A bountiful crop of Broadway shows is expected to occupy every available theater this spring. Okay, so winter is still in the picture and not to be ignored. But not for long.
Sarah Jones’ acclaimed solo performance piece “Bridge and Tunnel,” in which she plays more than a dozen funny, touching and endearingly poetic male and female immigrant New Yorkers who perform at a poetry slam, is entertaining audiences for a limited engagement at the Helen Hayes Theater. It was a sell-out during its Off-Broadway run last year. The brilliance of Jones’ many faces and characterizations make this a must-see. It has been so successful its run at the Helen Hayes Theater has been extended through July 9. Question: Can you get your act together fast enough?
“Jay Johnson: The Two and Only” (remembered for his role on the TV soap Soap) was scheduled to bump Sarah Jones out of the Helen Hayes Theater on April 3 with his man-with-puppets show, in which he shares his life-long obsession with ventriloquism and the mentor who helped his career. It had a successful run last season Off-Broadway, but due to the extended run of “Bridge and Tunnel” it will now open in the fall. Question: Do the dummies work for minimum wage?
The Manhattan Theater Club’s production of David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Rabbit Hole,” starring Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City) and Tyne Daly, under the direction of Daniel Sullivan, is now at the Biltmore Theater. This sad but superbly acted drama deals perceptibly with a married couple and a family that is confronted with personal tragedy following a terrible accident. Question: Are you willing to commit to a play that deals unsparingly with the most painful loss?
The revival of the Neil Simon comedy “Barefoot in the Park” doesn’t boast the superstar power of that other Simon comedy, “The Odd Couple,” but I suspect that you won’t find more appealing leads than Patrick Wilson, Amanda Peet, Tony Roberts, and Jill Clayburgh in any play. It just opened at the Cort Theater, but not yet reviewed at press time. Question: Are there still enough Simon fans around to laugh at this sit-com, in which a newly married squabble in their walk-up apartment, no matter how charmingly performed?
The other revival of (melodic) note is the Roundabout Theater production of “The Pajama Game,” starring Harry Connick Jr. It appears that nothing is going to stop the comely crooner/composer from bringing his own brand of “Steam Heat” to Broadway, despite the failure of his own musical, “Thou Shalt Not.” This time, under the watchful eye of director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall, he is singing the songs of Richard Adler-Jerry Ross (“Hey There”) to leading lady Kelli O’Hara, with Michael McKean and Megan Lawrence providing comic support. Question: Do any of those musicals of the “golden age” ever go out of fashion, especially when a popular entertainer heads the cast?
Get set for the pre-spring opening of the latest juke-box musical, “Ring of Fire,” based on the music of the “I Walk the Line” guy Johnny Cash. It opens at the Ethel Barrymore Theater on March 12. Notwithstanding the recent bio film, this musical, under the direction of Richard Maltby Jr., uses Cash’s canon to frame the lives of three couples. Question: Will the musical live up to the good word of mouth it is generating in previews?
Lauded downtown actress/playwright Lisa Kron will appear in “Well,” her acclaimed bio-play, originally produced Off-Broadway, inspired by her compassionate relationship with her volatile mother (played by Obie Award winner Jayne Houdyshell). It opens, under the direction of Leigh Silverman, at the Longacre Theater on March 30. Question: Can Kron’s excellent play resonate on Broadway?
Larry Bryggman, Ali MacGraw, Julianna Margulies, and Michael Hayden star in “Festen,” London’s acclaimed Almeida Theater production about a patriarch’s 60th birthday celebration that unexpectedly turns into a game involving family secrets, revelations, and accusations. It opens at the Music Box Theater on April 9. Question: Do Yanks enjoy the same games as the Brits?
The Lincoln Center Theater revival of playwright Clifford Odet’s Depression-era play, “Awake and Sing!,” about the struggles of a Jewish family in the Bronx, stars Ben Gazzara, Zoe Wanamaker, Mark Ruffalo, and Lauren Ambrose. It opens, under the direction of Bartlett Sher (“The Light in the Piazza”), at the Belasco Theater on April 17. Question: Will audiences stay awake?
“Three Days of Rain” marks the Broadway debut of mega film star Julia Roberts, under the direction of Joe Mantello, in a play by Richard Greenberg. The three-member cast, which also includes Bradley Cooper and Paul Rudd, portray characters of two different generations who try to piece together the reasons for their parents’ bland marriage. The play, which had a previous life (32 performances) at the Manhattan Theater Club in 1997, opens at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater on April 19. Question: How does one get tickets?
The dynamics of Cindy Lauper and Alan Cumming will propel a revival of the classic Brecht-Weill musical “The Threepenny Opera.” It opens at Studio 54 on April 20. Question: Does this shark still have its pearly teeth?
“The History Boys” is the London import of the hit by Alan Bennett about a headmaster and faculty in conflict with schoolboys. It opens at the Broadhurst Theater on April 23. Question: Does this qualify as the snob British hit of the season?
“Lestat,” the old blood-sucker, is back once again, this time with a score by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Based on the Anne Rice books about a rapacious vampire with family connections, it has been found a bit anemic during the out-of-town tryout. Question: Will the series of transfusions it is receiving get it in shape for its opening at the Palace Theater on April 25?
“The Wedding Singer” is the musical version of the successful film comedy and will star Stephen Lynch and Laura Benanti. It opens at the Hirschfeld Theater on April 27. Question: Will the heartbroken wedding singer find a new girl who can also sing?
Song and dance legend Maurice Hines and Maurice White (of Earth Wind and Fire fame) have re-laced the old Hans Christian Anderson tale, “The Red Shoes,” to incorporate urban rap, hip hop, and jazz in “Hot Feet.” The breathtakingly beautiful 1949 film starring the late Moira Shearer also inspired an ill-fated (only five performances in 1993) adaptation with music by Jule Styne and a book by Marsha Norman in 1993. Question: Will this newest version, using songs by E.W.& F. be the charm when it opens at the Hilton Theater on April 30?
Sutton Foster (“Thoroughly Modern Millie”) stars in “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a thoroughly original musical fantasy that may turn out to be the sleeper hit of the year. With rave reviews and great-word-of-mouth, it was a huge success on the coast, but had no theater until “The Woman in White” announced its closing. This $8 million shows opens May 1 at the Marquis Theater with direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw (Spamalot). Question: Isn’t it about time for a thoroughly original musical comedy?
Oliver Platt and Brian F. O’Byrne star in the American premiere of “Shining City,” Conor McPherson’s drama about a man who claims to have seen his dead wife’s ghost. It opens at the Biltmore on May 3. Question: Is there another Tony waiting in the wings for O’Bryne (“Frozen”), most recently in “Doubt?” Question: Will playwright McPherson’s interest in ghosts (“The Weir” in 1999) be shared by Broadway theatergoers?
David Schwimmer (“Friends”) and Zjelko Ivanek head the cast in the revival of Herman Wouk’s 1954 play, “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial.” Question: Will we find out if the mental instability of a commander-in-chief is still an issue when it opens at the Lyceum Theater on May 7.
“Tarzan” is another big Disney-produced Broadway musical based on the animated film (inspired by the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel) with a score by Phil Collins. Question: Will the ape man sing as well as swing when he arrives at the Richard Rodgers Theater on May 10 (after many weeks of previews)?