Fall Theater Preview 2018: Cher, King Kong and More Must-See Shows
By Stacy Lambe
Photos Courtesy of Sophy Holland / Jake Chessum / Joan Marcus / Polk and Co. / James Morgan
While the summer gave theaters fans plenty to be excited about -- Pretty Woman, Armie Hammer, the Go-Go's -- the fall season is kicking things into high gear with even more star-studded shows and anticipated productions. From Cher to King Kong, the first half of the 2018-2019 Broadway season is not holding back.
In addition to the superstar's life being turned into a musical and Jack Thorne’s adaptation of the beloved 1933 film, Kerry Washington is making her return to the stage nine years after her debut; Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird is finally opening; Alexandra Billings will continue to break barriers after Peppermint and Kate Bornstein shattered theater’s transgender glass ceiling; Daniel Radcliffe will face off against Bobby Cannavale; and Michael Urie brings Torch Songback to Broadway.
Off-Broadway, things are just as A-list, with Michael C. Hall, Edie Falco, Stockard Channing and Glenn Close all returning to the New York stage. Here is ET's guide to the most anticipated, star-studded shows taking over New York City this fall:
Janet McTeer plays Sarah Bernhardt, considered one of the greatest actresses in the world, as she prepares to play Hamlet in 1899. Similar to Noises Off and The Play That Goes Wrong, the bulk of the action happens behind the scenes as Bernhardt tries to pull the production together.
Written by: Theresa Rebeck | Directed by: Moritz von Stuelpnagel Starring: Janet McTeer, Dylan Baker Opens: Sept. 25 (in previews now) @ American Airlines Theatre
Ben Schnetzer plays a rising young star in this funny look at the world of snooker -- the British version of pool. Arriving for a championship tournament, the player is confronted by authorities who warn him of the repercussions of match fixing. The play is full of wildly colorful characters, including his ex-convict dad, saucy mum, quick-tongued manager and a renowned gangster (played by Transparent's Alexandra Billings).
Written by: Richard Bean | Directed by: Daniel Sullivan Starring: Ben Schnetzer, Johanna Day, Alexandra Billings Opens: Sept. 27 (previews start Sept. 5) @ Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
The Lifespan of a Fact
Based on the true story behind John D’Agata’s essay about the Las Vegas suicide of a teenager, Lifespan follows a fact-checker (Daniel Radcliffe) tasked by his boss on his biggest assignment yet: Apply his skills to a groundbreaking piece by a legendary author. It’s soon discovered, however, that most of the article is made up.
Written by: Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell | Directed by: Leigh Silverman Starring: Bobby Cannavale, Cherry Jones, Daniel Radcliffe Opens: Oct. 18 (previews start Sept. 20) @ Studio 54
Set in rural Northern Ireland in 1981, the Carney farmhouse is busy preparing for the annual harvest when this year’s traditional night of feasting and celebrations is interrupted by a visitor.
Written by: Jez Butterworth | Directed by: Sam Mendes Starring: Paddy Considine, Laura Donnelly, Genevieve O’Reilly Opens: Oct. 21 (previews start Oct. 2) @ Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
The Waverly Gallery
In Kenneth Lonergan’s celebrated memory play, Elaine May plays a generous, chatty and feisty grandmother in the final years of her battle against Alzheimer’s disease, with Joan Allen and Lucas Hedges as members of her family and Michael Cera as a young artist hoping to show in her gallery.
Written by: Kenneth Lonergan | Directed by: Lila Neugebauer Starring: Joan Allen, Michael Cera, Lucas Hedges, Elaine May Opens: Oct. 25 (previews start Sept. 25) @ John Golden Theatre
Torch Song, a revival of Harvey Fierstein’s Tony-winning play Torch Song Trilogy, sees Michael Urie (Younger) playing Arnold Beckoff, a fearless drag performer in search of an ideal life in late-‘70s New York City. Urie takes over the role originated by Fierstein, who provided a newly edited script for the show’s return to Broadway after a celebrated Off-Broadway run.
