Contributor Lindsay B. Davis offers her take on the latest shows previewing or opening on Broadway and Off Broadway between September 2013 and the end of the year.
As if the promise of pumpkin pie, fall fashions and the end of summer humidity is not enough to garner some excitement, a fresh offering of new shows is here to rock your next few theatergoing months. Broadway and Off Broadway are abuzz with new works, notable revivals, adaptations of Hollywood films plus the now familiar presence of movie and television stars making their Broadway debut.
This season is an unusually exciting blend, beginning with adaptations of two major Hollywood films into musicals — Big Fish (based on the 2003 film directed by Tim Burton, which itself was based on Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel) and Little Miss Sunshine (based on the 2006 film starring Abigail Breslin). While a musical adaptation of A Time To Kill (the John Grisham novel turned 1996 Hollywood blockbuster) would be an interesting creation, it comes to Broadway relatively in-tact as a courtroom drama.
Hollywood’s infiltration continues with Romeo & Juliet, starring A lister Orlando Bloom of The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean fame, opposite two-time Tony nominee Condola Rashad in the title roles. The production is notable not only because it is the first time in 36 years the Shakespearean tragedy will be performed on Broadway (Orlando Bloom’s age is also 36, incidentally, making him possibly one of the oldest actors to play the teenage protagonist) but also because the modern adaptation features a white Montague and black Capulet family, thus rendering the parents’ strife one of racial tension. Another Romeo and Juliet is being produced this season, this one Off Broadway at Classic Stage Company. Under the direction of Tea Alagic, it stars budding film actress Elizabeth Olson (Martha Marcy May Marlene) as Juliet, newcomer Julian Cihi (Roger in the Japanese tour Rent) as Romeo and Daphne Ruben-Vega (of Broadway’s Rent) as the nurse.
A second British actor making her Broadway debut this fall is Rebecca Hall (herself with an extensive West End theatre resume and known to American audiences for roles in Iron Man 3, Vicky Christina Barcelona and The Town) in the Roundabout’s revival of Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal. The play is inspired by the infamous 1927 murder trial of Ruth Snyder and Hall plays a stenographer in the 1920s who escapes her marriage by having an illicit love affair and finds herself in deep and dangerous waters. While Machinal is having its first Broadway revival since 1927 (when it starred Clark Cable), the classic The Glass Menagerie was last mounted at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in 2005 and is back for a 17-week run starring Cherry Jones, Zachary Quinto and Celia Keenan-Bogler as Laura. A lesser known Williams play called The Two-Character Play is underway at New World Stagesthrough the end of September 2013.
Fans of the TV shows Psych and West Wing will be happy to see actor Dule Hill return to the Great White Way in the hotly anticipated new musical After Midnight, a Broadway production of Encores’ critically acclaimed Cotton Club Parade that brings Harlem’s Golden Age back to life with the songs of Duke Ellington, Harold Arlen, Cab Calloway, choreography of the era and the poetry of Langston Hughs. The jazz fest features 17 world-class musicians, an ensemble of 25 vocalists and dancers, plus Grammy-nominated and American Idol winner Fantasia (The Color Purple).
Two rock music icons will be honored in musicals with A Night With Janis Joplin and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, starring Mary Bridget Davies and Jessie Mueller (On a Clear Day), respectively. Women who rock can also be found a little further downtown — do not miss Bridgett Everett and the Tenders performing their album release party at Joe’s Pub for one night only on October 1st and Sheri Sanders, rock musical theater coach, singer and author of the book Rock the Audition, presenting her concert experience, Sheri Sanders: In Concert at the American Theater of Actors.
And finally, fresh off his performance in Shakespeare in the Park’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, Bryce Pinkham stars in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, a new musical described as “Downton Abbey with a delightfully depraved edge.” Another unconventional new musical is Playwrights Horizons’ Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play. More Off Broadway offerings on our radar include 100 Monologues by Eric Bogosian at the Labyrinth Theater, Stop. Reset. at the Signature Theater and Bad Jews, which moves from the Roundabout Theatre’s black box into the Laura Pels Theater after its successful first run and stars Tracee Chimo (Circle Mirror Transformation) as Daphne, who you may recognize from Orange is the New Black. It sounds like Broadway is the New Hollywood.
Lindsay B. Davis is an arts/culture journalist and theater artist living in New York City.