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A baker’s dozen of shows I’m most looking forward to on (and off) Broadway

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I’ve begun the New Year with two long reports from New York, where I’ve just returned from on Sunday. And just as I kicked off the year with a preview of the 40 shows here that are on the top of my UK list so far, I’m going to to wrap up this segment of US coverage today by I’m looking ahead to a baker’s dozen of shows over there that I’m most looking forward to in the next few months.

As I make my regular transatlantic forays throughout the coming year, I hope to be covering these, and more, in columns here and in The Stage newspaper.

New musicals

1. Matilda

Just as Broadway is sending us The Book of Mormon and Once less than a month apart in February and March, so we are sending them Matilda, to begin performances at Broadway’s Shubert Theatre on March 4 ahead of an official opening on April 11. It will, of course, be interesting to see how each of these transfers respectively fare; success is never guaranteed in the other territory, though massive marketing spends for Mormon in London and Matilda on Broadway are certainly helping to create brand awareness.

And word-of-mouth for Matilda in New York is also already fantastic, and likely to only increase as they actually see it. The current revival of Annie may have beaten it off the starters’ block in the moppet musicals stakes, but it is a surprisingly tame, toothless affair, and Matthew Warchus’s grittily witty take on Roald Dahl’s dark family saga may be just what Broadway needs. They are also, happily, getting Bertie Carvel, reprising his monster turn as Mrs Trunchbull; I can’t wait to see it again there.

2. Kinky Boots

These days every film, it seems, is being adapted for the stage, and every pop star is writing the score to accompany it. The latest, apparently fruitful partnership (after positive reports from its Chicago try-out) is the British film Kinky Boots and composer Cyndi Lauper, teaming up with book writer Harvey Fierstein, for a stage version that will begin at the Hirshfeld Theatre on March 5 ahead of an opening on April 4.

3. Motown

No Broadway season seems complete without a back pop catalogue musical, and if Motown does what it says on the tin, a stack of great songs are promised. Let’s hope it lives up to that promise at the Lunt Fontanne from March 11, with an official opening on April 14.

Musical Revivals

4. Pippin

London recently had a seriously revamped, futuristic outing for Stephen Schwartz and Roger Hirson’s 1972 Broadway musical Pippin, set as if inside a giant video game, at the Menier Chocolate Factory. But now, as the show marks its 40th anniversary, it’ll be great to see it back on Broadway, via the circus-based production recently premiered at Cambridge’s ART (where it runs through January 20), to begin performances at the Music Box on March 23 prior to an official opening on April 25. It is directed by Diane Paulus, whose controversial take on Porgy and Bess also travelled from ART to Broadway. This has long been one of my all-time favourite Broadway scores, with my favourite theatre song of all time: ‘Corner of the Sky.’

5. Passion

Sondheim’s dark, brooding 1994 musical Passion is heading back to New York for the first time since it’s original Broadway production, this time at Off-Broadway’s Classic Stage Company where British director John Doyle – who has brought Sweeney Todd and Company back to New York before, and directed the latest incarnations of Sondheim’s most recent musical Road Show both at New York’s Public Theatre and London’s Menier Chocolate Factory – at the helm. It begins performances February 8 prior to an official opening on February 28, with a wonderful cast led by Judy Kuhn as Fosca, Ryan Silverman as the object of her disturbed affections Giorgio, and the fantastic Melissa Errico as his girlfriend Clara.

The busy Doyle is also directing a new Broadway outing for the 1982 musical Pump Boys and Dinettes, beginning performances at Circle in the Square) on March 19 prior to an official opening on April 8.

6. The Last Five Years

Jason Robert Brown’s poignant two-hander about a dissolving relationship, portrayed simultaneously from the points of view of both protagonists but one viewing the chronology going forwards while the other visits it backwards, returns to New York for a new production at Off-Broadway’s Second Stage, beginning performances on March 7 prior to an official opening on April 2.

7. Cinderella

It’s never been seen before on Broadway, but this stage version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s TV musical has a starry cast of theatre veterans like Victoria Clark and Harriet Harris, plus fast rising newcomer Laura Osnes, to make it worth seeing at the Broadway Theatre, beginning performances January 24 prior to an official opening February 24.

New Plays

8. Lucky Guy

Tom Hanks is the latest star film actor to test his mettle on the Broadway stage, and he will do so in a new play by the late Nora Ephron, beginning performances March 1 prior to an official opening April 1.

9. The Nance

Douglas Carter Beane is one of the funniest of all New York playwrights, and his latest play will star one of the funniest of all New York actors Nathan Lane, beginning performances at the Lyceum March 21 prior to an official opening on April 15.

Play revivals

10. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Tennessee Williams’s great masterpiece seems to come around a lot on Broadway – it was previously seen there in 2003 and 2008 – but the production now previewing at Broadway’s Richard Rodgers (where it opens officially on January 17) has Scarlett Johannson returning to Broadway, where she previously won a Tony Award for appearing in A View from the Bridge, under the direction of Rob Ashford, who did such spellbinding work with another Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar Warehouse. The cast also includes Broadway hunk Benjamin Walker, British actor Ciaran Hinds and Debra Monk (the latter of whom will coincidentally have her name on two Broadway marquees simultaneously this year: she was also one of the co-creators of the original Pump Boy and Dinettes).

11. Orphans

This Broadway outing for a play previously only seen off-Broadway will star Alec Baldwin at the Schonfeld Theatre from March 19, prior to an official opening April 7. (The play’s London premiere at Hampstead Theatre in 1986, which subsequently transferred to the West End’s Apollo, starred Albert Finney).

12. The Big Knife

One of the best productions of the autumn was Lincoln Center Theatre’s revival of Clifford Odets’s Golden Boy; now New York’s other leading not-for-profit company Roundabout stages a new production of Odets’s The Big Knife, with Bobby Cannavale sequeing straight from the current Broadway revival of Glengarry Glen Ross to star at the American Airlines Theatre from March 22, prior to an official opening April 16.

And in a category of its own…

13. Old Hats

There are no physical comedians working on or off Broadway more remarkable than Bill Irwin and David Shiner. I first saw Irwin alone in an entertainment called Largely New York there over 20 years ago, and since then have also seen give remarkable straight performances, too, in Edward Albee’s The Goat and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, too. But one of the weirdest and most wonderful events was when he joined forces with David Shiner for Fool Moon in 1993. I’ve previously written here about being conscripted as part of the audience participation in the latter show.

Now they’re joining forces again for a new show called Old Hats, beginning performances at off-Broadway’s Signature Theatre on February 12 prior to an official opening on March 4, and it features songs from the wonderful Nellie McKay. I can’t wait to see it – but hope I don’t end up onstage again when I do.

And just tonight, a separate David Shiner show opens in London – he’s directed Cirque du Soleil’s travelling extravaganza Kooza that’s beginning the company’s annual residency at the Royal Albert Hall tonight. Created in 2007, this is the show’s first London outing; Shiner and Cirque’s subsequent collaboration on Banana Shpeel was withdrawn from the Cirque repertory after failed seasons in Chicago, New York and Toronto.

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