Looking back at Broadway’s last season, new musicals had a heckuva time gaining traction. Honeymoon in Vegas, Sting’s Last Ship, Kander and Ebb’s final show and Dr. Zhivago all crashed on the shores of Times Square. Nevertheless, audiences did come for the dancing of An American in Paris and stay for the gay angst of Fun Home. On the play side, Disgraced took the Pulitzer for depicting a Muslim’s meltdown but audiences melted more for the autistic boy in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and squealed at the possessed puppets in Hand to God.
Yeah, it was an interesting year.
On paper, 2015-16 looks a smidgen less exciting but we’re still weeks away from the thick of the fall season. Granted, musicals began with a bang last month with the transfer of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton from off-Broadway’s Public Theater to uptown’s Richard Rodgers. Miranda’s wildly acclaimed look at the first secretary of the Treasury will be the one to beat for publicity and prizes versus any other tuner that arrives this season. Still, there are three contenders.
On Your Feet is the biography of Cuban-born Gloria Estefan and her producer-husband, Emilio. Jerry Mitchell, who won a Tony for choreographing Kinky Boots, will direct at the Marquis Theater. Allegiance, starring Star Trek legend George Takei, is about a California family in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. Andrew Lloyd Webber is also back, sort of. He’s producing and adding music to School of Rock, a musical based on the Jack Black flick about a prep school music teacher turning his life around.
The new play slate appears even less encouraging, though hopes are high for Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III, a satire that tries to imagine what England would be like if Prince Charles ascends to the throne—and then must contend with all the nasty tabloids. Theatergoers can be forgiven for their wariness about China Doll, a new drama from David Mamet. The genius author of Glengarry Glen Ross and a slew of fine screenplays last reached Broadway with 2012’s The Anarchist, which—ahem—bombed.
Autumn play revivals are more numerous if not exactly more exciting. Sylvia, A.R. Gurney’s fun look at a man and his dog, the latter played by You Can’t Take it with You Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford, reaches the Cort Theater in October. Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones pair up for The Gin Game at the Golden Theater. Sam Shepard’s volatile romance, Fool for Love, gets its first Broadway airing. And Clive Owen and Eve Best will try to wring some juice from Harold Pinter’s cryptic Old Times for Roundabout.
This fall also promises two strongly anticipated revivals: Dames at Sea, which introduced Bernadette Peters to New York theatergoers in 1968, will have its first mainstream go-round. And five-time Tony nominee Danny Burstein is set to play Fiddler on the Roof ’s Tevye at the Broadway Theater in November. Of course, by wintertime the landscape of midtown marquees may look nothing like it does now, but at least we’re ready for a statesman, a king, two fools, two geezers, a dog, a milkman and a dame. Broadway is nothing if not all-inclusive.