You Can’t Take It With You Broadway Review

Annaleigh Ashford

Annaleigh Ashford

“Your family and mine … it just wouldn’t work.”
Alice, the most normal member of the eccentric Sycamore family in the old-fashioned crowd-pleasing comedy “You Can’t Take It With You,” is talking to the man she loves, explaining why she can’t marry him.
“Everybody’s got a family,” Tony protests.
“But not like mine,” Alice says.
Actually, in the 78 years since Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman debuted their comedy on Broadway – a show for which words like wacky and zany and madcap were surely coined — there have been many, many such families, including many Sycamores: The production directed by Scott Ellis that has now opened at the Longacre with a cast of 20 led by James Earl Jones is the sixth on Broadway. An Oscar-winning 1938 film version directed by Frank Capra with a cast led by Jimmy Stewart and Lionel Barrymore pops up all the time. But, most to the point, the show’s characters and plot have clearly inspired everything from The Addams Family to La Cage Aux Folles to Arrested Development — and arguably, one way or another, every other “family” sitcom on TV.

Still, one can see this Broadway revival as especially well-timed, coming just a few months after Lincoln Center’s stage adaptation of Moss Hart’s memoir “Act One.”
That memoir focused on Hart’s first big hit with George S. Kaufman, “Once in a Lifetime,” which opened on Broadway in 1930. Six years and several collaborations later, their “You Can’t Take It With You” was deemed by critic Brooks Atkinson “a much more spontaneous piece of hilarity…written with a dash of affection to season the humor…” The comedy won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

If the humor is more familiar now, “You Can’t Take It With You” is in the hands of a first-rate director, who has assembled a meticulous team of designers, added original music by Jason Robert Brown, and cast some wonderful performers to blow things up — sometimes literally.

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged

James Earl Jones is Grandpa, who decided some 35 years ago, to stop working and start enjoying life. He keeps a collection of snakes, and spends his days attending circuses and college commencements. He also has not paid any income tax since 1914, when the United States started collecting it.
His daughter Penelope (Kristine Nielsen, so wonderful in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) has written plays for the last eight years, ever since a typewriter was delivered to the Sycamore household by mistake, with two live kittens as companions, and a skull that pivots open as a container for her candy. It is a clue to the manic quality of the events to follow that she’s named her two kittens Groucho and Harpo.
Penelope’s husband Paul (Mark Linn-Baker) spends night and day creating fireworks, which provide some lively punctuation to each of the three acts of the play. Their daughter Essie (stand-out Annaleigh Ashford, from Kinky Boots and Masters of Sex) spends most of her day practicing her dancing, to hilarious effect, often to the accompaniment of her husband Ed (Will Brill) who plays the xylophone.
The household is far from a nuclear one, however (unless you are describing their level of energy), for there are various hangers-on whose connection to the Sycamore residence we learn only in passing. Mr. DePinna (Patrick Kerr), for example, helps Paul with his fireworks; he was delivering the ice to the Sycamores eight years ago, and never left. The priceless Julie Halston portrays a drunken actress that Penelope the playwright has dragooned into the household to read one of her plays.

This is the household that Penelope’s other daughter, the straitlaced Alice (Rose Byrne from Bridemaids, making her Broadway debut) fears is too much of a handful for Tony Kirby (Fran Kranz), a junior Wall Street executive, and his family.  That there will be sparks is never in doubt. But the look on the face of Mrs. Kirby (Johanna Day) as she regards the eccentricities of her future in-laws is unmatched — except maybe by the double-take by Elizabeth Ashley, who plays the deposed  Grand Duchess Olga Katrina, working as a waitress at Child’s Restaurant. I see I left out the G-men and Russian revolutionaries, and the dance master Boris Kolenkhov (Reg Rogers) who thinks everything stinks.

“Art is only achieved through perspiration,” Kolenkhov declares.

“Yes,” Grandpa concedes, “but it helps if you’ve got a little talent with it.” It helps even more, as Moss Hart, George S. Kaufman and the creative team behind this production demonstrate, if you have a lot.

You Can’t Take It With You

At Longacre Theater

Written by: George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart

Directed by Scott Ellis, scenic design by David Rockwell, costume design by Jane Greenwood, lighting design by Donald Holder, sound design by Jon Weston, original music by Jason Robert Brown

Cast: James Earl Jones, Kristine Nielsen, Rose Byrne, Annaleigh Ashford, Elizabeth Ashley, Mark Linn-Baker, Crystal A. Dickinson, Julie Halston, Byron Jennings, Marc Damon Johnson, Patrick Kerr, Reg Rogers, Will Brill, Fran Kranz, Johanna Day, Nick Corley, Austin Durant, Joe Tapper, Barrett Doss, Ned Noyes, Pippa Pearthree

Running time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, including two ten minute intermissions

Tickets: $37.00 – $152.00

You Can’t Take It With You is scheduled to run through January 4, 2015

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This Is Our Youth Review: Michael Cera and Kiera Culkin Far From Avenue Q

ThisisOurYouthSaraKrulwich

Is this OUR Youth? His sister was murdered six years ago, his rich, abusive father has just kicked him out of the house, and 19-year-old Warren, portrayed by Michael Cera in the crackling Broadway debut production of Kenneth Lonergan’s 1996 play, drags a suitcase full of his vintage toy collection and $15,000 in cash that he has stolen from his Dad to the Upper West Side apartment of Dennis (Kieran Culkin), his 21-year-old drug dealer. Warren asks Dennis whether he can stay with him for a couple of days. Dennis tells him to go somewhere else, but there’s nowhere else to go. “Everyone’s parents are home,” Warren says. “I’m not allowed in their houses.”

“Nobody can stand to have you around. And you can’t get laid,” says Dennis, who calls Warren his friend.

This is far from Avenue Q, although both plays focus on bewildered people navigating the unnerving transition between childhood and life as an independent adult. Given the harshness of the characters’ attitudes and their recklessness, the title can sound admonishing – as if the playwright is asking us to join him in tut-tutting the anomie, aimlessness and self-destruction of an entire generation. But one monologue offers a clue to what the title, and the play, is really about. In a long self-justifying (and, one suspects, partly self-parodying) speech, Dennis defends to Warren his making a profit off his friends through his drug dealing. “I’m providing you schmucks with such a crucial service…Plus I’m providing you with precious memories of your youth, for when you’re fuckin’ old…. You’re going to remember your youth as like a gray stoned haze punctuated by a bunch of beatings from your Dad and, like, my jokes.” The title, in other words, is a statement from the characters.

The beauty and wonder of Lonergan’s play is that it depicts with unblinking specificity a group of foul-mouthed, pot-smoking, hyper-articulate but clueless rich kids on the Upper West Side in 1982. But the playwright somehow brings us inside those characters, with lots of humor and little judgment, so that the audience can freely identify with them – not “What have our youth come to?” but “Yeah, I’ve been there.”

Director Anne D. Shapiro, who won a Tony for “August: Osage County,” and did wonders with “The Motherfucker with the Hat,” here again teams up with scenic designer Todd Rosenthal to present a production of this three-character play suitable for an 1,100-seat Broadway house like the Cort, with largely positive results.  Rosenthal’s set, like that with Hat, opens up to suggest a wider city — there is an impressively realistic backdrop of the post-war apartment buildings that loom behind and above Dennis’s apartment. The characters’ rough-housing seems designed to fill up the stage.

All three performers are making their Broadway debuts, with little to no previous stage experience. Those who know and like Michael Cera from “Arrested Development” and “Juno” will be happy getting just about the same poker-faced, man-boy character in “This Is Your Youth,” although he is projecting his voice in a way that makes clear he is new to the stage. His interpretation seems narrower in range than Mark Ruffalo, the original Warren Straub (a role that began Ruffalo’s collaboration with Lonergan, which led to one of my favorite films, “You Can Count On Me.”) But Cera contributes a comic timing that lands every laugh, and a final touching moment that feels devastating.

Tavi Gevinson, who became a celebrity at age 12 because of her fashion blog, Style Rookie, is at age 18 (born the year “This Is Our Youth” debuted), impressive as a stage presence, holding her own with two movie veterans as Jessica Goldman, the object of Warren’s desire.  She has a horn of a voice, and a clear-cut future as a performer if she wants it, and her duet of attraction and anxiety with Cera certainly holds our attention, even if there is less in her character of an apparent interior life that a more experienced actress might have brought to the role.

As Dennis, Culkin delivers striking arias of bullying and bravado that mask the vulnerabilities he shares with his cowed pal.  It is a performance that makes you hope he will return (again and again) to the theater.

Not much seems to happen on stage in the course of the 48 hours when “This Is Our Youth” is supposed to take place. But the characters would consider what happens off-stage during that time cataclysmic- nothing less than the end of their youth.

 

This Is Our Youth

At Cort Theater

By Kenneth Lonergan

Directed by Anna D. Shapiro; sets by Todd Rosenthal; costumes by Ann Roth; lighting by Brian MacDevitt; sound by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen

Cast: Michael Cera (Warren Straub), Kieran Culkin (Dennis Ziegler) and Tavi Gevinson (Jessica Goldman).

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes including one intermission.

This is Our Youth is scheduled to run through January 4th.

Love Letters Broadway Review: Mia Farrow and Brian Dennehy Over 50 Years

Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow photo2 by Carol Rosegg

If there’s a gimmick to “Love Letters,” the Broadway revival of A.R. Gurney’s two-character play about a man and woman writing to one another over half a century, it isn’t the presence of a rotating roster of rarely-seen stars – Mia Farrow with Brian Dennehy through October 10th – nor the absence of scenery or costumes, nor that the actors stay seated at a table the whole time and read from scripts without ever looking at each other. It is that the two characters write letters to one another. Who does that anymore?

That is part of why this play holds such an unexpected fascination, helped along by a reliable performance by the formidable Dennehy and an extraordinary one by Mia Farrow. Part of the pleasure, much akin to Michael Apted’s documentary “Up” series, is in watching while a relationship and two lifetimes unfold before us, in ways that are suggested subtly from the start, and in ways that are totally surprising.

The history of this play has its own satisfactions, as I discovered when I interviewed the playwright. Gurney began it as a typing exercise when he was learning a new computer. Thinking it a short story, he sent it off to the New Yorker magazine. “They sent back a rejection, saying ‘we don’t publish plays.’ My agent said ‘Maybe it is a play.’”

Some early critic didn’t think so, but since 1988, “Love Letters” has been translated into 24 languages produced more than 40 countries. It is only one of three plays by the prolific playwright that have been on Broadway, and the only one to return.

The letter-writing begins in 1937, when Andrew Makepeace Ladd III formally accepts the invitation to Melissa Gardner’s second grade birthday party. Their personalities are established from the get-go, and become even clearer over time. He’s dutiful – stuffy — and taken with her from the start. She’s rebellious, ultimately self-destructive, and artistically talented. She accepts his attention, sometimes grudgingly, often as her due. Gurney exhibits an acute ear for how children and teenagers talk.

“Sometimes I think you just like me because I’m richer than you are,” Melissa writes to Andy.

“All I know is my mother keeps saying you’d make a good match; if I ever married you, I’d be set up for life,” Andy replies in the blunt way of a young teen. “But I think it’s really just physical attraction.”

Their milieu is Northeast upper class White Anglo Saxon Protestant – ballroom dancing and boarding schools; Ivy League universities, the Navy, and politics for him; gallery openings and discreet high-price sanitariums for her – but Gurney manages to capture this world so precisely that its inhabitants never feel foreign.

Mia Farrow in particular feels ideally cast; it’s hard to imagine somebody who would do a better job as Melissa Gardner (although I am willing to reappraise if and when I see the other performers.) Farrow, with her translucent beauty and educated diction, appears believably rooted in the upper crust enclave in which Melissa is raised, but which never serves her well. Farrow ranges from flighty to flirty to fragile, with a suggestion of great feeling – much of it all the more communicated, paradoxically, because it is not expressed on the surface.

For much of their lives, Andy and Melissa never seem to be in the right place in the right time for their friendship to turn into the romance that it seemed destined to become. “Love Letters” winds up being as much about loss as about love, and of discovering how small the space between them.

 

Love Letters

Brooks Atkinson Theater, 256 West 47th Street

By A. R. Gurney; directed by Gregory Mosher; sets by John Lee Beatty; costumes by Jane Greenwood; lighting by Peter Kaczorowski; sound by Scott Lehrer;

Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.

Tickets: $60 to $136

 

Cast Brian Dennehy (Andrew Makepeace Ladd III) and Mia Farrow (Melissa Gardner).

 

Love Letters is scheduled to run through February 1, on the follow schedule of casts:

LoveLettersCast

Saturday, September 13, 2014, through Friday, October 10, 2014
Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow
Saturday, October 11, 2014, through Friday, November 7, 2014
Carol Burnett and Brian Dennehy
Saturday, November 8, 2014 through Friday, December 5, 2014
Alan Alda and Candice Bergen
Saturday, December 6, 2014, through Friday, January 9, 2015
Stacy Keach and Diana Rigg
Saturday, January 10, 2015, through Sunday, February 1, 2015
Anjelica Huston and Martin Sheen

 

 

Listen to Side Show: Who Will Love Me As I Am?

SIDE_SHOW_-_Emily_Padgett_and_Erin_Davie._photo_by_Andrew_Eccles

 

Emily Padgett and Erin Davie as the Hilton Sisters (attached twins and vaudeville performers) sing “Who Will Love Me As I Am” from Side Show, a musical that begins performances on Broadway at the St. James Theater on October 28, 2014.

The New Cinderella and Evil Stepmother: Keke Palmer and Sherri Shepherd

 

Keke Palmer, the 21-year-old actress and singers still best known for her starring role in the movie Akeelah and the Bee, has become the new Ella (aka Cinderella) in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, which has announced it will close on January 3, 2015.

Sherri Shepherd, who was one of the co-hosts on the ABC daytime talk show The View for seven seasons, is the new Madame (i.e. evil stepmother.) Both are making their Broadway debuts.
Click on any photograph above to see it enlarged.

This Is Our Youth Broadway Reviews and Photos

All three stars – Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin and the 18-year-old fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson –   are making their Broadway debuts, as is playwright Kenneth Lonergan, in the revival of “This Is Our Youth,” opening tonight directed by Anna D. Shapiro at the Cort Theater through January 4.

When the play was first produced, Off-Broadway in 1996, it was already an exercise in slacker nostalgia. Taking place in an apartment on the Upper West Side in 1982, it focuses on hip Dennis, nerd Warren, who has just stolen $15,000 from his abusive father, and Jessica, the fashion student Warren hopes to seduce. When the revival ran at Steppenwolf in Chicago this summer, Chicago Tribune critic Chris Jones called it a shrewdly cast, “strikingly funny and textured production,” but wondered how it would play in the less intimate setting of a Broadway house.

What do the New York critics think of it?

Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater:  The beauty and wonder of Lonergan’s play is that it depicts with unblinking specificity a group of foul-mouthed, pot-smoking, hyper-articulate but clueless rich kids on the Upper West Side in 1982. But the playwright somehow brings us inside those characters, with lots of humor and little judgment, so that the audience can freely identify with them – not “What have our youth come to?” but “Yeah, I’ve been there.” Director Anne D. Shapiro, who won a Tony for “August: Osage County,” and did wonders with “The Motherfucker with the Hat,” here again teams up with scenic designer Todd Rosenthal to present a production of this three-character play suitable for an 1,100-seat Broadway house like the Cort, with larger positive results….As Dennis, Culkin delivers striking arias of bullying and bravado that mask the vulnerabilities he shares with his cowed pal.  It is a performance that makes you hope he will return (again and again) to the theater.

