Theater’s Most Anticipated, Star-Studded Shows of the Fall Season
By Stacy Lambe
Amy Schumer (Getty Images) / Uma Thurman (Ruven Afanador) / Elizabeth McGovern (Press Images) / Clive Owen (Press Images)
In addition to fall TV and a new slate of prestigious films, theater is gearing up for a new season, both on and Off-Broadway.
This year, there is no shortage of Hollywood star power -- ahem, the Broadway debuts of Amy Schumer and Uma Thurman, the return of Anna Camp and Clive Owen, and the Boss -- as well as anticipated new productions, must-see revivals and the redemption of director Julie Taymor. And the action is not limited to New York as two major musical adaptions get their feet wet with out of town tryouts.
Denver Center for the Performing Arts (Colorado)
Disney’s global animated phenomenon is headed to the Broadway stage with a new musical from composers and lyricists RobertLopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez and book writer Jennifer Lee in February 2018 after a limited engagement in Denver. The Snow Queen-inspired fairy tale and its Norwegian kingdom of Arendelle will be expanded to present a unique live experience for audiences. Lopez previously told ET the story “comes from a very personal, emotional place of what happens when a family is dealing with secrecy and shame and how you heal that.” As a result, the show digs deeper into Anna and Elsa’s story and the relationship between them.
Sandra Caldwell plays Mama Darleena Andrews, a 67-year-old black transgender woman, in the new play inspired by the real-life story of Miss Gloria Allen, who volunteered her time at Chicago’s Center on Halsted. “Sometimes it feels like I'm reading my own story. Charm is everything I could have possibly wanted at this moment. As an actor, it's a gift and it also gives me the opportunity to portray a person I call a real-life hero,” Caldwell said in a statement.
Opens 9/25; in previews now
New York Theatre Workshop
After earning rave reviews for her Tony-nominated performance in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Carrie Coon turned her attention to the screen, where she became the breakout star of Gone Girl. She quickly followed with a celebrated turn on HBO’s The Leftovers and earned her first Emmy nomination for her role on FX’s Fargo. While the actress previously joked with ET that “theater doesn’t pay,” Coon is taking a break from the screen to star in Amy Herzog’s Mary Jane, about a single mother navigating life as a caretaker for a chronically sick child.
Opens 10/8; previews start 9/28
Paper Mill Playhouse (New Jersey)
The new musical adaptation of the classic Jackie Gleason sitcom will have its world premiere this fall. Michael McGrath plays Ralph Kramden and Michael Mastro plays his buddy Ed Norton, who are both still shooting for the moon. In this story, with a book by Dusty Kay and Bill Nuss, music by Stephen Weiner and lyrics by Peter Mills, the two men and their wives are catapulted out of Brooklyn after winning a high-profile jingle contest. Laura Bell Bundy, who’s been busy with recurring TV gigs on Scream Queens, Good Behavior and the recently renewed The Guest Book, plays Trixie Morton in a return to the stage after originating the role of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde musical.
Elizabeth McGovern -- one of many Downton Abbey cast members busy with fall projects -- and Anna Camp take on a revival of J.B. Priestley’s play about the decline of a wealthy British family in the mid-1900s. The production, directed by Tony winner Rebecca Taichman (Indecent), marks McGovern’s return to the Broadway stage for the first time since playing Ophelia in a 1992 Roundabout production of Hamlet.
The Boss takes over Broadway in a solo performance that will combine live music with readings of excerpts from his 2016 autobiography Born to Run. “I wanted to do some shows that were as personal and as intimate as possible,” Bruce Springsteen said in a statement. “My show is just me, the guitar, the piano and the words and music. Some of the show is spoken, some of it is sung. It loosely follows the arc of my life and my work. All of it together is in pursuit of my constant goal to provide an entertaining evening and to communicate something of value.”
Opens 10/19; previews start 9/26
Tony Kiser Theater
Torch Song, a revival of Harvey Fierstein’s Tony-winning play Torch Song Trilogy, sees Michael Urie (Ugly Betty, Younger) playing Arnold Beckoff, a fearless drag queen 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 Off-Broadway production.
