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21 reasons 2015 is set to be a bumper year for New York theatre

Tony Danza and Rob McClure in Honeymoon in Vegas Tony Danza and Rob McClure in Honeymoon in Vegas. Photo: Joan Marcus
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I’ve just returned to London from a month in New York, but already I can’t wait to go back. This is shaping up to be one of the most interesting seasons for new shows in years – ten musicals have already been announced to open before the end of April, and that’s not counting several shows that have their sights set on doing so but haven’t secured a Broadway home yet and are waiting to pounce on any theatres that may become vacant in the next few weeks.

Of those 10 musicals, eight are new (to Broadway, at least) so there are only two revivals. I’ve already declared that I’m really looking forward to On the Twentieth Century (to be revived by Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre from February 12, prior to an official opening March 12, starring Kristin Chenoweth, Peter Gallagher and Rocky star Andy Karl), and director Bartlett Sher follows on from his hit production of South Pacific for Lincoln Centre Theatre at the Beaumont Theatre with a new production of another Rodgers and Hammerstein warhorse, The King and I (previewing form March 12, prior to an official opening April 16) with a cast that includes the luminous Kelli O’Hara as Mrs Anna, who is currently holding her own magnificently in the Metropolitan Opera House production of The Merry Widow.

The roster of new musicals kicks off with the official opening this week of Jason Robert Brown’s Honeymoon in Vegas (pictured top), opening on January 15 at the Nederlander with a cast led by Tony Danza, that was originally seen at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse last October. Other new musicals that have tried out include It Shoulda Been You, which ran at another New Jersey Theatre, the George Street Playhouse in Brunswick, with original cast members Tyne Daly, Harriet Harris and Edward Hibbert newly joined by Sierre Boggess, David Burtka and Montego Glover. Previews run at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre from March 17 prior to an official opening on April 14.

An American in Paris (recently premiered, where else, in Paris), is previewing at the Palace Theatre from March 13 prior to an official opening on April 12. Kander and Ebb’s The Visit, that I saw back in 2008 at Arlington’s Signature Theatre starring Chita Rivera, now reaches Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre (previewing from March 26 prior to an official opening on April 23) in a new production by British director John Doyle that was staged at Williamstown Theatre Festival last year, again starring Rivera. And Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s Fun Home that was premiered at Off-Broadway’s Public Theatre last year will begin performances at Broadway’s Circle in the Square from March 27, prior to official opening on April 19, with Judy Kuhn and Michael Cerveris reprising their performances.

Finding Neverland, first seen at Leicester’s Curve in October 2013, has been completely overhauled for its Broadway premiere, with a new director (Diane Paulus replacing Rob Ashford), and writing team (James Graham on book and Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy providing music and lyrics to replace Scott Frankel and Michael Korie), beginning performances at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on March 15 prior to an official opening on April 15.

Korie will instead be represented by lyrics he has co-written with Amy Power to music by Lucy Simon for a new Broadway stage version of Doctor Zhivago that will begin performances at the Broadway Theatre on March 27 prior to an official opening on April 21. First produced at the La Jolla Playhouse in California in 2006, I subsequently saw it in its Sydney premiere in 2010, so it has taken almost a decade to get to Broadway.

So the only all-new musical among this slate is Something Rotten! which Casey Nicolaw (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin) will direct at the St James Theatre, beginning performances on March 23 prior to an official opening on April 22.

Off-Broadway, I’m looking forward to Benjamin Scheuer reprising his solo musical The Lion at the Culture Project from February 3, prior to an official opening on February 8. His performance of the work at London’s St James Studio last year became my favourite musical of 2014.

See all Mark Shenton’s favourite London musicals of 2014

There’s also a new show, Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who previously wrote In the Heights) coming to the Public from January 20 prior to an official opening on February 17, and Brooklynite, coming to the Vineyard from January 29 prior to an official opening on February 25. I’m also looking forward to a revival of Andrew Lippa’s early musical John and Jen, at 42nd Street’s Clubman Theatre from February 10 prior to an official opening on February 26.

On the plays front, there’s a bunch of transfers from London, including The Audience with Helen Mirren (at the Schoenfeld from February 17 prior to an official opening on March 8), David Hare’s Skylight with Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan (at the John Golden from March 16 prior to an official opening on April 2), and the RSC’s Wolf Hall (at the Winter Garden from March 20 prior to an official opening on April 9). Another adaptation of a classic story first produced by the RSC, The Heart of Robin Hood (the company’s 2012 Christmas show) comes to the Marquis from March 10, prior to an official opening on March 29.

Finally, there’s a first Broadway revival for Wendy Wasserstein’s 1989 play The Heidi Chronicles, beginning performances at the Music Box on February 23 prior to an official opening March 19. Hand to God, an Off-Broadway hit transfers to the Booth from March 12, prior to an official opening on April 7. And Joe diPietro’s Living On Love is another show first seen at Williamstown Theatre Festival that moves to the Longacre, beginning performances on April 1 prior to an official opening April 20, with Renee Fleming (also currently in the Met’s Merry Widow) making her strage acting debut.

I’ll be back in New York in early March and mid-April to catch as many of these as I can. What are you most looking forward to on the American stage?

Read more columns from Mark Shenton

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