Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick in ‘Plaza Suite.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus)
By Matthew Wexler
News of shows delaying their Broadway openings continues to pour in, forecasting a sparse future for the remainder of 2020.
Lia Vollack Productions and The Michael Jackson Estate announced this week that, due to the Broadway shutdown, dates have been rescheduled for the upcoming World Premiere of MJ the new musical on Broadway. Preview performances are now set to begin on Monday, March 8, 2021, with Opening Night scheduled for Thursday, April 15, at the Neil Simon Theatre, New York City. (MJ was previously set to begin performances on Monday, July 6).
Starring Ephraim Sykes (Ain’t Too Proud), the Tony and Grammy Award nominee who has been cast as Michael Jackson, MJ will feature a book by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage (Sweat) and a score made up of some of the best-loved, top-selling, and most iconic songs in recording history. Tony Award-winner Christopher Wheeldon (An American in Paris) will direct and choreograph.
Producers for the upcoming revival of Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite, co-starring Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, also announced new production dates. Due to the ongoing Broadway shutdown, and the recent announcement that no performances can take place through the summer, Plaza Suite will now play Friday, March 19, 2021, through Sunday, July 18, 2021, at Hudson Theatre with an official opening night to be announced.
In a statement, Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker said, “We remain deeply committed to bringing Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite to New York as promised and cannot wait to help welcome audiences back to our beloved Broadway. Until then, everybody please stay safe.”
Plaza Suite played a sold-out pre-Broadway engagement at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre from Wednesday, February 5 through Saturday, February 22. The production was ready to begin Broadway previews on Friday, March 13, when the Governor issued the mandate on Thursday, March 12, closing all Broadway theaters.
Beyond Broadway, regional and summer theaters continue to cancel shows and/or entire seasons.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival has canceled its entire fall season.
“The health and safety of our entire Ashland community, including artists, staff, volunteers, patrons, and Festival partners, is our highest priority,” said Nataki Garrett, OSF artistic director. “It is with great sadness that we are forced to cancel OSF’s 2020 Fall season. My primary goal is to protect the future of this celebrated 85-year-old organization and to bring great theatre back to our stages in 2021. I’m thankful for the clear and sure-handed leadership of Governor Brown and thank our local community for all of their support. We are committed to remaining grounded in the expertise of scientists and healthcare professionals who have informed the Governor’s decision.”
The Stratford Festival has canceled its entire 2020 season but has launched a free Shakespeare film festival, featuring past performances of the Bard’s greatest hits, including Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Taming of the Shrew and more.
The Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park also goes on hiatus this summer. Started by Joseph Papp, the offerings have been a New York City mainstay since first produced in 1962. The Public will host We Are One on June 1 — a virtual event to support the theater. Hosted by Jesse Tyler Ferguson, guests scheduled to appear include Antonio Banderas, Laura Benanti, John Leguizamo, Audra McDonald, David Hyde Pierce and more. Dress code: virtually stunning!
The Guthrie Theater has taken drastic measures, trimming its season to three plays that will hopefully begin production in March 2021. “I am reminded that the Guthrie’s first season was four shows, from May to September 1963, and from those four shows we grew. We will grow again and we will thrive again,” said artistic director Joeseph Haj. “But, for a time, we will necessarily be a smaller organization. We remain focused on our mission, vision and values. We are taking steps to ensure that we will come back in a way that allows us to grow and continue to serve the extraordinary community that has supported us for nearly 60 years.”
Haj delivered this powerful message about the impact and importance of live theater: