32 New Broadway and Off Broadway Shows Worth Seeing in 2017
By Jesse Green
January 5, 2017
Barring last-minute announcements — unlikely because every available theater is booked — 24 productions are scheduled to open on Broadway between now and the Tony Awards cutoff at the end of April. More than five times as many will open Off Broadway during that same window. Without counting the hundreds of smaller events popping up all around the city, or most of what happens in May and beyond, which is still too foggy to bet on, that leaves a vast landscape of stage activity to enjoy. What I’m most looking forward to is the wealth of challenging new plays, even on Broadway, but in every category of theatrical offering, except perhaps clown acts, something compelling beckons. Here’s a highly selective and idiosyncratic look at what’s in store.
Come From Away (previews begin 2/18)
A riveting concept underlies this original work, the first to take on the events of September 11, 2001. It’s about the small town in Newfoundland where 6,579 passengers aboard 38 planes were marooned that terrible day.
War Paint (3/7)
The parallel lives of beauty magnates Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden get the big Broadway treatment, with Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole facing off to a score by Grey Gardens greats Scott Frankel and Michael Korie.
The 2001 movie, about a French gamine who does good deeds in secret despite her own isolation, teetered on the edge of twee, but I am looking forward to what Craig Lucas makes of the story, and especially to what Philippa Soo, in her first post-Hamilton turn, makes of the title role.
Groundhog Day (3/23)
Director Matthew Warchus and songwriter Tim Minchin, late of Matilda, take on one of the great concept movies of recent years, in which a TV weatherman wakes up each day to a repeat of the day before. How will they make a musical of it? Andy Karl, a smash in the London production, stars.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (3/28)
I never cottoned to the beloved 1971 movie musical (called Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory) because of its weird combination of whimsy and psychedelia. But with Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman writing the new songs, I’m there.
BROADWAY MUSICAL REVIVALS
Sunset Boulevard (2/2)
Glenn Close reprises her 1994 Tony-winning role as Norma Desmond in this semi-staged production with a huge onstage orchestra. I can’t justify it; I just can’t miss it.
Hello, Dolly! (3/15)
There are at least a dozen reasons this revival is a must-see, including David Hyde Pierce as a curmudgeonly skinflint and the chance to reexamine the ne plus ultra of Broadway Broadwayness circa 1964. But obviously the biggest reason is Bette Midler in the title role; will she descend the Harmonia Gardens staircase in a mermaid outfit?
NEW BROADWAY PLAYS
The Play That Goes Wrong (3/9)
One thing you will barely find on Broadway this season, or any recent season, is a flat-out comedy, which is why I’m looking forward to this British farce about a misbegotten theater company putting on a murder mystery. If this sounds a bit like Noises Off, I’m not complaining.
A hit last summer at the Mitzi Newhouse — Lincoln Center Theater’s Off Broadway space — this secret history of the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian accords moves upstairs to the Vivian Beaumont for its Broadway premiere. Downstairs, it was a big play on a big topic that felt squeezed; I’m eager to see how much it expands when it has the room.
A Doll’s House, Part 2 (4/1)
This spring brings the welcome Broadway playwriting debuts of Joshua Harmon, with Significant Other; Lynn Nottage, belatedly, with Sweat; and, even more belatedly, Paula Vogel, with Indecent. But I already saw all three plays Off Broadway, so the Broadway newcomer I’m especially looking forward to is Lucas Hnath, with this new play, starring Laurie Metcalf, Jayne Houdyshell, Chris Cooper, and Condola Rashad, that picks up where Ibsen left off in 1879.
BROADWAY PLAY REVIVALS
Jitney (In previews)
Of the ten plays in August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle, each set in a different decade of the 20th century, only this one, the 1970s installment, has not appeared on Broadway. (It had a strong Off Broadway run in 2000.) That’s reason enough to include it here, whether or not Manhattan Theatre Club’s production officially counts as a “revival.”
The Glass Menagerie (2/7)
Was it not just three years ago that we had a haunting revival of this Tennessee Williams classic, starring Cherry Jones, on Broadway? So what? If it were up to me it would always be playing, especially in productions featuring the likes of Sally Field and Joe Mantello under the direction of Sam Gold.
The Price (2/16)
Every season needs some Arthur Miller; last season had two. This year, his vise-like 1968 drama about two brothers selling their late father’s furniture returns, at the Roundabout, for a fourth Broadway revival. Tony Shalhoub and Mark Ruffalo as the brothers, Jessica Hecht as an alcoholic wife, and Danny DeVito as the crafty furniture dealer make an ideal cast.
Six Degrees of Separation (4/5)
Alison Janney takes on the role of Ouisa, the society lady who along with her husband (John Benjamin Hickey) falls victim to a scam that puts their liberal values in question. How John Guare’s 1990 comedy-drama may suit the more cynical zeitgeist of 2017 is something I’m eager to experience.
