to college, came out as gay, learned her father was secretly gay, too, and then he killed himself — the play is fascinating, moving, and features a gorgeous Jeanine Tesori score. Opens on Sunday, April 19, at the Circle in the Square.
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(Photo: The Visit Musical/Facebook)
Fred Ebb and John Kander form the team behind such canonical musicals as Cabaret and Chicago. Ebb died more than a decade ago,but there have been several new shows of their work since then, including Curtains and the Scottsboro Boys. Now what we’re told is really their very last joint work, The Visit, is arriving, and, even better, it stars the legendary Chita Rivera, the now 82-year-old dancer, as the world’s wealthiest woman. Opening Thursday, April 23, at the Lyceum Theatre.
(Photo by Joan Marcus via The Public Theater/Facebook)
The hardest ticket to get in New York right now is Hamilton, the sexy, funny, profound hip-hop musical about New York’s own founding father. It’s written by and stars Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also wrote and starred in In The Heights, and it’s sold out through the end of its off-Broadway run at the Public Theater in May. But it’s reopening this summer on Broadway. Line up for your tickets now.
Where to eat before the show, or after:
The Lambs Club serves up high-end American fare and cocktails for the theater crowd. (Photo: The Lambs Club/Facebook)
Of the 40 Broadway theaters, only five are east of Times Square. If you’re at one of them — say, the Cort, for Fish in the Dark; the Palace, for An American in Paris; or the Lyceum, for The Visit, the place to be is the Lambs Club. Nestled inside the Chatwal Hotel on 132 West 44th St., in a building designed by Stanford White as the home of the theatrical club called The Lambs, it’s a sleek, Art Deco-styled restaurant with high-end American food and stiff cocktails. On Thursdays, the identically attired DJ duo Andrew Andrew, active theatergoers, spin starting at 6 p.m.
If you’re farther north in the theater district, at the Circle in the Square for Fun Home or the Winter Garden for Wolf Hall, check out Toloache at 251 West 50th St., an unassuming-looking Mexican spot that a few years back earned a starred review from The New York Times’ restaurant critic Sam Sifton. You’ll want to order one of the three guacamole options, a top-notch margarita, and a few of the unexpectedly delicious tacos.
For some no-fuss comfort food, head to Joe Allen’s. (Photo: Joe Allen Restaurant)
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But the great concentration of Broadway houses is between West 44th and West 47th streets, and, when you’re in the thick of things, the place to go is equally in the thick of things: Joe Allen Restaurant, at 326 West 44th St. A theater-district standby for 50 years this May, it’s got a great burger and fries, a justifiably famous meatloaf, and actors, directors, and producers sprinkled among the regular theatergoers at its tables, especially post-show. While you eat, check out the artwork on display: a collection of show posters, famously only from flops.