Broadway Shows to Look Out For

Last spring, as Tony voters pitted Come from Away against Dear Evan Hansen in the best musical category, the off-Broadway award deciders had a simpler time crowning The Band’s Visit. The small-scale tuner that debuted for two months at the Atlantic Theater Company racked up best musical plaudits from the Outer Critics Circle, OBIEs, Lortels and New York Drama Critics’ Circle.

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Based on a gentle 2007 film about a group of Egyptian musicians accidentally stranded amongst wary Israelis in the Negev desert, Visit would seem to be an odd choice for musical adaptation—especially by the composer of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Full Monty. But David Yazbek and playwright Itamar Moses apparently found the perfect tone for a tuner that Hollywood Reporter theater critic Frank Scheck called a “delicately wistful and poignant chamber piece” that “could easily find receptive audiences in a smaller Broadway house.” Producers listened—The Band’s Visit, directed by David Cromer, will open Nov 9 at the not-so-small Barrymore Theatre. With stars Katrina Lenk and Monk maestro Tony Shalhoub reprising their roles, Visit is the most strongly anticipated show of a relatively quiet fall Broadway season. But that doesn’t mean it’s alone.

Playgoers have to be curious about the upcoming revival of David Henry Hwang’s Tony-winning M. Butterfly (opening Oct 26) because it’ll be staged by Julie Taymor in her first Rialto assignment since Spider-Man, and third since a little show called The Lion King. No doubt the design will be captivating, as it promises to be in Farinelli and the King, an English drama that will bring Oscar and Tony winner Mark Rylance back to Broadway in December. Like Rylance’s celebrated 2014 works Richard III and Twelfth Night, Farinelli—by Rylance’s wife, Claire van Kampen—will feature mostly natural lighting and music performed on period instruments. The plot? Rylance plays an insomniac king who can fall asleep only when sung to by his favorite castrato.

Speaking of singing, one of the lovelier musicals of the 1990s was Ahrens and Flaherty’s Once on This Island, a bittersweet Caribbean fairytale that gets its first Broadway revival Dec 3 at Circle in the Square. Michael Arden, who staged Deaf West Theatre’s stunning Spring Awakening two years ago, will helm this tuner by the composers of Ragtime and Anastasia.

Shows coming in under the radar include an English import, The Children, about nuclear engineers; Junk, about nasty capitalists; and J. B. Priestley’s Time and the Conways, chronicling an American family on the downslide. Although next spring promises such mega-events as Harry Potter and Frozen, autumn won’t be entirely without wow factors. After all, Dec 4 marks the Broadway debut of a certain porous ocean dweller who lives in a pineapple under the sea. Let’s see Bette Midler do that.