SONDHEIM, IN A CATEGORY BY HIMSELF
In the year he turns 87, our greatest living dramatist — I use that word deliberately — gets three (or four?) major productions, reflecting the breadth of his interests and the depth of his achievements.
Sunday in the Park With George (2/11)
Last summer’s sold-out benefit concert of the 1984 Pulitzer Prize–winning musical reopens Broadway’s Hudson Theater, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Georges Seurat (and his possible grandson, George). Annaleigh Ashford is his muse.
Sweeney Todd (2/14)
The winner (in a three-way tie) of New York Magazine’s Greatest Musical Ever symposium, this 1979 thriller gets a site-specific Off Broadway revival at the Barrow Street Theatre, restyled as Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop. Meat pies included (but no priest).
Pacific Overtures (4/6)
CSC’s John Doyle directs a rare revival of the least performed of Sondheim’s five 1970s masterpieces, a stylistically daring take on Perry’s “opening” of Japan in the mid-1800s, and the disasters that followed.
Rumor has it that the Public Theater, which has been developing Sondheim’s latest, will offer a full production later this year. That its book by David Ives is based on two Luis Buñuel films — The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and That Obscure Object of Desire — only whets the appetite further.
OFF BROADWAY MUSICALS
Kid Victory (2/1)
Our other surviving Golden Age great, John Kander, will be turning 90 around the time this musical — his 20th new stage score since 1962 — debuts at the Vineyard. If you thought Cabaret and Kiss of the Spider Woman were dark, get a load of this one’s story, by Greg Pierce, about a boy who returns home after abduction by a sexual predator.
Joan of Arc: Into the Fire (2/14)
Four years ago, the Public produced Alex Timbers’s spectacular staging of Here Lies Love, about Imelda Marcos. This year, the theater and creative team reunite for a rock-concert retelling of the life of the maid of Orleans.
The Golden Apple (5/10)
This year’s Encores! series begins with Big River and continues with a rarity: Cole Porter’s 1930 The New Yorkers. Even rarer, and more exciting to cultists, is their third offering, this sung-through 1954 resetting of the Helen-Paris-Ulysses story in turn-of-the-20th-century Washington State.
NEW OFF BROADWAY PLAYS
Every new play by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is a mystery: Will it be hilarious? Devastating? Sadistic? A mess? The mystery deepens with the Signature’s production of his take on the 15th-century morality play Everyman.
Evening at the Talk House (1/31)
The premise is a hoary backstage comedy set-up, the kind Wallace Shawn usually undermines in his coruscating plays: Ten years after working together on a notorious flop, its cast and author reconvene. Matthew Broderick, Jill Eikenberry, John “Lypsinka” Epperson, and Claudia Shear star in the New Group production.
Escaped Alone (2/15)
Caryl Churchill’s latest play, at BAM. Enough said.
Gently Down the Stream (3/14)
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Harvey Fierstein onstage in a nonmusical role; don’t you want to know what he can do with Martin Sherman’s May–December — well, let’s say October — gay romance, at the Public? Gabriel Ebert is October.
The Antipodes (4/4)
If Annie Baker’s plays were reducible to prose, she wouldn’t write them as theater. That’s hard on the publicists, but good for the audiences who will show up for her latest, at the Signature, open to surprise.
Cost of Living (5/16)
Martyna Majok’s Ironbound introduced a distinctive voice to New York audiences in 2016. Her new play, at Manhattan Theatre Club, focuses on two caregivers and two people who suddenly need care.
A Parallelogram (July)
“If you knew in advance exactly what was going to happen in your life … would you still want to go on with your life?” That age-old question is tested in Bruce Norris’s latest provocation, at Second Stage, when a young woman comes into contact with her future selves.
OFF BROADWAY PLAY REVIVALS
The Beauty Queen of Leenane (1/11)
Martin McDonagh’s 1997 debut is a bleak, hilarious mother-daughter comedy. For the Druid company’s 20th-anniversary revival at BAM, Marie Mullen moves up from daughter to mother: a riveting meta-drama if ever there was one.
The Skin of Our Teeth (2/12)
Once considered a central work of American mid-century drama, Thornton Wilder’s surreal fantasia on the human will to survive is now itself endangered. Perhaps director Arin Arbus and Theater for a New Audience can rescue it from undeserved obscurity.
The Hairy Ape (3/25)
As a parable of masculinity and hysteria, Eugene O’Neill’s rarely performed expressionist drama, from 1922, seems uncannily modern. So does Richard Jones’s concept for this production, at the Park Avenue Armory, starring Bobby Canavale: The action takes place on a moving stage, like a conveyor belt, surrounding the audience.
I missed the 1996 premiere of this Suzan-Lori Parks play about Saartjie Baartman, an African woman exhibited as the “Hottentot Venus” in 19th-century London. Luckily, the Signature is reviving it as part of Parks’s five-play residency there.