Written by: Harvey Fierstein | Directed by: MoisesKaufman Starring: Michael Urie, Mercedes Ruehl Opens: Nov. 1 (previews start Oct. 9) @ Hayes Theater
In this gripping tale of two Florida parents caught up in a national divide, their worst fears hang in the balance as a mother searches for her missing teenage son. The play marks Kerry Washington’s return to Broadway after making her debut in 2009 and the end of Scandal, which ran for seven seasons on ABC.
Written by: Christopher Demos-Brown | Directed by: Kenny Leon Starring: Kerry Washington, Steven Pasquale, Jeremy Jordan Opens: Nov. 4 (previews start Oct. 6) @ Booth Theatre
King Kong comes alive onstage -- thanks to a mix of robotics and puppetry -- in Jack Thorne’s (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) contemporary take on the 1933 classic film about an actress and a filmmaker who leave New York City for uncharted territory to find the greatest wonder the world has ever seen.
Book by: Jack Thorne | Directed by: Drew McOnie Music and lyrics by: Marius de Bries | Songs by: Eddie Perfect Starring: Christiani Pitts, Eric William Morris, Erik Lochtefeld Opens: Nov. 8 (previews start Oct. 5) @ Broadway Theatre
When a gay student is sidelined from her small-town Indiana prom, four Broadway relics come to her aide with hopes of helping her (and her girlfriend) go to the dance but also soak up some press and get an attention boost for their sagging careers.
Book by: Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin | Directed by: Casey Nicholaw Music by: Matthew Sklar | Lyrics by: Chad Beguelin Starring: Brooks Ashmanskas, Beth Leavel, Christopher Sieber, Caitlin Kinnunen, Isabelle McCalla, Michael Potts, Angie Schworer, Courtenay Collins, Josh Lamon Opens: Nov. 15 (previews start Oct. 23) @ Longacre Theatre
The Cher Show
Stephanie J. Block, Micaela Diamond and Teal Wicks portray three versions of Cher in this new biomusical about the superstar's life and career, from emerging as one-half of Sonny and Cher to her height in the '70s and the legendary star she is today.
Book by: Rick Elice | Directed by: Jason Moore Starring: Stephanie J. Block, Micaela Diamond, Teal Wicks Opens: Dec. 3 (previews start Nov. 1) @ Neil Simon Theatre
Bryan Cranston plays news anchor Howard Beale in this adaptation of Paddy Chayefsky’s Oscar-winning film about a man who unravels onscreen in his final broadcast.
Written by: Lee Hall | Directed by: Ivo van Hove Starring: Bryan Cranston Opens: Dec. 6 (previews start Nov. 10) @ Cort Theatre
To Kill a Mockingbird
First announced in February 2016, Sorkin’s adaptation of Harper Lee’s acclaimed novel was met with dueling lawsuits over the content of Sorkin's script and how much it deviated from Lee's original story. With both suits behind them, the production is back on track with Jeff Daniels as heroic lawyer Atticus Finch.
Written by: Aaron Sorkin | Directed by: Bartlett Sher Starring: Jeff Daniels, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Gideon Glick, LaTanya Richardson Jackson Opens: Dec. 13 (previews start Nov. 1) @ Shubert Theatre
Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. will take over the role of the smooth-talking Billy Flynn for a limited engagement, from Oct. 6 to Nov. 18. He reprises the role after making his West End debut in the 2018 London production of Chicago. The long-running show has featured a number of stars in the role, including Taye Diggs, Michael C. Hall, George Hamilton, Backstreet Boys’ Kevin Richardson, Alan Thicke and Billy Zane.