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged.

 

Ben Brantley, New York Times: “The acrobatics being performed in Anna D. Shapiro’s sensational, kinetically charged revival of Kenneth Lonergan’s “This Is Our Youth,”which opened on Thursday night in a marijuana haze at the Cort Theater, aren’t anything like those you’d find at the Cirque du Soleil. But they’re every bit as compelling, and probably (painfully) a whole lot closer to your own experience….[The director] knows how to scale up intimate confrontations to Broadway dimensions without losing nuance. Under her direction, “Youth” becomes more explosively physical than I recalled it, a ballet of gracefully clumsy collisions.”

Linda Winer, Newsday: “Thanks to the playwright’s meticulously hand-picked insights and Anna D. Shapiro’s tight yet seemingly easygoing direction, we somehow feel we have spent a couple of amusing and ultimately painful hours with an entire world of offstage parents, drug dealers and friends of friends….Ultimately, each of the [three] lost children has a monologue that asks questions so interesting that we wish we could watch them grow up.”

Mark Kennedy Associated Press: “….directed by Anna D. Shapiro, who knows her way around onstage arguments (“August: Osage County”) and movie stars (James Franco in “Of Mice and Men”). She keeps this revival fresh and electric, crackling with energy even as the stoned get more stoned.…Cera’s Warren is gloriously unpolished, a guy with his hand permanently stuffed into a pants pocket and a collection of toy memorabilia. He moves jerkily, as if he’s uncomfortable in his own skin…Culkin, with his flippy haircut and polo shirt, is smarmy ’80s perfection….Gevinson walks into this drug-fueled morass with an innocence, integrity and sincerity that’s refreshing.”

David Cote, Time Out New York: “The word plot should be used loosely. As always with Lonergan, the murky-jerky inner worlds of his articulate, life-stalled characters drive the action….Anna D. Shapiro’s clear-eyed and tight staging brings out earnest, honest performances from the young trio. Cera’s facial deadpan and vocal drone have the curious effect of deepening, not lessening, our sympathy for Warren. Culkin gets to shine in the flashier role, and Gevinson toggles amusingly between prim ingenue and panicked urbanite. They’re nice kids; I think they’ve got a bright future ahead of them.”

Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: B+ “Culkin is sensational as Dennis, a talkative schemer whose occasional stumbles in no way impede his innate sense of self-confidence. Cera is nearly as strong as Warren, a willfully quirky boy who collects action figures and vintage toasters and who endures Dennis’ poetic rants of invective against him like a pound puppy who craves attention no matter what form it takes….At 18, Gevinson is closer to her character’s age than her castmates—but she can seem less at ease on stage for reasons that have nothing to do with Jessica’s natural discomfort hanging out in a strange apartment with a virtual stranger”

Robert Kahn, WNBC:” In spite of it all, I walked out of the two-acter curiously unfulfilled. The play rarely feels relatable, and I’m afraid it’s mostly an issue with Cera, the talented “Juno” and “Superbad” star who here steps into a role quite similar to that of George Michael, the awkward man-boy he played on “Arrested Development.” That’s the rub—I think Warren would be better cast with an actor who’s got more range….This Is Our Youth” comes to life whenever Culkin—31, but playing a character a decade younger—is on stage.”

Robert Hofler The Wrap: “How much does Judd Apatow owe to Kenneth Lonergan’s 1996 play, “This Is Our Youth”…The play has so many elements that were to become Apatow hallmarks: the awkward teenage sex (“Freaks and Geeks”), the vintage toy collection (“The 40 Year-Old Virgin”), the slacker abode (“Knocked Up”), and, of course, the drugs (all of the above). Lonergan was there first to document that odd, unnamed territory between school and a real life, which for his 25-year-old-ish character Dennis (Kieran Culkin in a Broadway debut that’s a career breakthrough) may never arrive despite such remarkable potential….”

