What's opening on Broadway, and why its such an important time of year for New York theatre
We've just had the Olivier Awards in London, honouring some of the best of the West End's theatrical offerings over the last 12 months; but for all that they are nice for the recipients to win (and provide a glamorous night out for the theatrical community to celebrate their collective achievements), they still don't mean quite as much as the Tony Awards do in New York.
That's because the Tony Awards, by contrast, have a very real commercial value: in a crowded marketplace, they can mean literally the difference between life and death for a show. This is born out every year when the nominations are announced in late April: shows that fail to secure the useful endorsements of multiple nominations often close up shop in early May, while others that hang on for the results when they are presented on the second weekend in June will often shut soon after if they fail to win.
So while I pointed out in my column earlier this week that only four of the productions that won Oliviers this year are still running now, Broadway pretty much builds its entire season around them with a surge of productions opening in March and especially April ahead of the cut-off date for eligibility for this year's awards.
In the months since the current season kicked off last May with the opening of a brilliant revival of The Boys in the Band, there have been 22 new productions up to the end of March, only 11 of which are still playing now.
But the season now culminates with 10 more openings this month alone. The first two of these have already opened: Glenda Jackson is reprising the role of King Lear that she first played at the Old Vic in 2016, but now in an entirely new staging by American director Sam Gold; while a brand-new contemporary make-over of Oklahoma! has transferred to Broadway from Brooklyn's St Ann's Warehouse, where I first saw it last year (and is truly brilliant).
And next week we enter the home stretch with virtually back-to-back openings from Tuesday 16th April to Thursday 25th April, including three new musicals (one of them transferring via a run at London's National Theatre), three new plays (including one first seen at London's Almeida), and two play revivals.
I'll be in New York myself for most of them, as I begin a new job of reviewing regularly for LondonTheatre.co.uk's partner New York site, the New York Theatre Guide.
Here's a night-by-night sneak preview of what I'll be covering. (Fortunately, things are pretty quiet in London, so I don't this too much here - only the Donmar revival of Sweet Charity next Wednesday and a revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons on 23rd April, the night after a separate revival opens on Broadway, see below!)
(Editor’s note: Be assured reader, that you will still be able to read reviews of All My Sons and Sweet Charity here after their opening nights.)
Tuesday 16th April
A revival of Lanford Wilson's 1987 play that originally starred Joan Allen (for which she won a Tony) and John Malcovich (in a performance he subsequently reprised at London's Hampstead Theatre and in the West End, and who will be soon be returning to the West End stage in David Mamet's new play Bitter Wheat at the Garrick from 7th June). Michael Mayer's new production stars Adam Driver and Keri Russell.
Walter Kerr Theatre
Wednesday 17th April
After trying out at the National Theatre last year, Anaïs Mitchell's musical based on the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice transfers to Broadway, with Eva Noblezada, Reeve Carney, Amber Gray, Patrick Page and Andre DeShields reprising their London performances.
Hillary & Clinton
Thursday 18th April
Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow play the title roles in Lucas Hnath's new play about Hillary Clinton's 2008 attempt to secure the Democratic party nomination to run for President.
Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
Sunday 21st April
Nathan Lane, Kristine Neilsen and Julie White star a brand-new play that marks Off-Broadway performance artist and playwright Taylor Mac's Broadway debut.
All My Sons
Monday 22nd April
Annette Bening, Tracy Letts and Benjamin Walker in a new production by Jack O'Brien of Arthur Miller's shattering family drama, also being revived (in a different production) at London's Old Vic this week, opening 23rd April, with a cast led by Sally Field and Bill Pullman.
Tuesday 23rd April
David Yazbek, who scored last year's Tony winning best musical The Band's Visit, now writes music and lyrics for a new musical version of the 1982 film, with Santino Fontana in the role that Dustin Hoffman was Oscar-nominated for.
Samuel J Friedman
Wednesday 24th April
James Graham's play about Rupert Murdoch and the birth of The Sun newspaper, originally premiered at the Almeida in 2017 before transferring to the Duke of York's, premieres now on Broadway, with Bertie Carvel reprising his Olivier Award-winning performance as Murdoch, newly joined by Jonny Lee Miller as Larry Lamb, the Sun's editor who was originally played by Brendan Coyle.
Thursday 25th April
Tim Burton's 1988 film is musicalised for the stage, with a score by Eddie Perfect (also responsible for the new songs for King Kong this season). The cast is led by Alex Brightman, Sophia Anne Caruso, Rob McClure, Kerry Butler and Leslie Kritzer.
All of the above doesn't give much time to check into Off-Broadway's thriving theatrical scene, but I'm also looking forward to paying my first visit to The Shed, a brand-new arts centre that opened this month in the new massive Hudson Yards development on the far west side of midtown Manhattan, where British director Katie Mitchell is directing the opening production of Norma Jean Baker, starring Ben Whishaw and Renee Fleming.