2019/20 Broadway Musical Openings
So first, at least for me, it’s all about the new musicals, although they seems oddly pre-recorded this season, if you know what I mean. There is excitement galore. That goes without saying, with some thrilling new additions to the stage scene as of late, expanding the experience beyond what was starting to look like a year of musicals with pre-written music and lyrics. That particular Tony Award category was starting to look pretty slim, maybe even nonexistent as the season started getting scheduled. Many of the earlier announced new musicals are in one form or another, a jukebox musical, starting with the glamorously glorious Moulin Rouge! That movie to stage adaptation has elevated the art form to dizzying new heights and gifted Broadway with a celebration that is surprising and captivating. It’s a joy to behold, with excellent conceptualizations that doesn’t feel like a cut-out figurine of a much loved movie – yes, I’m giving side eye to Pretty Woman: The Musical – but through artful manipulations keep the audience on its excited toes from beginning to end.
• Theatre: Lunt-Fontanne
• Previews Begin: October 12
• Opening Night: November 7
• Written by Katori Hall
• Director: Phyllida Lloyd
In the more traditional category of biographical jukebox musicals, like the wonderfully fun The Cher Show, the musically adept Temptations musical Ain’t Too Proud, and the not so wonderfully fun Donna Summer‘s musical, Tina roars onto Broadway giving it all up for the one and only. Fresh from a dynamo run in the West End, the spectacular Adrienne Warren (Broadway’s Shuffle Along) reprises her energetic “Simply the Best” portrayal of Tina Turner, alongside Daniel J. Watts as Ike, Dawnn Lewis as Zelma, and Myra Lucretia Taylor as Gran Georgeanna. And from what I have seen, she’s done the “Private Dancer” justice.
I personally loved the movie version, “What’s Love Got to Do With It” chronicling Tina’s steady rise from humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee to the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll. When Angela Bassett did Turner proud on film, I didn’t think anyone could approach this story, but Warren certainly has the chops and the attitude of Tina by not merely just breaking the rules, but rewriting them to suit her. This new stage musical reveals the ‘Proud Mary‘ story of a woman who dared to defy the bounds of her age, gender and race.
JAGGED LITTLE PILL
• Theatre: Broadhurst
• Previews Begin: November 3
• Opening Night: December 5
• Written by Diablo Cody
• Director: Diane Paulus
• Cast: Elizabeth Stanley, Kathryn Gallagher, Celia Rose Gooding, Derek Klena, Sean Allan Krill, and Lauren Patten
Much like the idea behind the festive and under-rated Head Over Heels that entwined the music of The Go-Go’s in and around Sir Philip Sidney’s 16th century prose poem, the epic first album (and other new and old material) by Alanis Morissette is the songbook that brings Jagged Little Pill to Broadway after premiering last summer at A.R.T. Boston. It’s no hard pill to swallow either, with the iconic music and lyrics sliding out a story that connects and embraces. It maneuvers us inside a multiracial suburban family struggling to understand and dissect the modern world and the distressing tragedies that can cut them into pieces. I saw it in Boston (click on the highlighted names of the shows to get to the reviews), and I’m very much looking forward to revisiting the piece with hopes that it has solidified itself instead of feeling Jagged and Little. I hope to be able to pay more attention to the book by Diablo Cody, as my Alanis brain was more stuck inside an anticipatory excitement, wondering what iconic song was coming next, and would it sound as good as the memory of that song and the singer. In Boston, “it is really in the powerful “You Oughta Know” sung to power-house perfection by the incredible Lauren Patten (Broadway’s Fun Home, Off-Broadway’s The Wolves) that tears the roof off the theatre and causing the audience to leap to its feet in a dazzling state of wonder. It’s truly worth the wait.” The rest rarely disappointed, but the story didn’t solidify enough behind a solid plot or character, feeling somehow scattered and unfocused. My fingers are crossed.
DAVID BYRNE’S AMERICAN UTOPIA
• Theatre: Hudson
• First Preview: October 4
• Opening night: October 20
This is one I don’t know much about. I recognize the music but only casually, nothing like Alanis’s Jagged Little Pill. The music of David Byrne’s 2018 album and its subsequent stage adaptation is basically news to me, surprising me each time I see a notice about it coming. I am curious what it plans to be in its construct, and what framework it will attempt to illuminate. I’m guessing it will be more meditation on the world, rather than a biography, finding its own dynamic within the music in order to escalate the cause. The Production Consultant Alex Timbers (alongside Annie-B Parson who is responsible for Choreography and Musical Staging), who was at the helm of Broadway’s Beetlejuice and Moulin Rouge! , seems to know how to bring wise wit and a wink to every diamond he touches, so I shouldn’t worry. Maybe I need to brush up on my David Byrne while the show is still working out its kinks during its out-of-town tryout at Boston’s Colonial Theatre September 11–28.
GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY
• Theatre: Belasco
• First Preview: February 7, 2020
• Opening Night: March 5, 2020
• Written and directed by Conor McPherson
• Music and lyrics by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is also one ultimate artist that I am not so well acquainted with. I blush to say that, but it didn’t stop me from loving The Public Theater‘s production of Girl From the North Country when it first premiered. An eclectic construction of Dylan’s music and lyrics, the surprising transfer to Broadway sets the scene in a 1934 guesthouse in the heartland of America. The astonishingly gifted Conor McPherson (The Weir, The Seafarer) along with the phenomenal Bob Dylan (Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, 2016) brings the achingly beautiful story of a band of frustrated and down-trodden souls struggling to make sense of their rooming house misery. The group of travelers float in and out of the perfectly formulated space and share stories that awaken our hearts while giving us a glimpse inside these magnificently drawn souls. I am looking forward to a repeat viewing.
With all the surprising off-Broadway transfers proudly sauntering onto the big stage (Congrats Slave Play, I’ll be talking about you in my next blog posting about all the plays coming to Broadway this season), there has happily been a late rush of new musicals that gratefully come with original books firmly attached to their spines. Jumping almost out of nowhere, they have grabbed hold of some fine Broadway theaters and fired up the race to the Tonys.
• Theatre: Brooks Atkinson
• First Preview: February 13, 2020
• Opening Night: March 12, 2020
• Composed by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss (who also directs)
Running with the excited fury of a gang of impatient teenage girls, the concert-esque musical is flying high from the Edinburgh Fringe as a student production to London to Chicago to Boston to Broadway. It joyfully hands the microphone over to the six ill-fated wives of Henry VIII, shining the spotlight on each of their stories bejeweled wisely inside a high-energy pop score that will surely please those same teenage girls, and then some, but it might also leave a few theatrejunkies only mildly entertained. On my last day of my London Theatre Tour of 2019 last fall, I caught the Six deceased sing and chant their order, “Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived” with Britney abandonment. As I stated in my review, “the lively entertaining show has amassed a following that fills the Arts Theatre most days and nights. It’s sassy and fun, and one wisely executed (excuse the pun) thesis on girl power, strutting forward, demanding to be taken seriously to the sound of harpsichord remixes.” It’s not Sondheim, but it does overflow with pop-elicious and delirious fun leaving me very curious how it will translate state-side on Broadway.
• Theatre: Longacre
• First Preview: March 2, 2020
• Opening Night: March 31, 2020
• Book, music, and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and David Bryan
• Directed by Tony winner Christopher Ashley
This one arrives out of nowhere, delivered by DiPietro and Bryan, who also surprised Broadway with Memphis which won the 2010 Tony Award for Best Musical. Jeanna de Waal and Roe Hartrampf musically embody the famously tragic husband and wife, as the late Princess Diana and her future King of a husband, Prince Charles. After the pre-Broadway tryout at La Jolla Playhouse in the spring of 2019, it graces the Longacre stage like royalty. With Christopher Ashley (Broadway’s Come From Away) driving this vehicle through the treacherous roads of history, it’s sure to be of interest, but will it be heart-breaking and/or emotionally engaging? I haven’t read a thing about the out of town try, but I will be curious and hopeful come March of next year.
THE LIGHTNING THIEF: THE PERCY JACKSON MUSICAL
• Theatre: Longacre
• First Preview: September 20
• Opening Night: October 16
• Book by Joe Tracz with original music and lyrics by Rob Rokicki. Based on Rick Riordan’s best-selling novel of the same name.
• Directed by Stephen Brackett
I did have the pleasure of seeing the off-Broadway production of The Lightning Thief in the spring of 2017 at the Lucille Lortel Theater in Greenwich Village. It felt cute and right in the small space, so it’s exciting to hear it has been worked on and developed further into a full Broadway musical. The entire tour cast will reprise their roles, including Chris McCarrell as Percy Jackson, inside a company of seven that will play more than 47 characters in the action-packed theatrical adventure. Based on the celebrated book series by Rick Riordan, the musical about accepting that we all carry some superpowers inside of us has hopefully gotten an upgrade since I last saw it, as I wrote in my review back then: “There is a good show hidden amongst the scaffolding and high school production-level kitsch on stage, and although the teens didn’t seem to be bothered, it will take some work to raise this show from pedestrian to God-like“. Fingers crossed.