Matt Windman, AM New York:  “Chekhov meets Gossip Girl…There’s no escaping the fact that Cera is giving a performance that closely mirrors his nervous nice guy persona from “Arrested Development” and “Superbad.” Even so, it suits his character and he brings plenty of laughs. The 18-year-old Gevinson, who has terrific rapport with Cera, vigorously conveys Jessica’s suspicious nature. Culkin displays greater range as Dennis, who embodies cocky 1980s materialism, seeing himself as an entrepreneur.”

 

Broadway Fall 2014 Preview Guide

Listed below, chronologically by opening dates, are the shows officially scheduled so far on Broadway in the 2014-2015 season, with basic information and my two cents for the Fall shows. Both the schedule and my opinions are tentative and will be revised and updated as the season progresses.

You want stars, pick your favorite: Hugh Jackman, Glenn Close, Harry Potter’s Rupert Grint, Carol Burnett even, etc.  You want revivals, you got them – nine of the 15 set to open from September through December.  But there is also here the promise of a quality season.

( Click for a rundown on long-running Broadway shows)

(Click here for the Off-Broadway Fall 2014 Preview Guide)

September:

ouryouthlogoThis is Our Youth

Cort Theater

Playwright: Kenneth Lonergan

Director: Anna D. Shapiro

First preview: August 18, 2014

Opening: September 11

Closing: January 4, 2015

Principal cast: Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, Tavi Gevinson.

48 hours in the live of three teenagers in 1982, one of whom has stolen cash from his father.

This is a revival. There were productions Off-Broadway in 1996 and 1998

One Chicago critic liked this production when it was in try-outs there, but wondered if the Cort will be too big for it. Lonergan wrote one of my favorite movies, “You Can Count On Me,” but find the plays of his I’ve seen (The Starry Messenger) painfully meandering.

Twitter: @YouthBroadway

My review: Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin Far From Ave Q

Love Letters

loveletterslogoBrooks Atkinson Theater

First preview: September 13

Opening: September 18

Closing: February 1, 2015

Playwright: A.R. Gurney

Director: Gregory Mosher

In a revival of A.R. Gurney’s play, two people write one another love letters over a period of 50 years.

The play features a star-studded rotating cast on the following schedule:

Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow (September 13-October 10)

Carol Burnett and Brian Dennehy (October 11-November 7)

Alan Alda and Candice Bergen (November 8-December 5)

Stacy Keach and Diana Rigg (December 6-January 9)

Anjelica Huston and Martin Sheen (January 10-February 1).

This is a charming play, that I’ve seen in previous productions. (It was on Broadway in 1989.) If this production can be said to indulge in stunt-casting (and what else would you call it?) it’s stunt casting of the very highest order. My only regret is that they didn’t cast just one pair of younger performers, like, say, Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson

Twitter: @LoveLettersBway

My review: Mia Farrow and Brian Dennehy Over 50 Years

canttakeitwithyoulogoYou Can’t Take It With You

Longacre Theater

First preview: August 26

Opening: September 28

Closing: January 4, 2015

Playwrights: George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart

Director:  Scott Ellis

Cast: James Earl Jones, Kristine Nielsen and Elizabeth Ashley lead a cast of nearly two dozen.

Two families (one deeply eccentric) collide when their children become engaged.

First produced on Broadway in 1936, this comedy (by the writing team that was the subject of the play Act One last season), is now on its fifth revival.

Twitter: @CantTakeItBway

October:

CountryhouselogoThe Country House

Samuel J. Friedman Theater

First preview: September 9

Opening: October 2

Closing: December 9

Playwright: Donald Margulies

Director: Daniel Sullivan

Principal cast: Blythe Danner leads a six-member cast.

An adaptation by Margulies (Dinner With Friends) of Chekhov’s The Seagull focuses on a family of thespians who gather in a house in the Berkshires during the Williamstown theater festival.

