November Stages New York: It’s Show Time!November 1, 2017 - by Griffin Miller, Theatre Editor
From edgy to quirky to who-knows-what, the new theatre season is riding New York’s Broadway and Off-Broadway fast track in full pedal-to-metal velocity, fueled equally by celebrity muscle and the infusion of talented up-and-comers.
For star seekers, Broadway’s loudest buzz is humming around shows entering and exiting previews. Near the front of the pack is Oscar nominee Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction; Kill Bill: Volumes 1 & 2), making her Broadway debut in House of Cards creator Beau Willimon’s hot new property, The Parisian Woman. Helping Thurman transition from screen to stage are Tony winner Blair Brown (Copenhagen; Orange Is the New Black), Tony nominee Phillipa Soo (Hamilton), Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama), and Marton Csokas (The Lord of the Rings).
Once On This Island is another show worth looking into during previews (beginning 11/9) if you’re seeking star power: Lea Salonga (above), who picked up a Tony for her performance as Kim in Broadway’s original production of Miss Saigon. (Worth noting: the current reimagined revival of Miss Saigon, running through 1/14, is a definite must-see with Eva Noblezada taking on Salonga’s prior role.) As for Once On This Island, the company also includes Tony nominee Phillip Boykin, noted for his powerful performance as Crown opposite Audra McDonald in Porgy and Bess. Both Salonga and Boykin play island gods who help reunite a couple of star-crossed lovers, so expect some sweeping theatre magic at the Circle in the Square.
Stephen Pasquale of American Crime Story (and newly minted husband of the aforementioned Ms. Soo), heads the cast of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar’s latest, Junk, set in 1985. It tracks the hubris-fueled rise of one Robert Merkin, launched into superstardom when he proclaims “Debt is an asset.”
Reality TV fans—in particular those with a passion for singing phenoms—will be eager to hear about the only Yuletide Broadway offering this season: Home for the Holidays. The stars of this limited run (11/21 through 12/30) are Candice Glover, winner of American Idol season 12; Josh Kaufman, winner of The Voice season 6; and Bianca Ryan, winner of America’s Got Talent season 1. Hosted by Kaitlyn Bristowe (The Bachelorette season 11), this feast of seasonal songs—25 in all—also features NYC-born Emmy winner Danny Aiello, who shares his personal memories of Christmases in Manhattan.
Danny Skinner, Lilli Cooper, and Ethan Slater sing under the sea in the new SpongeBob SquarePants musical. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Four-year-olds and up have their own superstar to celebrate this season in new Broadway musical SpongeBob SquarePants. SpongeBob will be joined by other denizens of Bikini Bottom, including of course BFF Starfish Patrick (Danny Skinner), Sandy Cheeks (Lilli Cooper), and the curmudgeonly Squidward Q. Tentacles (Tony-nominee Gavin Lee). As for SpongeBob, we’re formally welcoming Ethan Slater to Broadway—but not to the role. Slater not only played SpongeBob in the show’s Chicago premiere, he picked up a BroadwayWorld Chicago Best Actor Award.
Should your theatre passions veer Off-Broadway, here are a few shows (some with noteworthy celebs) that should be on your radar:
Downtown Race Riot. The New Group’s latest drama kicks off on 11/14 with Oscar nominee Chloë Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry, Bloodline, Big Love).
Lonely Planet. A beautifully etched, funny, and heart-wrenching revival marking the 25th anniversary of Steven Dietz’s timely work. Starring two of New York theatre’s best: Arnie Burton (The Government Inspector) and Matt McGrath (The Legend of Gerogia McBride).
Christmas Spectacular Starring The Radio City Rockettes®. Admit it…even with the holidays still in a holding pattern, the lure of this New York holiday tradition and its high-kicking Rockettes is irresistible. So go ahead and be among the first to sample this festive feast of music, dance, and techno wonders. I assure you, you won’t be alone! Debuting 11/10.
Casting Central: Enter Two New Broadway Players
Photo by Jason Bell.
The hit musical Waitress just welcomed two-time Grammy Award winner Jason Mraz to its pie-filled ranks. Looking to mix it up career-wise, Mraz will taking over the role of Dr. Pomatter, love interest of the adorable pie-maker/waitress Jenna (Betsy Wolfe). The multi-Grammy winner broke all kinds of pop music records with his song “I’m Yours,” but you’ll have to act fast to catch his Broadway debut—he’ll be leaving after 10 weeks.
Meteor Shower, which just began previews, stars comedic actress Amy Schumer (Broadway debut!), Tony winner Laura Benanti (Gypsy, She Loves Me), and Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele; MADtv). Their original fourth cast member—Alan Tudyk—dropped out during rehearsals, citing “creative differences.” So it goes. Thankfully his replacement is Jeremy Shamos, a Tony nominee for his performance in Clybourne Park, and one of New York theatre’s most acclaimed actors.