Joining: Cuba Gooding Jr. Starting: Oct. 6 @ Ambassador Theatre
Tony winner Laura Benanti will step into the lead role of Eliza Doolittle in the award-winning revival of My Fair Lady, taking over for current star Lauren Ambrose, who is leaving to work on M. Night Shyamalan’s new Apple series. “I would literally give my left pinky to do it,” Benanti told ET in 2017 about joining the revival. After the announcement, she said, "Eliza Doolittle has been my dream role for as long as I can remember, so I couldn’t be more excited to join this brilliant company. Working with Bart [director Bartlett Sher] and getting to be part of this show is a dream come true.”
Joining: Laura Benanti Starting: Oct. 23 @ The Vivian Beaumont Theater
Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties
The lives of five different women named Betty -- one rich, one lonely, one charismatic, one lovelorn, and one who keeps working on her truck -- collide in this unpredictable comedy that forces each person to face their own truths. The show was recently extend through Oct. 7.
Written by: Jen Silverman | Directed by: Mike Donahue Starring: Dana Delany, Lea DeLaria Opens: Sept. 12 (in previews now) @ MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel Theatre
A longtime defender of Albany’s Democratic Party, politics become extremely personal for Polly when her hero is battling for party control while also facing a fierce primary election in 1977.
Written by: Sharr White | Directed by: Scott Elliott Starring: Edie Falco, Peter Scolari Opens: Sept. 20 (previews start Sept. 4) @ The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at the Pershing Square Signature Center
I Was Most Alive With You
Lois Smith -- who is enjoying a career high with recent celebrated stage and screen performances -- is part of this ensemble play about a man who faces an unexpected test that threatens to cast him and his loved ones into darkness.
Written by: Craig Lucas | Directed by: Tyne Rafaeli Starring: Lois Smith Opens: Sept. 24 (in previews now) @ Playwrights Horizons/Mainstage Theater
Girl From the North Country
Bob Dylan’s inimitable songbook is authentically transformed into this achingly beautiful story of a down-on-its-luck community on the brink of change in Dylan’s hometown of Duluth, Minnesota, in 1934.
Written and directed by: Conor McPherson | Music and lyrics by: Bob Dylan Starring: Todd Almond, Jeannette Bayardelle, Stephen Bogardus Opens: Oct. 1 (previews start Sept. 11) @ The Public Theater
In this biting new play, Stockard Channing plays Kristin Miller, a radical activist-turned-celebrated art historian facing the repercussions of her past with the publication of her memoir. While the book threatens to split her family apart, Kristin is not one to shy away from a fight.
Written by: Alexi Kaye Campbell | Directed by: Daniel Aukin Starring: Stockard Channing, Hugh Dancy Opens: Oct. 16 (previews start Sept. 27) @ Laura Pels Theatre
Mother of the Maid
The new play tells the story of Joan of Arc’s mother (Glenn Close, who is enjoying Oscar buzz again), a sensible, hard-working, God-fearing peasant woman whose faith is upended as she deals with the baffling journey of her odd and extraordinary daughter.
Written by: Jane Anderson | Directed by: Matthew Penn Starring: Glenn Close Opens: Oct. 17 (previews start Sept. 25) @ The Public Theater
Gloria: A Life
Gloria Steinem’s life and career is at the center of this biopic, which weaves together personal and history-changing moments of the past 50 years. Act One focuses on her personal life and activism, while Act Two is a talking circle in which the audience will be invited to carry the themes of the play into a conversation of their own.
Written by: Emily Mann | Directed by: Diane Paulus Starring: Christine Lahti Opens: Oct. 18 (previews start Oct. 2) @ Daryl Roth Theatre
Thom Pain (Based on Nothing)
This surreal and very real one-man show follows Thom Pain as he desperately and hilariously tries to save his own life -- or at least make it into something worth dying for.
Written by: Will Eno | Directed by: Oliver Butler Starring: Michael C. Hall Opens: Nov. 11 (previews start Oct. 23) @ The Diamond Stage at The Pershing Square Signature Center