FLYING OVER SUNSET
• Theatre: Vivian Beaumont
• First Preview: March 12, 2020
• Opening Night: April 16, 2020
• Music by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Michael Korie
• With a book and direction by James Lapine
Ok, this musical sounds like a hoot, and a wild one at that. With music by Tom Kitt (Next to Normal, Dave), lyrics by Michael Korie (Grey Gardens, Far From Heaven), and a book by the wise James Lapine (Sunday in the Park…) who also directs, the new musical follows three artists, Carmen Cusack (Broadway’s Bright Star) as playwright and diplomat Clare Booth Luce; Harry Hadden-Paton (LCT/Broadway’s My Fair Lady) as writer Aldous Huxley; and Tony Yazbeck (Encores’ A Chorus Line) as movie star Cary Grant during the 1950s as they experiment with the drug LSD. Yeah, that’s right. A musical about famous people doing LSD. Go figure, but I’m intrigued by the set up of bringing these three together at a crossroads in their lives, and under the influence of the drug. They all take a wild trip that we are invited to without the need of an illegal substance. The three confront the mysteries of their lives and their world and I’m game to ride along, as long as I don’t have to take a Jagged Little Pill to join them.
FREESTYLE LOVE SUPREME
• Theatre: Booth
• Previews: September 13
• Opening: October 2
• Created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, and Anthony Veneziale
• Directed by Thomas Kail
This hip-hop improv musical show, Freestyle Love Supreme, coming from Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, and Anthony Veneziale, stomps its way onto Broadway for a limited 16-week engagement after a sold-out run Off-Broadway earlier this year. I know nothing about this show, and I’m curious how it will fit into the season, but it’s sure to be an audience favorite, and I’m curious to experience what Freestyle Love Supreme truly feels like (No LSD required).
CAROLINE, OR CHANGE
• Theatre: Studio 54
• First Preview: March 13, 2020
• Opening Night: April 7, 2020
• Written by Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori
• Director: Michael Longhurst
The musical revival grouping is strong this season, not like the dual pairing as it was last season with Kiss Me, Kate and Oklahoma! battling it out for the awards without any other contenders. But with Caroline, or Change returning to Broadway after a solid run in the West End, the other revivals now have a critically acclaimed smart show and performance to worry about. Sharon D Clarke makes her Broadway debut with an Olivier Award-winning performance as Caroline, an African-American maid whose has to deal with the changing world of Louisiana in the 1960s. It charges forward with an eclectic heart beat in soul-stirring ways and rhythms. I saw this powerful musical at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre back in 2004 starring Tonya Pinkins and Anika Noni Rose, and when I was in London I was hoping to squeeze this show into my busy schedule. Thankfully I don’t have to worry about that decision anymore, in the same way I don’t have to chastise myself for trying to see Company once again with my travel buddy when I was in the West End last time. Both are coming, so I can stop holding my breath.
• Theatre: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
• Previews Begin: March 2, 2020
• Opening Night: March 22 (Stephen Sondheim’s birthday)
• Director: Marianne Elliott
The acclaimed West End production of the Stephen Sondheim/George Furth musical, Company is returning to Broadway in all its ground-breaking glory as directed by Marianne Elliott (National’s Rules for Living, West End/Broadway’s Curious Incident…, Angels in America), but unlike the previous Broadway revival in 2007 that starred the phenomenal Raul Esparza, this time around the wise and witty exploration of partnership has a gender-twisting dynamic with Tony winner Katrina Lenk (Broadway’s The Band’s Visit) at the birthday helm. Like Rosalie Craig (National Theatre’s The Threepenny Opera) did to acclaim in London, the stunning Lenk plays the reconstructed central character, “Bobbie”, struggling to celebrate her 35th birthday surrounded by her loving friends and complicated lovers. Joining her will be the equally astounding two-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone (Broadway’s Evita, Gypsy) as the acerbic Joanne, one of Bobbie’s married friends. She just won the Olivier for this performance, and I’m guessing we will all be just as wow’d this spring and at the Tony Awards in 2020. I can not wait.