@MTC_NYC

dognighttimelogoThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night

Ethel Barrymore Theater

First preview: September 10

Opening: October 5

Playwright: Simon Stephens adapting the novel by Mark Haddon

Director: Marianne Elliott

Fifteen-year-old Christopher, clinically awkward and brilliant, is suspected of killing the neighbor’s dog. He sets out on a life-changing journey to find the culprit.

This stage adaptation of a peculiarly-written novel I loved by Mark Haddon was well-received in London, winning 7 Olivier Awards (equalling the previous record-breaking Matilda.) It was especially praised for its design. The director and the designers are the same on Broadway, it is still a Royal National Theatre production, but the cast is different.

@CuriousBroadway

onlyaplaylogoIt’s Only A Play

First preview: August 28

Opening: October 9

Closing: January 4, 2015

Playwright: Terrence McNally

Director: Jack O’Brien

Cast: Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick. F. Murray Abraham, Stockard Channing, Rupert Grint, Megan Mullally and Micah Stock.

Running time: 2 hours and 35 minutes, including one intermission.

The cast of a show called “The Golden Egg” await the reviews in this revival of Terrence McNally’s 1982 comedy, which is likely to be most appreciated for its cast — especially the reunited duo Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, as well as the Broadway debut of Harry Potter veteran Rupert Grint.

@ItsOnlyAPlay

onthetownlogoOn The Town

Lyric Theater (formerly Foxwoods)

First preview: September 20

Opening: October 16

Lyrics by: Betty Comden and Adolph Green

Music by: Leonard Bernstein

Book by: Betty Comden and Adolph Green

Director: John Rando

Principal cast: Clyde Alves, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Tony Yazbeck

Three sailors spend a day on leave in New York City, meeting some great dames.

I have high hopes for this production, which features great choreography by Joshua Bergasse (based on the glimpses we’ve been given, in videos, in reports from pre-Broadway tryouts, and at Broadway in Bryant Park), and such standards as “New York, New York (It’s a Wonderful Town)” “Come Up to My Place” and “Lonely Town,” as well as some jazzy surprises like “I Can Cook Too.”

@OnTheTownNYC

disgracedlogoDisgraced

First preview: September 27

Opening: October 23

Playwright: Ayad Akhtar

Director: Kimberly Senior

Cast: Hari Dhillon, Gretchen Mol, Karen Pittman and Josh Radnor.

Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.

Pakistani-American lawyer Amir and his white, artist wife Emily gives a dinner party that starts off friendly and turns ugly.

The play, Akhtar’s first, was produced at Lincoln Center in 2012, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

@DisgracedBway

lastshiplogoThe Last Ship

Neil Simon Theater

First preview: September 30

Opening: October 26

Lyrics and Music: Sting

Book: John Logan and Brian Yorkey

Director: Joe Mantello

Gideon leaves his hometown to travel the world, returning 14 years later to discover that the love he left behind is engaged to somebody else, and the town’s shipbuilding industry is endangered.

The show is said to be inspired by Sting’s own childhood experiences.

@LastShipMusical

realthingpiclogoThe Real Thing

American Airlines Theater

First preview: October 2

Opening: October 30

Closing: January 4

Playwright: Tom Stoppard

Director: Sam Gold

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Cynthia Nixon

Henry is a successful writer who is attempting to balance his professional and personal lives in this comedy about marriage and betrayal.

McGregor and Gyllenhaal are both making their Broadway debuts in this second Broadway revival of Stoppard’s play.

@RTC_NYC

November:

theriverlogoThe River

Circle in the Square Theater

First preview: October 31

Opening: November 16

Closing: January 25

Playwright: Jez Butterworth

Director: Ian Rickson

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Laura Donnelly, Cush Jumbo

Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission

A trout fisherman in a remote cabin tries to hook a woman into some night-time fishing.

Two words: Hugh Jackman.

