What Will Be the Big Musical?
It’s the high-stakes competition of any Broadway season, and the first entrant (opening Oct. 6) is an oddity called Big Fish, a musical based on the Daniel Wallace novel and Tim Burton movie about a son’s relationship with his tall-tale-spinning father. But the biggest fish in Broadway’s pond this season is probably Rocky: The Musical (pictured). Yes, Sylvester Stallone’s underdog boxer is now the hero of a musical, which scored a knockout last year in its way-off-Broadway tryout — in Hamburg, Germany. European musical hits don’t often translate into Broadway successes, but this one boasts a proven creative team, including songwriters Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime) and hot director (Peter and the Starcatcher) Alex Timbers.
If Rocky fails to go the distance, several other contenders are training hard. Bullets Over Broadway (opening Apr. 10), based on Woody Allen’s 1994 comedy about playwrights and mobsters on the Great White Way in the 1920s, is probably the most anticipated. Zach Braff stars in the show being directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, who managed similar double-duty quite nicely in The Producers. Yet another movie-turned-musical, The Bridges of Madison County (Feb. 27), will retell the Iowa love story with the help of a score by Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Last Five Years). Jefferson Mays plays multiple roles (as Alec Guinness did in Kind Hearts and Coronets) as the heirs to a family fortune who are being bumped off, one by one, by a disinherited relative (Bryce Pinkham) in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (Nov. 17). A dark horse contender, and one of the rare shows not based on a movie or book, is If/Then (Mar. 27), about a single woman in Manhattan, from the same creative team behind another small-scale sleeper hit, Next to Normal.
Is Harold Pinter a Box-Office Star?
I haven’t done the math, but I’ll wager that no Broadway show in history has had a heavier pre-opening advertising blitz than the upcoming (Oct. 27) revival of Betrayal, Pinter’s 1978 drama about marital infidelity, told in backwards-running time. The big draw is the starry cast, headed by Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz. But the play is one of Pinter’s most accessible, and the director is the sure-handed Mike Nichols, still basking in the acclaim for his last Broadway revival, Death of a Salesman, so look for a hit. The outlook is a little cloudier for the more enigmatic, and typical, Pinter drama No Man’s Land (Nov. 24), though two major stars, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, will give it their best shot.
Can There Be Too Much Shakespeare?
The Bard is improbably hot on Broadway, and none of his plays is hotter than Macbeth. Last season Alan Cumming played all the roles himself in a cut-down version of the tragedy, set in mental institution, and the experimental Punchdrunk company has created an off-Broadway sensation with its immersive take on the play, Sleep No More. This fall (Nov. 21), Ethan Hawke plays the title role, and a lot of other actors (Anne-Marie Duff, Richard Easton, Brian D’Arcy James), in radical break, will join him in actually doing the play straight. Meanwhile, Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad star in the ultra-familiar (but less often revived) Romeo and Juliet (Sept. 19), and acclaimed British actor Mark Rylance will tackle two more plays, Richard III and Twelfth Night, heading an all-male company imported from London’s Globe Theatre.
Do These Revivals Sound Familiar?
No American playwright gets more heavily worked over on Broadway than Tennessee Williams. After Scarlet Johansson’s Cat on a Hot Tin Rooflast season, Cherry Jones steps up to the plate as the overprotective mother in The Glass Menagerie — the sixth Broadway revival of Williams’ play since its 1945 debut. Judging by the rave reviews from its run last season at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., director John Tiffany and “movement director” Steven Hoggett have some staging innovations up their sleeve. Meanwhile, the main question raised by a new revival of A Raisin in the Sun (Apr. 3) starring Denzel Washington is: What took so long? At 58, Washington seems a little old for the role of the inner-city chauffeur with big dreams — a part last played on Broadway by Sean Combs. Much less familiar, and therefore more intriguing, isThe Winslow Boy (Oct. 17), the 1948 family drama by the decidedly out-of-fashion British playwright Terrence Rattigan, returning in a new production with Roger Rees and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.
Where Are the New Playwrights?
Mostly off-Broadway, as usual. Broadway’s lineup of straight plays is filled with works by veterans like Terrence McNally (Mothers and Sons, about a woman whose son as died from AIDS), John Patrick Shanley (Outside Mullingar, set in rural Ireland), Harvey Fierstein (Casa Valentina, set in rural Catskills) and Rupert Holmes (an adaptation of John Grisham’s bestseller A Time to Kill)). But at least two promising newcomers are represented as well. Sharr White, who made his Broadway debut last season with The Other Place, is back with The Snow Geese (Oct. 24), about a family in crisis. And Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced, about a Muslim-American lawyer caught between his cultural roots and corporate ambitions, moves to Broadway after an acclaimed off-Broadway run — and this year’s Pulitzer Prize for drama.