A Peek at Broadway 2015
NEW YORK—Each new year brings a new crop of shows heading to Broadway, and 2015 is no exception. Currently, there are close to 20 productions set to open before the end of April.
Among the original musicals is It Shoulda Been You. The show puts a comedic spin on a wedding gone out of control. A Jewish bride and Catholic groom find it’s all about relatives as their respective mothers cause a myriad of problems: Plots are hatched, pacts made, promises broken, secrets exposed, and chaos ensues. There’s also the bride’s ex-boyfriend who shows up at the most inopportune time.
Something Rotten! managed to wangle a spot on this season’s roster, going into the St. James Theatre when the musical Side Show closed there prematurely. Brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom are aspiring playwrights in the 1590s where they find themselves continually overshadowed by William Shakespeare. In an attempt to forge a new direction and with the advice of a soothsayer, the two set out to write the world’s first musical.
Offering a new take on a legendary hero is The Heart of Robin Hood. The play’s website promises a “raucous and thrilling production” filled with “swashbuckling, acrobatics, comedy, and romance.” This tuner explores the life of the famous outlaw before he became a household name and how Maid Marion turned him from the path of common thievery and taught him to be a hero. Originally produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, the show had its American premiere at the American Repertory Theater.
Transferring from off-Broadway is Fun Home. Based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, a woman looks back on her past in the wake of her father’s unexpected death. Most of the cast who appeared in the off-Broadway production will make the transfer uptown.
In addition to “Fun Home,” there are several other incoming musicals based on existing material. Finding Neverland is based on the film of the same name, which starred Johnny Depp and Dustin Hoffman. Playwright James M. Barrie finds his career in a slump until he meets a widow and her four young sons. The boys’ make-believe adventures inspire Barrie to write his most famous work, “Peter Pan.”
From the classic MGM musical An American in Paris comes its Broadway namesake. Set in the years immediately after World War II, former GI Jerry Mulligan hopes to become a successful Parisian painter, only to find romantic complications along the way. With book by Craig Lucas and score by George and Ira Gershwin, the stage show had its world premiere at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.
Broadway will also play host to its first revival of the 1978 musical, On the Twentieth Century. Based on the comedy by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, the show deals with a volatile theatrical director desperate to land his former lover, now a Hollywood starlet, for the lead role in his new show.
Also coming to Broadway is a musicalization of the epic novel Doctor Zhivago and a revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I.
Turning to upcoming plays, probably the most ambitious is the English transfer Wolf Hall, Parts One and Two, the two works performed in repertory. King Henry VIII wants to divorce his first wife so he can marry Anne Boleyn. When the Pope refuses to grant the king a divorce, politician Thomas Cromwell must come up with a solution that will allow the monarch to get what he most desires.
Also from London is The Audience. Helen Mirren stars as Queen Elizabeth II, who for over the past 60 years has had weekly meetings with each of the 12 men who have served as Britain’s prime minister. The play imagines what was discussed during those meetings. The actual people involved had an unspoken agreement never to reveal what was said. The Audience originally opened with Mirren in London’s West End in 2013.
Another London transfer, Skylight, depicts what happens when a schoolteacher receives an unexpected visit from her former lover, now a recent widower. As the two attempt to revive their relationship, they find the chemistry is still there, though their views on other matters are something else entirely.
Wendy Wasserstein’s Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning The Heidi Chronicles returns to Broadway for the first time since the initial 1989 production. The show charts a quarter century in the life of Heidi Holland and her two close friends as they struggle to make a difference in the turbulent times in which they live.
Turning to lighter fare, writer/performer Larry David (“Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) makes his Broadway debut with his comedy Fish in the Dark, featuring David leading an all-star cast playing 15 characters as they deal with a death in the family.
An interesting collection of shows, some will reap awards and accolades while others will raise the question of why they were ever produced in the first place. As to which is which, only time, ticket sales, and audience reaction will tell.
Judd Hollander is the New York correspondent for the London publication The Stage.