Thursday, June 25, 2020

New Broadway Openings for 2021

While New York City is slowly reopening from the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the return of Broadway and other stages is still far in the future. But there is a glimmer of hope. Several Main Stem productions have announced new dates for previews and openings, all in 2021 and the earliest dates are March 1. The Minutes by Tracey Letts will begin previews at the Cort Theater on next March 1 with an opening set for March 15, one year after its originally projected premiere. The dark comedy about a secretive town council meeting has had a bumpy road to Broadway. After its Steppenwolf Theater Company debut in Chicago in 2017, the play was set to open on Broadway in 2018, but was delayed. The 2020 production was to have been directed by Tony winner Anna D. Shapiro (Letts' August: Osage County) and feature the playwright, Armie Hammer, Ian Barford (Letts' Linda Vista), Blair Brown, Cliff Chamberlain, K. Todd Freeman, Danny McCarthy, Jessie Mueller, Sally Murphy, Austin Pendleton, and Jeff Still. 

The fourth Broadway production of David Mamet's American Buffalo is now set to begin previews at Circle in the Square on March 24 with an opening slated for April 14, also a year from its original debut. The three-character play about small-time crooks planning a heist of a coin collection stars Laurence Fishburne, Oscar winner Sam Rockwell, and Darren Criss. Neil Pepe directs. Previous productions have starred Robert Duvall, Al Pacino, and John Leguizamo. 

Laurence Fishburne, Sam Rockwell and Darren Criss
in American Buffalo.
Credit: Matthew Murphy
The producers of  both shows issued the following statement: “It is the intent to open these plays—both powerful, funny and relevant dissections of Americana—in the spring of 2021, on the exact dates they were scheduled to open in 2020. However, we will only do so knowing that there are safeguards in place that will encourage audiences to return to the theatre, and that our government will allow us to have gatherings of more than 500 people. We, the producing team, believe that a vaccine is essential as part of that process, and we are hopeful that progress will be made in that area to ensure that artists and theatregoers will return to support this vital element of our theatrical heritage: the American play.”

In addition, the highly-anticipated revival of The Music Man is scheduled to march its 76 trombones
Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster
and award-winning cast into the Winter Garden Theater for previews on April 7 for a May 20 opening. Four-time Tony-winning director Jerry Zaks is slated to begin rehearsals in Feb. 8 with a cast headed by Tony winners Hugh Jackman, Sutton Foster, Jefferson Mays, Jayne Houdyshell, Marie Mullen, and Shuler Hensley. Producer Scott Rudin has also announced his productions of West Side Story, and the long-running To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Book of Mormon will reopen in mid-March or April. Rudin's transfer of The Lehman Trilogy was set for the Nederlander, but there is a scheduling conflict and he hopes to bring it to another theater.

All 41 Broadway theaters and all Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theaters closed on March 12 by government orders which forbade large public gatherings. A firm date for reopening has never been officially announced by the Broadway League, though several dates have been put out as cut-offs for refunding or exchanging tickets. As of now, Sept. 6 is the last date for refund or exchanges. There have been industry reports that will be extended to Jan. 3, 2021. There is also speculation that a spring reopening is more realistic since the holiday season and winter are traditionally difficult times for the box office. It's notable no productions have made any announcements earlier than March.   

MJ, the Michael Jackson musical, the revival of Plaza Suite with Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, and the Diane Paulus-directed revival of 1776 have also announced spring dates. The return engagement of David Bryne's American Utopia had been set for a fall engagement at the Hudson where Plaza Suite is set to play, but that may be postponed. Fortunately, Utopia will be available on HBO as well the megahit Hamilton on Disney Plus.   

Lincoln Center Theater's Flying Over Sunset and the opera version of Intimate Apparel had announced fall openings, but are now slated for the spring. Roundabout Theater Company's productions of Birthday Candles and Caroline or Change had also been pushed back to the fall along with Manhattan Theater Club's revival of How I Learned to Drive. They will most likely announce spring openings. Other new productions in various stage of previews or rehearsals before the shutdown such as Take Me Out, Company, Diana, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Sing Street have made no formal announcements about openings.

Additional possible 2021 shows include Death of a Salesman with Nathan Lane and Laurie Metcalfe, and a repertory of Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart and its sequel The Destiny of Me.

Hangmen and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? were cancelled. Beetlejuice officially closed and Frozen will not be returning.

The producers of these returning shows are banking on a vaccine for the corona virus becoming widely available by March. Rudin and Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin have stated social distancing seating will not be possible under the Broadway economic model, so audiences would be relying only on face masks and hand sanitizer for protection from the virus without a vaccine.

For those who crave a hit of theater before next spring, Richard Nelson will be providing another Zoom visit from the Apple Family. And So We Come Forth, a play written especially for the Zoom platform, will become available on YouTube and for eight weeks starting on July 1 at 7:30pm. Written and directed by Nelson, the play follows up on What Do We Need to Talk About, which detailed the travails of an upstate NY family chronicled in a trilogy of works presented at the Public Theater. The new play takes place in early July over dinner as the Apples discuss the protests against racism and the effects of the pandemic on their lives.

Tentative Schedule for 2021
March 15--The Minutes (Cort) (previews March 1)
April 13--Plaza Suite (Hudson) (previews March 19)
April 14--American Buffalo (Circle in the Square) (previews March 22)
April 15--MJ (Neil Simon) (previews March 8)
May 20--The Music Man (Winter Garden) (previews April 7)
Spring 2021--Flying Over Sunset (LCT/Vivian Beaumont); Intimate Apparel (LCT/Mitzi Newhouse); 1776
Future--Death of a Salesman; K-pop the Broadway Musical; The Nanny; The Normal Heart/The Destiny of Me; Smash; Some Like It Hot; Soul Train

Unopened Productions from 2019-20 with no new dates yet
Birthday Candles
The Lehman Trilogy
Mrs. Doubtfire
Caroline or Change
Sing Street
How I Learned to Drive
Take Me Out

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