WEST SIDE STORY
• Theatre: Broadway
• Previews Begin: December 10
• Opening Night: February 6, 2020
• Director: Ivo van Hove
Giving that classic show some Company, “Something’s Coming” with a pedigree and a title that lives on in musical theatre history. Once again, West Side Story storms and rumbles its way onto Broadway, reimagined by director Ivo Van Hove (Broadway’s Network, Park Ave Armory’s The Damned) and choreographer, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Best known for publicly accused the R&B singer Beyoncé in 2011 of plagiarizing her choreography from two of her well known Rosas pieces, “Rosas Danst Rosas” and “Achterland“, in the music video for the single Countdown, she’s a fascinating creator, and I’m very curious and excited to see what a new pair of choreography eyes, ears, arms and legs will do with something so legendary. It’s about time, I would say to Ivo and all. And even with the much talked about new movie version being directed by Steven Spielberg (set for release on December 18, 2020), this Broadway stage revival, with the legendary book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by a young Stephen Sondheim, will captivate. It is the first major New York revival to deviate from Jerome Robbins’ iconic choreography and Ivo, like he did with All About Eve, has rarely disappointed even when he misfires a bit here and there. Starring a young Isaac Powell (Broadway’s Once On This Island) as Tony and Shereen Pimentel (Broadway’s The Lion King) as Maria, West Side Story will surely be an event, and one I can not wait to attend.
As always, there are all these other special events and holiday season spectaculars like Cirque du Soliel’s Twas the Night Before… at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden coming to town. Some family friendly, and others just plain celebratory, while others may mystify on a number of different levels.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
• Theatre: Lyceum
• Previews Begin: November 7
• Opening Night: November 20
• Closing: January 5, 2020
• Adapted by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)
• Director: Matthew Warchus (Matilda)
There’s the Old Vic’s new adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, starring House of Card‘s Campbell Scott as Ebeneezer Scrooge weaving immersive storytelling and Christmas carols into a festive treat that even I can’t deny.
• Theatre: Stephen Sondheim
• Previews Begin: November 11
• Opening Night: November 13
• Closing: January 5, 2020
• Created and staged by Slava Polunin
This Olivier-winning show takes audiences through a wintry landscape where wordless clowns roam about in a climactic blizzard. A festive treat that I’m sure will bring out our Cirque wonder and amazement, something that we all might need this holiday season.
THE ILLUSIONISTS–MAGIC OF THE HOLIDAYS
• Theatre: Neil Simon
• Begins: November 19
• Closing: January 5, 2020
• Director: Neil Dorward
With a cast made up of The Illusionists: Chris Cox (as The Mentalist), Paul Dabek (The Trickster), Kevin James (The Inventor), Hyun Joon Kim (The Manipulator), Enzo Weyne (The Unforgettable), and SOS and Victoria Petroysan (The Transformationalists), the mystifying act returns to Broadway for the fifth year in a row. The Illusionists perform a series of magical acts that hopefully will delight audiences with a dash of holiday cheer, in what ever way these disappearing “Jingle Bells” mean to the holiday spirit. I can’t really fathom the connection.
HARRY CONNICK, JR. — A CELEBRATION OF COLE PORTER
• Theatre: Nederlander
• Begins: December 2019
• Starring and directed by Harry Connick, Jr.
Be still my beating heart. Harry Connick Jr. will share his “True Love‘ of Cole Porter with a Broadway audience, bringing his magical repetoire to life in a unique and exciting way for audiences of all kinds. Thanks Harry, that’s quite the Christmas Day present.
DERREN BROWN: SECRET
• Theatre: Cort
• First Preview: September 6
• Opening: September 15
• Written by Derren Brown
• Co-written and directed by Andy Nyman and Andrew O’Connor
“F*&k me sideways“, that’s all she can say about Derren Brown: Secret show that, following its 2017 sold-out Off-Broadway run at Atlantic Theatre Company, comes to Broadway to blend mind control, suggestion, showmanship, and illusion right before our very eyes. I’ll say the same, if he can do something about my eyes in the same ways he does to hers.
So let’s propose a toast to all that is coming. It sounds like a good time will be had by all on Broadway, as the 2019/20 theatrical season musically unfolds before our eyes. I’m sure there will be some others sliding in. “And I Am Telling You” that Dreamgirls, starring Olivier Award winner Amber Riley can’t be too far away, as the producers ponder about bringing a bit more drama to the season. Maybe even a few other new musicals will sneak in, finding an unoccupied theatre just waiting to be taken over, surprising us with more creativity, and hopefully some originality.
“I am an artist, you should quake at that!” and I hope this season makes me quake. Over and over again, with wonder and amazement, because it should, and it surely “Can, Can, Can” if done wisely.
SCHEDULED FOR THE 2020–2021 SEASON
And let’s not forget about this revival coming in next fall. I am not allowed to forget, actually as I’ve already been reminded by a certain young man that he has to be my +1, if I have a +1, or else I’ll never be forgiven. Thanks Outer Critics Circle, you’ve made this all possible.
THE MUSIC MAN
• Theatre: TBA
• First Preview: September 9, 2020
• Opening Night: October 22, 2020
• Director: Jerry Zaks
Much of the creative team behind the Tony-winning revival of Hello, Dolly! will reunite for this revival of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man, starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster.