Spring Theater Preview: A Dozen Great Shows Bloom On Broadway (And Off)

A pop star becomes a demon barber, a TV assassin turns attorney, and Hamlet gets a Black, queer makeover — those are just a few of the miraculous transformations the theater has in store the next few months.

Clockwise from top left: ‘Sweeney Todd,’ ‘Fat Ham,’ ‘Prima Facie’ and ‘The Wife of Willesden.’

Are we back to normal? Feels like it. Masks are optional on Broadway, even though smaller venues still require them. On Broadway there’s a healthy mix of classic revivals, plays, and one or two hopeful new musicals. But let’s not kid ourselves: tourists are hitting the big-name shows and displaying caution. Nonprofit institutions are balancing diversity on stage while trying to grow it in the audience. This spring, for those on a budget, we offer a dozen suggestions: a show a week for the next three months.

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Casey Zane Simons

Sweeney Todd at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre (previews Feb 26; opens Mar 26)

Bucking the trend of reviving Sondheim with reduced musical forces, here comes an orchestra of 26 and two beloved singers: Josh Groban as the vengeful barber Sweeney and Annaleigh Ashford as his daffy, pie-making accomplice, Mrs. Lovett. Director Thomas Kail of Hamilton fame stages this Everest of musical theater. Let’s hope for a feast.

Courtesy of the Red Bull Theater

Arden of Faversham at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (Mar 6–Apr 1)

Not a familiar title, is it? Leave to Red Bull Theater to unearth a theatrical relic and give it exciting new life. Billing itself as “English-speaking theater’s first true-crime story,” this 1592 domestic tragedy concerns a wife and her lover conspiring to murder her husband. Jesse Berger directs a sterling cast, including Cara Ricketts as the wife and Thomas Jay Ryan as the targeted cuckold.

Darren Cox

Camelot at Vivian Beaumont Theater (previews Mar 9; opens Apr 13)

The one to take your parents (or grandparents) to for their birthday. Director Bartlett Sher (My Fair Lady) returns to Lincoln Center Theater to breathe fresh life into Lerner & Loewe’s 1960 classic about King Arthur, his queen, and the dreamy knight who gets between them. Aaron Sorkin doctors the book for contemporary ears, and the beauteous Phillipa Soo plays Guenevere.

Danny Bristoll

Lunch Bunch at 122CC, 2nd Floor Theatre (Mar 15–Apr 8)

After a sold-out 2019 run with Clubbed Thumb, Sarah Einspanier’s workplace comedy returns for a longer nosh. Centered around a group of public defenders who take turns preparing fancy lunches for each other, the witty, hourlong piece examines how we use food (for health, for virtue signaling) and how it uses us. The toothsome ensemble includes Ugo Chukwu, David Greenspan, and Julia Sirna-Frest. 

Joan Marcus

Fat Ham at the American Airlines Theatre (previews Mar 21; opens Apr 12)

After a triumphant run last spring at the Public Theater, this Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy transfers to Broadway. Giving Hamlet a Black, queer, and comedic makeover, James Ijames relocates the mopey character to modern-day suburban North Carolina, as a chubby and morose son bemoans his mother marrying his uncle. Expect barbeque, karaoke, and a Laertes who’s ready for RuPaul’s Drag Race

Courtesy of Second Stage Theatre

The Thanksgiving Play at the Hayes Theater (previews Mar 25; opens Apr 20)

And you thought the Addams Family Values Turkey Day pageant was fire. Here comes a savage satire by Larissa FastHorse (Sicangu Lakota Nation), in which a group of white, well-meaning liberals try to put on a culturally sensitive school drama for Thanksgiving Day. Rachel Chavkin (Hadestown) directs a cast that includes two insanely funny ladies—D’Arcy Carden (A League of Their Own) and Tony-winner Katie Finneran

Matthew-Murphy

New York, New York at the St. James Theatre (previews Mar 24; opens Apr 26)

Inspired by the 1977 Martin Scorsese picture, this show makes history by being the final “collaboration” between composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, who passed away in 2004. With additional lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, a new book, and staging by hitmaker Susan Stroman, this nostalgic extravaganza takes place in our fair city just after WWII, as a young saxophone player and aspiring singer find love and chase fame. 

Maria Baranova

Night Keeper at the Chocolate Factory Theater (Mar 29–Apr 8)

If you’re watching a play and the lights go out, you might assume a power failure, but Aaron Landsman’s new performance invites the darkness. Performing in dim or no illumination, Jehan Young and Jess Barbagallo explore time and memory throughout the Chocolate Factory Theater in Long Island City. Guitarist Norman Westberg accompanies with a live score of loops and samples. Oh, and Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew did design the lights.

Marc Brenner

The Wife of Willesden at BAM Harvey Theater (Apr 1–16)

Novelist and essayist Zadie Smith turns playwright with this update of the Wife of Bath’s Tale, by Chaucer. Updating 14th-century pilgrims to 21st-century barflies, the bawdy verse comedy is dominated by Alvita, a Jamaican-born British woman who has gone through five husbands. She tells all about the sex and more, in unsparing, hilarious detail. Indhu Rubasingham brings her London production to Brooklyn, starring a phenomenal Clare Perkins.

Liz Lauren

Good Night, Oscar at the Belasco Theatre (previews Apr 7; opens Apr 24)

Will & Grace veteran Sean Hayes headlines a new period play by Doug Wright. Set during a TV interview with Jack Paar, Hayes plays pianist and wit Oscar Levant (1906–72), fresh from a stay at a mental institution and popping pills to keep him vertical. Expanding on this historical showbiz footnote, Wright probes issues of celebrity, censorship, and mental health. All this, plus Hayes actually plays a bit of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Helen Murray

Prima Facie at the John Golden Theatre (previews Apr 11; opens Apr 23)

You know her as the impish international assassin Villanelle from four seasons of Killing Eve. Now the magnetic Jodie Comer goes it solo (no corpses) as a British attorney named Tessa who defends men accused of sexual assault—until she herself becomes a victim. Suzie Miller’s button-pushing monologue, a London import, seeks to unsettle our received ideas about justice. 

Courtesy of Lisa Clair

Willa’s Authentic Self at MITU580 (May 11–26)

Lisa Clair reimagines the Jewish Golem myth as a fable of creativity and transformation that spreads from the individual artist to an entire city. The author plays Willa, who is gifted a lump of clay that, with a little work, becomes a daughter (incarnated by the sensational Juliana Francis Kelly). But what happens when the girl won’t stop growing? Shannon Sindelar directs this feminist monster story for the future. 

Spring Theater Preview: A Dozen Great Shows Bloom On Broadway (And Off)