Fall Arts Preview: Top 10 Theater

The good news is it’s an enticing season on Broadway, with shows likely to lure the tourists (Love Letters), the crowds (On the Town) and the jaded intellectuals (a new Neil LaBute). The bad news is that a lot of the shows are familiar revivals that feature Hollywood stars, a glamorous subset of actors with a pockmarked record of delivering live performance. But the very good news is that many of those stars are actually seasoned Broadway vets with a Tony or two.

Keep in mind, Hugh Jackman was Curly in Oklahoma at the Barbican long before he was ever Wolverine.

Here, a look at some of the more keenly awaited shows, in order of Opening Night.

The Fortress of Solitude

It’s an intriguing season for the Public Theater, with a what’s-that-all-about Civil War drama in three parts by Suzan-Lori Parks, plus this world premiere of a musical based on the Jonathan Lethem best seller. Set in 1970s New York, Fortress asks us to imagine what might happen “if two teenagers obsessed with superheroes began to believe they could fly.” The Public Theater; Opening: September 30

The Country House. (Photo by Michael Lamont, courtesy of Geffen Playhouse)

The Country House. (Photo by Michael Lamont, courtesy of Geffen Playhouse)

The Country House

Before she was Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom, Blythe Danner was a  Broadway star known for her turns as the sensitive southern flowers of Tennessee Williams dramas. She’s got more backbone in this Chekhov-inspired show as the matriarch of a famous acting clan bickering in the Berkshires. Samuel J. Friedman Theatre; Opening October 2

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Based on the novel by Mark Haddon, this British import soaked up the Olivier awards, including Best Play, in its West End incarnation. It tells the story of a teen with Asperger’s syndrome who, when suspected of killing his neighbor’s poodle, starts a search for the real culprit. It’s headed to Hollywood: Brad Pitt has already bought the film rights. Ethel Barrymore Theater; Opening October 5

Shakespeare Sonnets

BAM’s boffo bigger-than-ever Next Wave Festival features 15 theatrical productions this fall, including works by James Joyce, Beckett, and a brutally minimalist take, complete with saline drip, on Angels in America. Arguably the most anticipated show, at least by the “Sprockets” set, is this one. The Berliner Ensemble offers a surrealistic take of the Robert Wilson and Rufus Wainwright pop opera based on the Bard’s writings. BAM Howard Gilman Opera House; Opening October 7

Its Only a Play. Photo by F. Scott Schafer)

It’s Only a Play. (Photo by F. Scott Schafer)

It’s Only a Play

Laughing at the biz of Showbiz: Nathan Lane reteams with Producers pal Matthew Broderick, with fine-tuned support from F. Murray Abraham, Stockard Channing and Megan Mullally, in this Terrance McNally comedy of a Broadway cast nervously awaiting the reviews of their new show, The Golden Egg. Will art mimic life? Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre; Opening October 9

Disgraced

An M&A lawyer conceals his Muslim background, until his artist wife throws a fateful Upper East Side dinner party that alters his relationships irrevocably. The tense one-act has a 2013 Pulitzer Prize for drama, deafening buzz and a track record of success at Lincoln Center. Lyceum Theater; Opening October 23

The Last Ship. Photo by Joan Marcus

The Last Ship. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

The Last Ship

Sting writes a Broadway musical! Whether it will be as fine as The Who’s Tommy or as cringe-worthy as Bono and The Edge’s Spider-Man is a matter of considerable suspense. There were spotty reviews for its Chicago tryout, but the blue-collar tale of an Irish shipyard in trouble offers, no surprise, some rousing tunes. Neil Simon Theater; Opening October 26

The River

Arguably the most-awaited of the fall straight plays, Jez Butterworth’s The River is a dark and atmospheric telling of a fisherman’s night at a remote cabin. The gifted Mr. Jackman stars, but even he will have some shoes to fill: Mark Rylance won a Tony for his roaring performance as the lead in Mr. Butterworth’s last play, Jerusalem. Circle in the Square Theater; Opening November 16

Sideshow.

Sideshow.

Side Show

Here, Academy Award-winner and director Bill Condon resurrects a dark musical—it had a short but noted run on Broadway in 1997—loosely based on the lives of Daisy and Violet Hilton. The two “Siamese” twins joined at the hip toured the world as a vaudeville act in the 1920s and 1930s. Reviews for a Kennedy Center production earlier this year were rapturous. St. James Theater; Opening November 17

The Elephant Man

Handsome Bradley Cooper will play the Victorian-era “monster” John Merrick without the aid of mask or makeup in this Scott Ellis-directed production that opens late in the season. (Word is that Mr. Cooper has banned his matinee-idol photo from the marquee.) It’s an import from the Williamstown Theatre Festival, where the well-reviewed 2012 production was sold out. Booth Theater; Opening December 7

Fall Arts Preview: Top 10 Theater