My last column contemplated what might be forthcoming on American stages in 2015, but as 2014 draws to a close it’s worth taking a look back at what’s happened on Broadway and beyond…
The year begins with Hugh Jackman announcing he’s withdrawing from the musical Houdini, to which he’s been attached for several years. There’s no further news of Houdini, but only weeks after his disappearing act, Jackman is announced as the lead in the US premiere of Jez Butterworth’s The River, now on Broadway.
Rebecca Hall makes her Broadway debut in a revival of Sophie Traedwell’s Machinal, a performance and production that many (including me) feel was underappreciated.
John Patrick Shanley explores his Irish roots with his first Ireland-set play, Outside Mullingar. In Connecticut, Michael Price announces he’ll be stepping down as executive producer of Goodspeed Musicals at the end of the year, concluding a 46-year tenure.
The producers of King Kong announce that the giant ape will be on Broadway by December, making a monkey of all of us who took the bait, because come year end, all we learn is that the show has changed creative staffs and lost its director.
After nearly two decades, Barry Manilow’s Nazi Germany-set story of the Comedian Harmonists, Harmony, resurfaces in Atlanta and Los Angeles, but once again it doesn’t find its way to New York.
Also in Los Angeles, Steven Berkoff walks away from William Friedkin’s Geffen Playhouse production of Pinter’s The Birthday Party, leaving a gaping hole in the Geffen’s season.
Jason Robert Brown returns to Broadway with The Bridges of Madison County, and in a late-season announcement, we learn that Audra McDonald will return to Broadway as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, a performance that yields her a record sixth Tony Award come June.
In an unusual arrangement, the Public Theater’s production of David Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s Here Lies Love returns Off-Broadway in a commercial engagement, playing at… the Public Theatre.
Amid the series-ending accolades for Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston comes to Broadway as President Lyndon Baines Johnson in Robert Schenkkan’s All The Way, with both the actor and author ultimately winning Tony Awards.
The foul-mouthed sock puppet Tyrone makes the trek from Off-Off-Broadway’s Ensemble Studio Theatre to Off-Broadway’s MCC Theatre as the central, er, footwear of Hand To God, now set to land on Broadway in 2015.
While Broadway has an avalanche of openings in advance of the Tony Awards qualifying deadline, Radio City Music Hall finds itself unexpectedly empty for weeks when management pulls the plug on Heart and Lights, its first spring production in many years, only a week before the first performance.
Songwriter Carole King decides it’s time to break her moratorium on seeing her life played out in the musical Beautiful, attending the show and even joining the cast onstage for a song at the curtain call.
In Washington DC, the withdrawal of funds from the Russian government meant that a festival of Russian work says ‘dosvedanya’ at Washington DC’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre.
Broadway gets its first black Phantom of the Opera in Norm Lewis, even though Robert Guillaume had broken the color line behind the iconic mask decades earlier by succeeding Michael Crawford in Los Angeles.
Dion Boucicault’s The Octoroon is resurrected and deconstructed by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins in An Octoroon at Soho Rep, a production that will resurface in February at Brooklyn’s Theatre for a New Audience.
In addition to the gongs already mentioned, the Tony Awards honor A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder as Best Musical and give acting nods to Lena Hall, Neil Patrick Harris, James Monroe Iglehart, Jessie Mueller, Sophie Okonedo and Mark Rylance.
Kenneth Branagh makes his US stage debut in Macbeth at the Park Avenue Armory. David Greig’s The Events has its US premiere at the New Haven International Festival of Arts and Ideas and James Fenton’s version of The Orphan of Zhao comes to the states for the first time in a co-production between San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre and the La Jolla Playhouse.
Chicago gets a sneak peek at Broadway’s fall season with the launches of This Is Our Youth and The Last Ship, while the Broadway year begins with a short-lived musical taken from the words and music of Tupac Shakur, Holler If Ya Hear Me.
While the script was unchanged, a radically visually reconceived Les Miserables takes the stage at the Dallas Theatre Center.
The Atlantic Theatre premieres Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Between Riverside and Crazy, a showcase for veteran actor Stephen McKinley Henderson. The show returns Off-Broadway at Second Stage early in 2015.
The Great Society, Robert Schenkkan’s second LBJ play, premieres at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, while the retooled Finding Neverland musical sets box office records at Cambridge, Massachusetts’s American Repertory Theatre.
Washington DC’s Landless Theatre rocks out with a prog metal version of Sweeney Todd, while Kander and Ebb’s adaptation of Durenmatt’s The Visit, reworked by director John Doyle, plays the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts with Chita Rivera and Roger Rees in the leading roles.
Ivo van Hove’s stage version of Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage makes a striking US debut at New York Theatre Workshop, while less emotionally fraught movies – Holiday Inn and Bull Durham – become musicals at the Alliance Theatre and Goodspeed musicals respectively.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown resurfaces in a new version at the Denver Center Theatre Company and actor-comedian-author Steve Martin collaborates with Edie Brickell for the original musical Bright Star at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time launches on Broadway with an American cast and looks well-set to repeat its UK success.
Director Anna D Shapiro is announced as the new artistic director at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, succeeding Martha Lavey.
Suzan-Lori Parks’s triptych Father Comes Home from the War debuts at the Public Theater to wide acclaim.
The musical Side Show returns the story of conjoined twins to Broadway 16 years after the original production closed, but the reconceived and revised production fails to catch on and closes the first week of January.
Jim Simpson, founder and artistic director of the Off-Off-Broadway Flea Theatre surprises the community by announcing he’ll step down before the company opens its new $18 million home.
New York audiences are startled by Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men at the Public and Simon Stephens’s Punk Rock at MCC Theatre.
Katori Hall’s Our Lady of Kibeho debuts at New York’s Signature Theatre, the first of three premieres due from her in the 2014/15 season.
Glenn Close returns to Broadway after a 20-year hiatus in Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance, while Emma Stone makes her debut, succeeding Michelle Williams as Sally Bowles in Roundabout’s rerevival of Cabaret.
Bradley Cooper’s star power creates a circus nightly outside the stage door of the revival of The Elephant Man.
Jimmy Nail cedes the stage to composer Sting in an effort to keep the musical The Last Ship afloat.
With the movie about to open, Roundabout brings Fiasco Theatre’s 10-actor version of Into the Woods to its Off-Broadway space.
In Washington DC, artistic director Ari Roth is fired after almost two decades from Theatre J, for doing work that is deemed to be insufficiently supportive of the Israel.
Steppenwolf premieres Lisa D’Amour’s Airline Highway which, when it moves to the Manhattan Theatre Club, will be Broadway’s first new play by a woman in two years.