Tuesday, June 14, 2016

2016-17 B'way Preview: Big Stars, Blasts from Past

Spongebob Squarepants the Musical
Credit: Joan Marcus
With the broadcast of the Tony Awards, the 2015-16 Broadway theater season is now officially over. It was one of the most exciting and original ones in recent memory. Hamilton transferred to the Richard Rodgers from the Public and totally transformed America's relationship to the stage, making it cool to go the theater again. Similarly, Stephen Karam's The Humans and Danai Gurira's Eclipsed made the voyage from Off-Broadway to on, allowing new, young playwrights to have their voices heard by a larger audience. Hopefully, we'll have more fresh talent on the Main Stem in 2016-17, but so far, as per usual, the majority of announced productions are revivals with big Hollywood stars or British imports. We've already started with a retread--Sean Hayes in An Act of God which we've seen just last summer with Jim Parsons. Next are two more blasts from the recent past--Motown and Cats.

There are two Off-Broadway musicals set for transfer: Dear Evan Hansen and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. But very few original musicals are solidified at this point. In fact the only two with a firm official  opening date are Holiday Inn based on the 1942 Hollywood film with Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby, from Roundabout Theater Company., and Groundhog DayA Bronx Tale, based on Chazz Palminteri's autobiographical one-man show, is unofficially set for the Longacre. In the Tony Award press room, the producers announced it was coming in after a run at the Paper Mill Playhouse, but there has been no press release. There is a stage version of the animated Nickelodeon series Spongebob Squarepants, opening this month in Chicago and projected for a Broadway opening sometime this season. The long-awaited stage version of Anastasia is currently at Hartford Stage and is much-buzzed for a New York production.

From abroad there's a revival of Les Liaisons Dangereuses with Liev Schriber Janet McTeer (now in the all-female Taming of the Shrew in Central Park) and The Present, an Australian update of Chekhov's Platonov with Cate Blanchett. We may also get Nicole Kidman in Photograph 51, a British play on the race to discover the DNA double helix.

Most of the announced shows are old, familiar favorites returning to Broadway after multiple productions such as the eighth Broadway incarnation of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie with Sally Field, Joe Mantello, and Finn Wintrock; Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon in Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes alternating in the roles of domineering Regina and delicate Birdie (sounds fascinating and will critics be allowed to see both?), Diane Lane in the 16th Broadway Cherry Orchard; and an all-star Front Page with mouth-watering casting including Nathan Lane, John Slattery, Sherie Rene Scott, Jefferson Mays, John Goodman, Holland Taylor, Robert Morse, Lewis J. Stadlen, Dylan Baker, Halley Feiffer, Dann Florek, and Micah Stock. Perhaps the biggest musical revival on tap is the new Hello, Dolly with Bette Midler and David Hyde-Pierce.

In the bizarro "Will this really happen?" category, columnist Cindy Adams reports four-time Tony winner Frank Langella will play the domineering mother in drag in a revival of Arthur Kopit's long-titled absurdist farce from 1962, Oh Dad, Poor Dar, Momma's Hung You in the Close and I'm Feeling So Sad (I actually did a scene from this play in a drama workshop many years ago.) According to Deadline, the production is set for the LaJolla Playhouse and has Broadway in mind. This I would pay money to see.

No new American plays have been scheduled as of yet. Not even Manhattan Theatre Club is doing one for its Broadway season at the Samuel J. Friedman. There are providing us with a transfer of last season's Heisenberg, a 60-minute scrap of a British play with Mary-Louise Parker, the aforementioned Little Foxes, and a revival of my favorite August Wilson play, Jitney. This play means a lot to me because it received a special Ensemble performance Drama Desk Award when the early years of when I was on the DD's nominating committee.

Here's a breakdown of the 2016-17 Broadway season so far with opening dates and theaters where announced:

2016-17 (Dates TBA)--Singin' in the Rain, The Bandstand, The SpongeBob Musical, The Wiz, Camp David, Photograph 51
July 12--Motown the Musical (Nederlander, previews begin, official opening TBA)
July 31--Cats (Neil Simon)
Oct. 13--Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical (Studio 54/Roundabout)
Oct. 13--Heisenberg (MTC/Friedman)
Oct. 16--The Cherry Orchard (American Airlines/Roundabout)
Oct. 20--The Front Page (Broadhurst)
Oct. 27--Falsettos (Walter Kerr)
Oct. 30--Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Booth)
Nov. 14--Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812 (Imperial)
Nov. 25--The Illusionists: Turn of the Century (Lunt-Fontanne)
Dec. 1--A Bronx Tale (Longacre)
Dec. 4--Dear Evan Hansen (Belasco)
Jan. 8--The Present (Barrymore)
Jan. 19--Jitney (MTC/Friedman)
March 9, 2017--Groundhog Day
March 23, 2017--The Glass Menagerie (Golden)
April 19, 2017--The Little Foxes (MTC/Friedman)
April 20, 2017--Hello, Dolly! (Shubert)
Spring 2017--Come From Away, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
2017--Sherlock Holmes
2017-18--To Kill a Mockingbird
Spring 2018--Frozen
Future--Anastasia, Archie, Soul Train, Pretty Woman, The First Wives Club, Magic Mike, Freaky Friday, King Kong, Miss Saigon, The Visitor, Bombshell 

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