Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Broadway Update: Theatre Responds to Trump

Headlong and Almeida Theater's stage version of 1984
is coming to Broadway
Donald Trump has only been President two weeks, but theater is already responding to his controversial (to put it mildly) regime. Many have compared Donald and his spokespeople Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer's offering "Alternative facts" as truth to the doublespeak of the tyrannical dictator Big Brother in George Orwell's classic dystopian novel 1984 which is enjoying a resurgence lately (I wonder why.) A stage version of Orwell's classic will be presented on Broadway in a limited production, opening on June 22 at the Hudson Theatre, now home to the also limited engagement of Sunday in the Park with George (more on that production and its decision to stay out of the Tony race in a future blog.) This British production of 1984, originally presented by the Headlong and Almeida will arrive with an American cast under the auspices of producers Sonia Freedman and Scott Rudin. A previous stage version played the Joyce Theater Off-Broadway in the 1990s as part of a regional American theater festival.
John Hurt in the film version of 1984
There have been two movie adaptations. Edmond O'Brien, Jan Sterling and Michael Redgrave starred in the 1956 version and John Hurt (who just passed away) and Richard Burton headlined an even starker edition released in year of the title. With claims of fake news and imaginary terrorist attacks coming from the Trump administration, Orwell's prophetic work is more relevant than ever.

Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning playwright Robert Schenkkan (The Kentucky Cycle, All the Way, Hacksaw Ridge) has written a more direct response to the Trumpian junta with Building the Wall, a new play set in near future. The playwright told the New York Times he churned out the script in a "white hot fury" over the course of a single week just prior to the election of 2016. It received a developmental reading at NYC's Lark Theater shortly after its was finished and is now on the roster of four regional theaters. The first production will be at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles from March 18--May 21. The press release describes the play thus: “It’s the very near future, and the Trump administration has carried out his campaign promise to round up and detain millions of immigrants. Now, a writer interviews the supervisor of a private prison as he awaits sentencing for carrying out the federal policy that has escalated into the unimaginable. This riveting, harrowing and illuminating drama delivers a powerful warning and puts a human face on the inhuman, revealing how when personal accountability is denied, what seems inconceivable becomes inevitable.”

Other productions will be presented at the Curious Theatre in Denver (April 4-19), the Forum Theatre in Silver Spring, MD; the Borderlands Theatre in Tuscon, AZ; and the Adobe Rose Theatre, Santa Fe, NM. Hopefully, New York audiences will get to sample this relevant work.

Wallace Shawn's Evening at the Talk House, opening Feb. 16 Off-Broadway in a New Group production at the Signature Theatre, also takes place in an alternative future. The plot concerns a group of theater artists reacting to a tyrannical leader in the White House. Lynn Nottage's Sweat will transfer to Broadway in April after a hit run at the Public and is based on interviews with blue-collar workers displaced by the global economy. 

Another Pulitzer Prize winner, Ayad Akhtar (Disgraced) tackles another aspect of the American system with Junk, a new play chronicling the financial civil war of the 1980s. It opens Oct. 12 at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theatre for a limited run. Business-centered plays usually don't do well on Broadway. Lucy Prebble's Enron and Caryl Churchill's Serious Money both closed after only a week of performances, but Junk is a LCT non-profit (ironic, huh, since it's about making money). 

As usual, here is an updated rundown of upcoming Broadway and Off-Broadway openings for the remainder of the 2016-17 season and beyond:

Feb. 9--Sunset Boulevard (Palace)
Feb. 15--Man from Nebraska (Second Stage)
Feb. 16--Evening at the Talk House (New Group/Signature Theatre)
Feb. 21--Everybody (Signature)
Feb. 22--If I Forget (Roundabout/Laura Pels)
Feb. 22--Kid Victory (Vineyard)
Feb. 23--Sunday in the Park with George (Hudson)
Feb. 27--The Penitent (Atlantic Theatre Co.)
Feb. 27--Wakey Wakey (Signature)
Feb. 28--Linda (MTC/City Center)
March 1--Sweeney Todd (Barrow Street)
March 1--All the Fine Boys (New Group/Signature)
March 2--Significant Other (Booth)
March 9--The Glass Menagerie (Golden)
March 12--Come from Away (Schoenfeld)
March 13--The Light Years (Playwrights Horizons)
March 15--Joan of Arc: Into the Fire (Public)
March 16--The Price (Roundabout/AA)
March 20--How to Transcend a Happy Marriage (LCT/Mitzi Newhouse)
March 23--Miss Saigon (Broadway)
March 26--Sweat (Studio 54)
March 26--Come Back, Little Sheba/Picnic (Transport Group/The Gym at Judson)
April 2--The Play That Goes Wrong (Lyceum)
April 3--Amelie (Walter Kerr)
April 5--Present Laughter (St. James)
April 5--Gently Down the Stream (Public)
April 6--War Paint (Nederlander)
April 13--Oslo (LCT/Vivian Beaumont)
April 17--Groundhog Day (August Wilson)
April 18--Indecent (Cort)
April 19--The Little Foxes (MTC/Friedman)
April 20--Hello, Dolly! (Shubert)
April 23--Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Lunt-Fontanne)
April 24--Anastasia (Broadhurst)
April 25--Six Degrees of Separation (Barrymore)
April 26--The Bandstand (Bernard Jacobs)
April 26--Pacific Overtures (CSC)
April 27--A Doll's House, Part 2 (Golden)
2016-17 (Dates TBA)--The SpongeBob Musical, The Wiz, Camp David, Photograph 51
Spring 2017--Half Time
June 22--1984 (Hudson)
June 29--Marvin's Room (Roundabout/AA)
Aug. 24--Prince of Broadway (MTC/Samuel J. Friedman)
Oct 12--Junk (LCT/Vivian Beaumont)
Oct. 26--M. Butterfly (Theater TBA)
2017--Sherlock Holmes, Singin' in the Rain, Pat Benatar Musical
2017-18--Burn This, To Kill a Mockingbird
March 1, 2018--Amy and the Orphans (Laura Pels/Roundabout)
Spring 2018--Frozen (St. James), The Flamingo Kid
Future--The Cher Show, The Devil Wears Prada

2016-17 Broadway Season

New Plays
A Doll's House, Part 2
The Encounter
Heisenberg
Indecent
Oslo
The Play That Goes Wrong
The Present
Significant Other
Sweat

New Musicals
Amelie
Anastasia
The Bandstand
A Bronx Tale
Come From Away
Dear Evan Hansen
Groundhog Day
Half-Time
Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical
In Transit
Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812
War Paint

Play Revivals
The Cherry Orchard
The Front Page
The Glass Menagerie
Jitney
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
The Little Foxes
Present Laughter
The Price
Six Degrees of Separation

Musical Revivals
Cats
Hello, Dolly!
Falsettos
Miss Saigon
Motown the Musical
Sunday in the Park with George
Sunset Boulevard

Special Attractions
Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science
Black to the Future
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons on Broadway!
The Illusionists: Turn of the Century
Kristin Chenoweth: My Love Letter to Broadway
Oh Hello on Broadway

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