Broadway has two crazy-busy times of the year: April, when shows are opening left and right just before the deadline for Tony Awards consideration, and October, when autumn spurs New Yorkers and tourists alike to set their DVRs to record while flocking to new offerings in Times Square.
To put the numbers into perspective, since the start of the 2014-15 Broadway season, only three new shows have opened (as of this writing): The rap-musical flop, Holler if Ya Hear Me, and revivals of This is Our Youth and You Can’t Take It With You. By contrast, numerous productions are scheduled to open this month including three play revivals, one musical revival, a new musical and three new plays.
Perhaps the strongest buzz is building around the musical, The Last Ship, which enjoys the built-in hype factor of its composer, Sting. The former Police-man has not been shy about promulgating his opus, which concerns fraught relationships in Wallsend, the dying North England shipbuilding town where Sting grew up.
Recent months have seen the release of Sting’s song cycle on CD, as well as a musical appearance on the Tony Awards. But the happy surprise came from excellent out-of-town reviews for his tuner’s debut in Chicago. Tribune critic Chris Jones, who’s nobody’s idea of a pushover, called The Last Ship “an original, dignified, modestly scaled, intentionally symbolic, unabashedly irony-free” musical with a “potent story, a physical look that impresses with its lean muscularity and a beautiful song-suite.” Such praise is no guarantee of New York success of course, but it sure beats “abandon ship.”
Meanwhile, a Pulitzer Prize is no guarantee of Broadway riches, either. But winning one at least gives you a shot. Ayad Akhtar’s 2012 play, Disgraced, wowed the Lincoln Center crowd off-Broadway, so the show is being remounted, this time at the Lyceum in midtown. What happens when a Pakistani lawyer—who changes his last name to something that sounds more South-Asian and less Arabic—sits down to eat with his WASP girlfriend, his black female colleague and her Jewish husband? Yup, sparks galore.
Oh, and speaking of the Pulitzers, Donald Margulies, who wrote the prize-winning comedy Dinner with Friends, offers his latest, The Country House, at Manhattan Theater Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater. A Chekhovian look at actors bonding, squabbling and bemoaning, the play received mixed notices at its Los Angeles tryout this summer. Still, reviewers loved Blythe Danner, who will travel with the show to New York.
Last but far from least on the new-play front is an English import: Simon Stephens’ Olivier-award-winning fantasy, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. This fanciful production relates the story of an autistic teen wrongfully accused of killing his neighbor’s pooch. Widely acclaimed, especially for its innovative set design, Incident made headlines last year when the London theater where it was playing partially collapsed. The injured were treated, the building was restored and the show eventually went on. It will go on here at the Barrymore Theater, joining an October slate that also includes a starry revival of The Real Thing (with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor and Cynthia Nixon) and a fresh take on On the Town at the Lyric Theater.
World Series, world shmeries, October belongs to Broadway.