By Luisa Tanno, Theatre Advisor
It’s Showtime in New York City!
Springtime is always an extra special time in New York City. Plants, and people, start to blossom and come to life. You can feel a bubbling of energy in the streets. It is also an exhilarating time for theatre. Many plays and musicals open in hopes of meeting the Tony Awards eligibility cut-off date for the season. Shows have to officially open (not just be in previews) by April 28th to be considered for a Tony!
In this amazing theatre season there is much to love, no matter your taste! So I thought I’d put together my spring preview of Broadway and Off-Broadway, with that in mind.
People often ask me: what should I see? What do you recommend? I love getting these questions and always want to give the right answer! So I usually ask a couple of follow-up questions: Play or musical? What have you seen that you love? Which shows have your interest? And another important one: what are you in the mood for? We’ll let that last one be our guide.
If You Want to Laugh…
The buzz on this brand new comedy about a group of women trying to keep their male boss (POTUS) out of trouble is that it is FUNNY! If you need a little satirical hilarity this might be for you – it is certainly on my list. The cast features SNL alum Rachel Dratch, theatre darling Julie White, and Vanessa Williams among others. Through August 14th at The Shubert Theatre.
This classic Sondheim show about a single 35 year old and their desire for, and resistance to, a relationship definitely has comic moments built in to the script. But the current revival found all of those moments and elevated them. I may have had some ambivalence about the way they handled the gender swap of the main character, but I definitely laughed and experienced many moments of delight! Open run at The Bernard Jacobs Theatre.
If You Want To Be Wowed…
The wow here is for the quality. It’s an excellent ensemble play about a professional baseball player coming out as gay, and the aftermath. It doesn’t go where you expect, and this production is seamless. You know you’re in good hands the moment it starts, which is an intangible and precious thing. In a stellar cast, Jesse Tyler Ferguson stood out for me both for his comic timing and his tenderness. Helen Hayes Theatre/Second Stage, just extended to June 11th.
This semi-autobiographical musical written by Michael R. Jackson comes to Broadway after it took Off-Broadway by storm, winning him a Pulitzer! It is billed as a big, Black, and queer-ass American Broadway show (these are also lyrics in the opening number), and is especially beloved by theatre folks, partly because it is about following your theatre dreams. Just look at Lin-Manuel’s face as he watches it. It also goes deep as the lead character Usher struggles with identity, self-esteem, and family relationships. Can’t wait to see it on the Broadway stage. At the Lyceum Theatre, open run.
Maybe the critics didn’t love it, and maybe there is some valid criticism around their choice to update some lyrics. But everyone I know who has seen it has found joy in this production, and in the company of stars Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster, including me! It is dazzling, and uplifting and if that is what you need, you won’t be disappointed!! At the Winter Garden Theatre, open-ended run.
If You Want To Go Deep…
This Pulitzer Prize winning play by Paul Vogel is making its Broadway debut twenty-five years after its Off-Broadway run, and Mary Louise Parker and David Morse are reviving their original roles. The subject matter is heavy (sexual abuse); the play is beautiful and stirring. I could hardly move when it was over. If you want to see a remarkable play that will unnerve you, but will also make you laugh and care, this is one to see. Through May 29th at Manhattan Theatre Club.
This play by (and starring) Tracy Letts is being billed as a comedy, but I think it important to call it a dark comedy, emphasis on dark. It is a smart, biting satire set in a town council meeting where a mystery is slowly being unraveled. I highly recommend you see this with a friend because you will need to talk about it after!! Through July 24th at Studio 54.
If You Want a Little History With Your Musical Theatre…
Written by and starring Shania Taub, Suffs tells the story of the suffragettes and the fight for women’s right to vote. It also stars Phillipa Soo (the original Eliza in Hamilton), and Jenn Colella (the original pilot Beverly in Come From Away). Through May 15th at The Public. The run is sold out but same-day rush tickets are available on the Today Tix app.
Set in Five Points Brooklyn during the Civil War, Paradise Square explores the tensions that arise when Whites are drafted to fight in the war, while their Black neighbors are barred from serving. There is rumored to be some amazing performances, and serious Tony buzz for Joaquina Kalukango. Open run at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.
This is a new Off-Broadway musical with original music by Barry Manilow, book and lyrics by Bruce Sussman, and tells the true story of the Comedian Harmonists a singing group of Jews and gentiles who performed in Germany in 1920s to great success. Through May 8th at The Museum of Jewish Heritage.
If You Want Something Life-Affirming…
This play follows our lead character Ernestine (Debra Messing) through 90 years of birthdays. The journey of a life is not without pain and sorrow, but what I found affirming about this play is the way Ernestine endures. I also enjoyed some of the threads of the play that made you feel a part of her life and traditions. There seems to be the perception that this is a one-woman show, but it is actually a charming ensemble piece. Through May 29th at the American Airlines Theatre.
With poetry, dance, and music this Broadway revival celebrates Black womanhood as seven women share their stories. I have heard that it is a beautiful, spiritual experience and it is high on my list! It is directed and choreographed by Camille A. Brown whose many credits include choreographing the sensational revival of Once on This Island. Through August 14th at the Booth Theatre.
All I know is that this is an immersive Off-Broadway musical experience composed by Heather Christian and it has rave reviews, with some calling it transcendent. That’s enough for me! Even though I can be wary of anything immersive, I have my ticket and am excited to go! Through May 15th at Ars Nova @ Greenwich House.
I am delighted to make these spring theatre recommendations based on what I’ve seen and hope to see, and also how I am sensing the pulse of the theatre world! It is my hope that you see what appeals to YOU based on what fills you up most! I would love to know which shows you are excited about, and what you have already seen and loved!