Spring Preview: The Season’s Top Ten New Plays

 

139048081 Spring Preview: The Seasons Top Ten New Plays

'Evita' star Ricky Martin (Getty Images)

Newsies (Nederlander Theatre, March 29)

The next crop of child actors on par with the Billy Elliott kiddos or whoever’s riding the War Horse may be the early-edition-toting stars manqué of the season’s first movie adaptation. (They’ll be helped along by a Harvey Fierstein book and the direction of Jeff Calhoun, fresh off Bonnie and Clyde.) We’re not familiar with the source material—there’s one Christian Bale movie we see as having musical potential, and that’s a Huey Lewis-laden American Psycho spectacular—but Newsies has earned a formidable cult following over the years, and has the potential to break the kind of dancing kiddies that attract Tony attention and keep Professional Children’s School in business!

Gore Vidal’s The Best Man (Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, April 1)

America’s most surprisingly-still-alive writer speaks to the present political milieu with a play first performed in 1960, then revived in a well-regarded 2000 production. (Is there some rule that we’re supposed to care about political drama only during election years, when we’re most exhausted by it?) This play tells the story of a presidential nominating convention and the intrigues therein; the cast is to feature a waxwork gallery of legends including Candice Bergen, James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury—and Donna Hanover, who knows a thing or two about political intrigues.

End of the Rainbow (Belasco Theatre, April 2)

Between the Michelle Williams blockbuster, Smash, and the stacks upon stacks of books, we’ve allowed Marilyn Monroe her moment in the sun—now it’s time to recognize the 20th century’s true tragic diva. Yes, we’re referring to Judy Garland (for the kids: she was kind of like a rough draft of Britney Spears, but with talent). The Garland tale is reprised in End of the Rainbow, a play with occasional music starring the British veteran Tracie Bennett. Sight unseen, we’re not willing to declare Ms. Bennett the “world’s greatest entertainer”—but we’re looking forward to having ourselves a merry little night at the theater!

Evita (Marquis Theatre, April 5)

Don’t cry for Elena Roger, who reversed the notion that Eva Perón must necessarily be portrayed by someone who’s already a big star. Ms. Roger, herself Argentine by way of London’s West End, is to take over Patti LuPone’s tight bun in the new show about the flashy first lady who wins the hearts and minds of her husband’s constituents on the way to consolidating her own power—has anyone sent a comp ticket to Cristina Kirchner? More established stars are to include Michael Cerveris, of Assassins, as Juan Perón, and Ricky Martin, of “She Bangs,” as Che Guevara.

Magic/Bird (Longacre Theatre, April 11)

Bounding down the court comes this year’s Broadway show for heterosexual males—it’s all about sports, and it’s only 90 minutes long. Magic/Bird is put on by the production team behind the surprise hit Lombardi, who may have been the first people to realize that ESPN Classics viewers also have the disposable income, and the inclination, to go to the theater. Telling as it does the story of the basketball battle between the Lakers’ Magic Johnson and the Celtics’ Larry Bird, it reprises the classic theatrical theme of rivalry—though this isn’t a musical, we practically expect either Mr. Johnson’s or Mr. Bird’s character to burst out in “I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.”

Clybourne Park (Walter Kerr Theatre, April 11)

Last year’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama nearly fell apart before its transfer to Broadway; producer Scott Rudin pulled his support after playwright Bruce Norris reportedly declined to perform in Mr. Rudin’s television adaptation of The Corrections. Thankfully, theater owner Jordan Roth came to the rescue. Mr. Norris’s play about a big house packed with history will be seen in a big house packed with—well, for all the public outcry, straight plays tend to draw a discerning audience. Either way, Clybourne Park picks up the story of the home in A Raisin in the Sun and turns it into a modern-day parable of race in Chicago.

Ghost (Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, April 23)

Another West End transfer—like End of the Rainbow and Evita; can’t we grow our own hits anymore?—adapts the tale of a murder victim, his lonely beloved, and the psychic who brings them together in an evening of ghostly possession and pottery creation. The cast of relative unknowns will be singing music by, among others, former Eurythmic Dave Stewart and lyrics by Oscar-nominated Ghost screenwriter (remember the movie, with Patrick Swayze?) Bruce Joel Rubin. Fun fact: running concurrently with Sister Act, this production features the second Broadway character originated by Whoopi Goldberg, while the star herself warms cushions at The View.

Nice Work if You Can Get It (Imperial Theatre, April 24)

Forget Matthew Broderick’s tragicomedy of a Super Bowl ad! In his new role on Broadway, Mr. Broderick’s every day shall be a “day off”—he portrays a wealthy gadabout who encounters a stunning bootlegger (Kelli O’Hara) during the Jazz Age. (Mr. Broderick in a period piece? One that’s not about Ferris Bueller? Okay!) Ms. O’Hara is the real reason to see this Gershwin brothers show—the long-rising stage ingénue, most recently seen as Nellie in South Pacific, is the sort of well-liked, not-yet-iconic blonde belter who would actually get cast in the fake musical on Smash.

The Columnist (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, April 25)

Ink-stained wretches like ourselves can’t resist a Broadway dramatization of the newspaper biz, but the new play by Proof Pulitzer-winner David Auburn will appeal even to those who don’t stick press badges in their fedorae. David Alsop, the titular columnist, was a power broker in Washington from the FDR era into that of JFK—all the while keeping his homosexuality concealed. Camelot? Clandestine homosexuality? So many dog-whistles for us even before we knew that the lead actor is John Lithgow, whose appetite for this sort of scenery may never be whetted.

Don’t Dress for Dinner (American Airlines Theatre, April 26)

If the sequel to Marc Camoletti’s surprise hit Boeing-Boeing recreates the writer’s earlier success on Broadway, it will be without the help of star Mark Rylance or a trendily retro flight-attendant aesthetic. This time, little-tested stars like Adam James, Urinetown’s Spencer Kayden, and Les Liaisons Dangereuses’s Ben Daniels read the now-deceased French farce master’s words. There may indeed be hit potential here—this, too, was a smash on the West End, playing for years, and Roundabout Theatre, which has put on a series of pitch-dark shows this season, is likely looking forward to a bit of levity.