Moving beyond the spectacle of the Broadway musical, there are two epic plays coming from the London stage to Broadway. Both are sure to be huge hits with their finances, their prospective audiences who will be selling their unborn children for a ticket, and the award communities who will most likely lavish them both with nominations come this spring. The magnificent revival of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes opens March 21st at the Neil Simon Theatre. After a sold out run at the National Theatre on the expansive stage of the Lyttleton Theatre on the south bank of the Thames (click here for my review of the NTLive screening), the cast that includes Nathan Lane (The Front Page), Andrew Garfield (Mike Nichols’ Death of a Salesman), Susan Brown (NT’s Husbands & Sons), Amanda Lawrence (Young Vic’s Government Inspector), James McArdle (Chichester Festival’s Platonov), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (NT’s The History Boys), and the invincible Denise Gough (People, Places, & Things) arrives almost intact, only minus the wonderful Russell Tovey (Broadway’s View From the Bridge) who will be replaced by Lee Pace (2011 Broadway’s The Normal Heart) as the confused Morman, Joe. During it’s 18-week limited engagement on Broadway, the amazing Beth Malone (Fun Home) will share the role of the angel at select performances with Lawrence. Angels in America‘s two parts, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, running in repertory, is sublime; a metaphorical, and sometimes symbolic examination of AIDS and homosexuality in America in the 1980s. It won numerous awards when it first appeared on Broadway in 1993/1994, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Tony Award for Best Play, and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play. In New York as it did in London, this British import of one of the greatest modern American plays will once again dominate the intellectual and emotional theatrical Broadway world this coming spring, and I. CAN. NOT. WAIT.
The other huge import, not that I need to remind anyone, is the hardest ticket to get this coming spring. Not only did you have to sign up onto their webpage, and then hope that when they were doling out the access codes to purchase tickets, your name was drawn, giving you nothing more than the opportunity to try to purchase tickets before they were all sold out. And that first sell out only took hours. That’s huge and unprecedented, but that’s no surprise, because it is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2, opening April 22nd at the huge Lyric Theater on 42nd Street. The two-part stage play is written by Jack Thorne based on an original new story by Thorne, J. K. Rowling and John Tiffany, and directed by Tiffany. It’s transferring to Broadway carrying with it a record-breaking eleven Olivier nominations winning a record-breaking nine awards, including Best New Play, Best Actor, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role and Best Director. The import is bringing the entire first year cast from the West End, including Sam Clemmett, Jamie Parker, Anthony Boyle, Noma Dumezweni and Paul Thornley. My guess is that come Tony Award nomination time, this new play will once again do very well, maybe even break a record over here. The question that remains is will it also win as big as it did over there. I can’t wait to see what the fuss is all about.
That being said, the real excitement for me is with the dramatic ladies on their way to the Broadway stage. Laurie Metcalf (A Doll’s House, Part 2), with Oscar dreams buzzing around her performance in the magnificent and award-winning film, “Lady Bird“ (directed by first timer Greta Gerwig) is starring with the legendary Glenda Jackson (2017 Evening Standard Natasha Richardson Award for Best Actress playing the title role in Old Vic’s King Lear) and the talented Alison Pill (2006 Broadway’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore) in the revival of Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women opening March 29th at the Golden Theatre. Directed by the always amazing and interesting Joe Mantello (Wicked, The Humans), this will be the the second most exciting revival of a play on Broadway this year (Angels being #1), and one of the most thrilling casts assembled.
So what about the men heading to the stage this spring? The biggest name coming to Broadway, beyond Harry Potter, is Denzel Washington leading the Broadway revival of the classic Eugene O’Neill play, The Iceman Cometh, opening at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on April 26th, the official last day for shows to open on Broadway and still be eligible for the 2018 Tony Awards. Maybe you’ve heard of this actor. He has starred in and won a Tony award for the 2010 production of August Wilson’s Fences, won three Golden Globes and two Academy Awards (‘Glory‘, ‘Training Day‘) for his film work, and by many, he’s considered to be one of our generation’s finest actors. I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of his work, generally feeling that I am always seeing Washington ACT, rather than inhabit, but maybe I’ll change my mind this time around. Time will tell.
Movie stars, Michael Cera (Cort Theatre’s This Is Our Youth) and Chris Evans (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier“, “Snowpiercer”) sound a lot more thrilling to behold when they tackle Kenneth Lonergan’s 2001 play, Lobby Hero, opening up at the new Broadway home of Second Stage: the Helen Hayes Theatre. Opening on March 26th, and directed by the always compelling Trip Cullman (MCC’s Yen), four New Yorkers find themselves involved in a murder investigation. Played out in a foyer of a middle-income Manhattan apartment building in the middle of the night, these four find their personal and professional personas challenged and tested, as this situation puts them at odds with one another, Those clashes of ambition and intense conflict from the 2017 Oscar-winning writer of Manchester by the Sea sound much more exciting and fascinating to me, than the long and slightly tedious O’Neill classic.
Another exciting actor coming to Broadway this spring is Tom Hollander (Old Vic’s A Flea in Her Ear). He appeared at the Apollo Theatre in London as Henry Carr in the sell-out revival of Tom Stoppard’s play Travesties, directed by Patrick Marber (Comedy Theatre’s The Caretaker). The play transferred to the West End after its sell-out run at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Hollander was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Actor and the production as a whole was nominated in five categories (Best Actor, Best Revival, Best Sound Design, Best Actress in a Supporting Role and Best Actor in a Supporting Role). That revival is now heading to Broadway opening on April 24th, with Hollander reprising his leading role at the Roundabout’s American Airlines Theater. And although I don’t know his work beyond his most popular films, such as “Gosford Park“, “Pride and Prejudice“, “Hanna“, and numerous “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, I’m intrigued to see him and this exciting production of a Tom Stoppard classic that I have never seen before.
Off Broadway, we have a few productions worthy of excitement. More than the couple that I will discuss here, but these two have definitely peaked my interest. At Classic Stage Company, after two moderately successful Shakespearian comedies in the fall of 2017 (Fiasco’s Twelfth Night being the better of the two), this East Village theatre starts out the new year with Terrence McNally’s new play, Fire and Air, directed by CSC’s John Doyle (As You Like It, Pacific Overtures) . The man who brought us the musical, The Visit (book) and the magnificent play, Master Class, presents us with an exploration of the tempestuous relationship between Sergei Diaghilev and the dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky of the Ballets Russes, Diaghilev’s famed Russian ballet company, as they attempt to revolutionize dance. It’s hard not to be thrilled when looking at the who’s who in the cast: Tony Award winner, Douglas Hodge (Broadway’s La Cage aux Folles), Tony Award winner, John Glover (Love! Valour! Compassion!), Tony Award, Drama Desk Award and Olivier Award nominee, Marin Mazzie (Kiss Me, Kate), and the four time Oscar nominee, Marsha Mason (Cinderella Liberty, The Goodbye Girl, Chapter Two, Only When I Laugh). I’m sure to be dancing my way down to the East Village for that experience.
Opening on February 11th at the Pershing Square Signature Center, Lila Neugebauer (PR’s The Wolves) directs Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo: Homelife & The Zoo Story. Starring the talented Katie Finneran (Broadway’s Noises Off), Robert Sean Leonard (Broadway’s The Invention of Love), and Paul Sparks (New Group’s Buried Child), this new production of these two one-act plays honors Albee, who recently passed away in 2016, by showcasing his signature dark humor and brutality as he explores both love and the cruelty that we humans inflict on one another every day. I’m looking forward to these two pieces, mainly because they will be new to me, but also, this is a great opportunity to experience Albee’s nutty bizarreness one more time.
Those are the shows that are capturing my attention as we drive forward towards the Tony Award deadline in late April. But there are two more shows I must mention that open after that deadline. Roundabout‘s production of Joshua Harmon’s Skintight opening June 21st and directed by Daniel Aukin (Public’s The Fortress of Solitude). It stars the phenomenal Idina Menzel (If/Then) as Jodi Isaac, a New York divorcee, reeling from her ex-husband’s engagement to a much younger woman (naturally) and running head first into a tangled gay-tinged relationship between her famous fashion-designer father and the 20 year-old Trey, a not necessarily gay man, but a probable adult film star. Or at least, so says, Jodi’s 20 year-old gay son.
And speaking of gay men, starting previews in late April (opening night: TBA), the gay landmark play, The Boys in the Band, directed by the talented Joe Mantello (Take Me Out), will usher in a new audience to this historically significant play. With an exciting and stellar cast, comprising of Jim Parsons (Broadway and HBO’s The Normal Heart), Matt Bomer (Golden Globe winner for HBO’s ‘The Normal Heart‘), Andrew Rannells (Broadway’s Falsettos), and Zachary Quinto (Signature’s Angels in America, 2013 Broadway’s The Glass Menagerie), this Broadway production of The Boys in the Band will help celebrate the play’s 50th anniversary at the Booth Theatre. This play, written by Mart Crowley that premiered Off-Broadway on April 14, 1968 at Theater Four, centers on a group of gay men who have gathered together in a New York City apartment for a friend’s birthday party. As the evening flies forward, the bitter conflicts and painful heartaches begin to seep out, exposing the tensions that threaten this group’s solidarity. While many critics of this piece call it a “smart gimmick” full of dated “self-homophobic, low self-esteem characters” (Elyse Summer for CurtainUp, 2010)others call it “Shakespearean” (Steve Weinstein for the Edge) in its epic importance. I’m hoping that Mantello will create something akin to the later. And with that cast of famous young male actors, all I can say, is let the Gay Games begin.
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