Clive Owen returns to Broadway in the anticipated revival of M. Butterfly directed by Julie Taymor. The original run featured BD Wong, a recent Emmy nominee for Mr. Robot, in a career-making performance as a male Chinese opera singer masquerading as a woman who has an affair with a French diplomat. The production also marks Taymor’s return to theater after her last Broadway attempt with 2011’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, which was notably plagued with cast injuries and production issues that led to Taymor leaving before the show officially opened. But that’s all in the past, considering the buzz around M. Butterfly and The Lion King’s 20th anniversary on Broadway.
The National Theatre (Washington, D.C.)
The hit 2004 teen movie about high school rivalries starring Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams is finally getting the musical treatment, with a book by Tina Fey (based on her screenplay for the film), music by Emmy winner Jeff Richmond (30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and lyrics by Tony nominee Nell Benjamin. The production will kick things off with a limited engagement in D.C. (through Dec. 3) before making its Broadway debut in April 2018 with Erika Henningsen (Cady Heron), Taylor Louderman (Regina George), Ashley Park (Gretchen Wieners) and Kate Rockwell (Karen Smith) taking over as our favorite mean girls.
Steven Pasquale is back on Broadway after a string of a few high-profile TV roles -- the short-lived Doubt as well as American Crime Story and Bloodline -- to play a bond king in the risk-seeking 1980s financial world, where money is the only thing that matters. The drama, which premiered in Los Angeles in 2016, is written by Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar (Disgraced).
Following a rave Off-Broadway production, Tony Shalhoub and Katrina Lenk (fresh off a notable run in Indecent) star in the Broadway debut of a musical about an Egyptian police band stranded in Israel taken in by locals, based on the 2007 film directed by Eran Kolirin. The band members must rely on their generosity as they wait for transport back to the border.
Amy Schumer leads a star-studded cast that includes Keegan-Michael Key, Laura Benanti and Alan Tudyk in an original play written by Steve Martin. Meteor Shower, which tells the story of two couples dining together on a hot night in Ojai, California, and eventually turns into a marital free-fall, marks Schumer’s Broadway debut after conquering TV with the Emmy-winning Inside Amy Schumer and film with Trainwreck and Snatched.
A new play written by House of Cards creator Beau Willimon, The Parisian Woman tells the story of Chloe (Uma Thurman), a Washington, D.C., socialite coming to terms with her politics, her past and her marriage in the wake of the 2016 election. “The play is about Chloe's self-reckoning,” Willimon said in a statement, adding that he reworked the show significantly after Donald Trump was elected president. It marks the second new Broadway show, following Michael Moore’s The Terms of My Surrender, to deal with the nation’s real-life political turmoil. The Parisian Woman also features Josh Lucas, Orange Is the New Black’s Blair Brown and Hamilton breakout Phillipa Soo.
The Tony-winning musical about life in a small island village where, in the aftermath of a great storm, new life begins, returns to Broadway in a revival directed by Michael Arden. Perhaps the most diverse new show this season, the musical stars acclaimed Broadway actress (and Disney Princess) Lea Salonga, Merle Dandridge of Greenleaf, and Glee breakout Alex Newell as three of the gods, as well as Hamilton’s Alysha Deslorieux. “In casting the gods that inhabit our island, it became imperative for me to break expectations and stretch beyond the bounds in which gods are traditionally represented,” Arden said. “It felt important that young people watching our production see themselves reflected back from the stage at them. The gods are simply that: gods. They are not bound by gender, race, sexuality or being human at all.”
Adapted from the hit animated Nickelodeon series, Spongebob Squarepants promises to be a one-of-a-kind musical event with original songs by Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, Alexander Ebert of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s, They Might Be Giants and T.I., and even a song by David Bowie.
A Christmas Story
OK, this is not a Broadway show -- or even an Off-Broadway production -- but FOX is following the success of Grease: Live with a live television production of A Christmas Story based on Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s Tony-nominated Broadway musical. The award-winning duo (La La Land, Dear Evan Hansen) will compose new songs for the show. Maya Rudolph will lead the cast as the mother of 9-year-old Ralphie Parker and Matthew Broderick will narrate as a grown-up Ralphie; the rest of the cast has yet to be announced.
Closing out the year is John Lithgow’s return to the Broadway stage in an intimate evening of storytelling with a solo onstage performance in Stories by Heart. The longtime actor has been enjoying a late-career resurgence with an award-winning portrayal of Winston Churchill on The Crown, as well as notable roles in Love Is Strange and Beatriz at Dinner. He’ll next be seen in Daddy’s Home 2 and Pitch Perfect 3.