Star Power Ignited: March On and Off BroadwayFebruary 26, 2019 - by Griffin Miller, Theatre Editor
THEATER QUARTER UPDATE
Broadway’s version of March Madness is clocking in with an intoxicating influx of comedies, dramas, and musicals—bringing with them a wave of award-winning celebrities. So for stage savants (and those who just want an insider’s look at New York theater’s new arrivals) here’s the lowdown on Broadway this March!
Ephraim Sykes, Jeremy Pope, Jawan M. Jackson, James Harkness, and Derrick Baskin in Ain’t Too Proud. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
The first two shows to kick off the March preview scene—both on Feb. 28—are the musical Ain’t Too Proud–The Life and Times of The Temptations, and the Shakespearean drama King Lear.
Ain’t Too Proud, showcasing the music and personal lives of the Temptations, moved to Broadway following record-breaking runs at both the Berkeley Repertory Theatre and D.C.’s Kennedy Center. Add to this a book by Kennedy Prize–winning playwright Dominique Morisseau, direction by Tony winner Des McAnuff, and choreography by Olivier Award winner Sergio Trujillo, and we may well be looking at a runaway hit.
Meanwhile, Lear comes to life with two-time Oscar winner Glenda Jackson in the title role. Jackson, who picked up a Best Actress Tony last season for Three Tall Women, heads this open-gender production co-starring two-time Olivier Award winner and Golden Globe recipient Ruth Wilson (Showtime’s The Affair); Tony winner Jayne Houdyshell (The Humans); and multiple Obie winner Elizabeth Marvel.
Next up is Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, arriving at the Booth Theatre on March 5th with a trio of Broadway’s most celebrated performers: three-time Tony winner Nathan Lane (The Producers) two-time Tony winner Andrea Martin (Pippin); and Tony-nominee Kristine Nielsen (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike). And should you be wondering, Gary…(by Pulitzer Prize finalist Taylor Mac), is poised to set a precedent for comedic hocus pocus as it takes place in the aftermath of Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy.
The high-flying Be More Chill opens at the Lyceum. Photo by Maria Baranova.
Already living up to its Off-Broadway hype (it played to sell-out crowds at the Pershing Square Signature Center last summer), the new Broadway musical Be More Chill’s official opening takes place March 10th. Joining Broadway’s other high school-centric musicals like Mean Girls, The Prom, and Dear Evan Hansen, Be More Chill’s buzz is especially intense thanks to its beyond-avid teen/young adult following on social media. Besides its cult cachet, the production gets bonus points for landing on the Great White Way original cast intact.
Another show that’s moved up from Off-Broadway is What the Constitution Means to Me, a personal, much acclaimed (and extended) play by writer/performer Heidi Schreck, known for her script work on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie and her Obie-winning acting turn in Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation. WTCMTM’s first preview takes place on March 14th for a limited 12-week run. A day later, a revival of Pulitzer winner Lanford Wilson’s Burn This begins previews with a must-see cast led by Golden Globe winner Keri Russell (Felicity; The Americans) and Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), followed on March 16th by Tony nominee Lucas Hnath’s latest, Hillary and Clinton, starring Tony and Emmy winners Laurie Metcalf (Three Tall Women; Roseanne) and John Lithgow (Sweet Smell of Success; 3rd Rock from the Sun). Notably, this new play reunites playwright Hnath and Metcalf, who picked up her first Tony in his Broadway debut work, A Doll’s House, Part 2.
From 2016 when it planted its Off-Broadway roots to its London run earlier this year, Hadestown is a stunning musical entry to this season of sizzle (previewing March 22). Culled from mythology by Anaïs Mitchell (book and score) and director Rachel Chavkin (Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812), it boasts an impressive cast that includes Reeve Carney (Dorian Gray in Showtime’s Penny Dreadful); Obie and Emmy winning theater legend Andre de Shields (The Wiz; Ain’t Misbehavin’); and the ever-formidable Patrick Page (Saint Joan; Elementary), who played the villainous Green Goblin to Carney’s Spider-Man on Broadway.
The original set of Oklahoma! Photo by Teddy Wolff.
It sent critics into rave mode when it took over St. Ann’s Warehouse last fall, and now director Daniel Fish’s inspired, gritty take on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! is set to do the same on Broadway (March 19th through September 1st). “What an incredible moment to be producing on Broadway, in the middle of this wonderfully eclectic season spurred by an audience that is hungry for bold, daring work,” said producer Eva Price. “Daniel Fish’s timeless and timely revival of this classic speaks so vividly to the place we as Americans are living in today.”
The end of the month brings two highly awaited film-to-Broadway musicals: Beetlejuice, helmed by Tony nominees Alex Brightman (School of Rock), Kerry Butler (Xanadu) and Rob McClure (Chaplin: The Musical); and Tootsie, starring Tony nominee Santino Fontana (Cinderella; Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) alongside Tony winner Michael McGrath (Nice Work If You Can Get It) and Tony nominees Sara Stiles (Hand to God), Reg Rogers (Holiday). Beetlejuice launches March 28th and Tootsie March 29th.