Spring is the time when stuff melts. Snow—if it has fallen—turns to slush in the parks and on sidewalks. Animals shake off their long winter slumber and get foraging. As for humans? It kind of feels like we’re Han Solo defrosting from a slab of carbonite, ending a period of suspended animation that began two years ago with the shutdown of theater, and everything. It took way too long, but we have a spring season that feels almost normal. Or abnormally normal. Fifteen new productions will open on Broadway in the month of April, that’s one every other day. You still need to be masked, but perhaps that will change by summer. Until then, here are a handful of the most exciting new plays and musicals on Broadway and Off, to soften every heart.
It’s shocking that we’re still fighting over access to voting. But if you don’t fight, you don’t get the rights. That’s the inspiring message of Shaina Taub’s new musical about the bravery and vision of suffragists more than a century ago. Set in the years leading up to the 1920 passage of the Nineteenth Amendment giving women the right to vote, the production (directed by Leigh Silverman) includes beloved divas Nikki M. James, Jenn Colella, and Phillipa Soo.
A professional baseball player reveals he’s gay, making headlines. Twenty years ago, when Richard Greenberg’s sports-themed play opened in London and then New York, the premise seemed inevitable. And yet, it was only this past September that Bryan Ruby made history by coming out. Now this baseball-besotted social comedy returns to Broadway to see if anything has changed. It’s an immensely witty and yearning meditation on team spirit, individual excellence, and how the two can co-exist.
To hear Heather Christian is to hear angels channeling devils; to witness the earth cracking open and crooning a lament for humanity; to shiver from being in the presence of a musical sorceress. The throaty singer-songwriter’s pungent blend of blues, gospel, hymn and storytelling addresses big issues, like the fate of our little blue ball in the face of pollution and climate change. Christian’s pandemic-deferred ecological concert finally comes to Ars Nova.
Jule Styne’s brassy biomusical about comedian Fanny Brice gets its first revival since 1967. And what leading lady is bold enough to step into Barbra Streisand’s shoes? Beanie Feldstein, the bubbly young talent seen in the Hello, Dolly!revival a couple seasons back, not to mention the teen-nerd-com Booksmart. Michael Mayer directs this revival, which includes Jane Lynch in the cast, plus a revised book by Harvey Fierstein.
If Joel Coen’s recent arty film version of the Shakespeare tragedy hasn’t sated your appetite for tyrannical Scots haunted by ghosts and witches, check out this revival starring the late—er, former—James Bond, Daniel Craig. Ruling with a bloody fist alongside Ruth Negga as Lady Macbeth, Craig will show his skills beyond pounding martinis and doing a motorcycle chase through Istanbul. Sam Gold directs this very modern take on corruption and power.
This season has brought a lot of Black women playwrights to the fore, but it’s good to remember that Ntozake Shange helped pave their way. Shange’s breakthrough 1976 “choreopoem”—returning to Broadway after more than 40 years—explores the inner and social lives of a group of Black women who inhabit the same Harlem apartment building. In poetic and powerfully felt monologues, they reveal complicated romantic and professional challenges. Director-choreographer Camille A. Brown leads this revival.
Don’t expect film star James McAvoy (a.k.a. Marvel’s younger Professor X) to appear in a prosthetic nose; his character may be defined by a ridiculously large schnoz, but this revival of the Edmund Rostand romantic comedy doesn’t play by the rules. Jamie Lloyd’s minimalist, abstract staging is more like a punk concert than a theatrical chestnut. McAvoy plays the brilliant wordsmith who pines for a woman he feels he cannot attract.
When it opened Off Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in 2019, this audacious meta-musical by Michael R. Jackson seemed destined for Broadway. You-know-what put that plan on hold. Now the taboo-shredding satire—think of it as a Black, gay, neurotically self-referential Company—makes the Great White Way a little less pale.