Dear William Shakespeare, Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett and Tennessee Williams: On behalf of theatregoers, drama inductees, and celebrity watchers from down the block and across the globe, my sincere appreciation for enticing a banner collection of seminal actors/global superstars away from movies and television for Broadway’s latest smash season.
You might have noticed that the Bard is all over the place: Romeo and Juliet with Orlando Bloom; Macbeth starring Ethan Hawke; and Richard III and Twelfth Night in repertory and showcasing two-time Tony winner Mark Rylance’s masculine (Richard) and feminine (Olivia) sides. (Off- and Off-Off-Broadway have also been serving up a good number of Shakespearean dramas, including the acclaimed all-female London import of Julius Caesar; another starry adaptation of Romeo & Juliet; and productions of Hamlet and Othello.)
Meanwhile, Pinter has a mini tidal wave going on thanks to the sell-out cache of power couple Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz — costarring in the revival of his 1979 drama Betrayal — and X-Men alumni Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, who have teamed up for No Man’s Land and Beckett’s masterwork, Waiting for Godot (another rep situation… oh those double-dipping Brits).
Broadway’s The Glass Menagerie, on the other hand (by Williams, the only American playwright cited), boasts a five-month limited run: It opened on September 26th and will be around through February 23rd. The revival’s extended run has everything to do with stunning critical raves, superior production values, and flawless performances by Tony winner Cherry Jones, Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto, Celia Keenan-Bolger, and Brian J. Smith.
Elsewhere on Broadway, A Time to Kill, John Grisham’s courtroom spellbinder, officially opened on October 20th with a cast that includes Broadway and TV heavyweights Patrick Page (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark), Tony winner Tonya Pinkins (Caroline, or Change), Sebastian Arcelus (Elf; House of Cards), Law & Order’s Fred Dalton Thompson, and two-time Emmy winner Tom Skerritt (Picket Fences).
Photo: Carol Rosegg
More good news: actor-comic-Boomer icon Billy Crystal has resurrected his one-man autobio-logue 700 Sundays for one last Broadway fling. It’s hilarious, heartwarming, and the only truly solo show to open this fall. Also on my top-pick radar is the WWI family drama The Snow Geese starring the triple threat cast of Tony winners Mary-Louise Parker, Victoria Clark (A Light in the Piazza), and Tony nominee Danny Burstein (Follies; South Pacific). And should you miss Clark in this limited-run production (it’s scheduled to close mid-December), you can catch her when she returns to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. In the meantime, her replacement as Cindy’s Fairy Godmother is gifted three-time Tony nominee Rebecca Luker, who just happens to be married to Burstein in real life.
Moving on to Broadway’s newest crop of must-see musicals:
Fantasia is the first "special guest star" in After Midnight
After Midnight: Grammy winner Wynton Marsalis and The Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars revive Harlem’s swing era nightclub scene and Duke Ellington’s musical legacy with American Idol’s Fantasia and Psych’s Dulé Hill.
Big Fish: Tony-winning director/choreographer Susan Stroman (The Producers) has assembled a company of Broadway’s finest — Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz and Tony nominees Kate Baldwin, Brad Oscar, and Bobby Steggert— to bring this tantalizing fantasy to the stage. Unforgettably wonderful. To read a special interview with original author Daniel Wallace and screenwriter John August, click here.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder: This ferociously madcap musical farce stars Tony winner Jefferson Mays (I Am My Own Wife) in a crazy quilt of potential heirs targeted for demise by Bryce Pinkham.
A Night With Janis Joplin: With an almost eerie precision, Mary Bridget Davies channels the rock legend while paying homage to the blues, gospel, and rock legends that inspired her.
Jessie Mueller as Carole King in Beautiful. Photo: Joan Marcus
And speaking of chart topping vocalists from decades gone by, the final musical to his Broadway this fall is Beautiful, tracing the rise of Carole King (Jessie Mueller) from teen wannabe to chart-topping pop star!