@TheRiverPlay

sideshowlogoSide Show

St. James Theater

First preview: October 28

Opening: November 17

Lyrics by: Bill Russell

Music by: Henry Kreiger

Book by: Bill Russell with additional material by Bill Condon

Director: Bill Condon

Principal cast: Erin Davie, Emily Padgett

The Hilton twins, Daisy and Violet, were in real life conjoined twins who were trained by their guardians to become performers, and became the highest paid performers on the vaudeville circuit. “Side Show” purports to tell their story.

This “reimagined” revival of the 1997 musical was well-received in D.C., and is one of the most anticipated shows of the season, hugely leading (as of this writing) my Broadway Fall 2014 preference poll

@SideshowBway

delicatebalancelogoA Delicate Balance

John Golden Theater

Playwright: Edward Albee

Director: Pam MacKinnon

First preview: October 20

Opening: November 20

Closes: February 22

Running time: 2 hours and 55 minutes, including 2 intermissions

Cast: Glenn Close, John Lithgow, Lindsay Duncan, Bob Balaban, Claire Higgins and Martha Plimpton.

A long-married couple must maintain their equilibrium as over the course of a weekend they welcome home their 36-year old daughter after the collapse of her fourth marriage, and give shelter to their best friends who seek refuge in their home, all the while tolerating Agnes’ alcoholic live-in sister.

The Edward Albee-Pam MacKinnon match-up, which brought us the priceless recent Broadway production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” promises to do justice with another one of the playwright’s caustic Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpieces (despite the ugly poster.)

December

illusionistslogoThe Illusionists

Marquis Theater

First preview: November 26

Opening: December 4, 2014

Closes: January 4, 2015

Cast:

The Manipulator, Yu Ho-Jin

The Anti-Conjuror, Dan Sperry

The Trickster, Jeff Hobson

The Escapologist, Andrew Basso

The Inventor, Kevin James

The Warrior, Aaron Crow

The Futurist, Adam Trent

Seven illusionists perform magic and illusion. Broadway is a stop on their world tour.

@Illusionists7

The Elephant Man

theelephantmanlogoBooth Theater

First preview: November 7

Opening: December 7

Closes: February 15

Playwright: Bernard Pomerance

Director: Scott Ellis

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, Alessandro Nivola, Anthony Heald, Scott Lowell, Kathryn Meisle, Henry Stram

Running time: one hour 55 minutes, including intermission.

Based on the true story of John Merrick, a horribly deformed man in the 19th century who was treated abominably.

This second Broadway revival of the 1979 play gives movie hearthrob Bradley Cooper a chance to show his inner beauty. (The deformity is not actually depicted. The audience is asked to imagine it.)

@ElephantMan

A peek at Spring 2015, which is even more tentative than the fall. I’ll flesh it out in the future. This is, as they say, a work in progress:

January

Constellations

Samuel J. Friedman Theater

Playwright: Nick Payne

Director: Michael Longhurst

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal

First preview: December 16

Opening January 13, 2015

Closes: March 15

honeymooninvegaslogoHoneymoon in Vegas

Nederlander Theater

Music and Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown

Book: Andrew Bergman

Director: Gary Griffin

First preview: November 18

Opening: January 15

Cast: Tony Danza, Rob McClure, Byrnn O’Malley

Jack Singer, a regular guy with an extreme fear of marriage, finally gets up the nerve to ask his girlfriend Betsy to marry him. But when they head to Las Vegas to get hitched, smooth talking gambler Tommy Korman, looking for a second chance at love, falls head over heels for Betsy.

@HoneymoonBway

March

Fish in the Dark

Opening March 5

The Audience

Opening March 8

On The Twentieth Century

Opening March 12

Finding Neverland

Opening March 22

April

An American in Paris

Opening April 12

The King and I

Opening: April 16

Fun Home

Opening: April 22

Airline Highway

Opening April 23

Broadway Poll Fall 2014: What Show Most Excites You?

There are 15 shows scheduled to open on Broadway between September and December, 2014 (as of this writing). Take this poll: Which one are you most looking forward to?

The shows are organized in the order in which they are scheduled to open.

To learn more about the shows, check out my Broadway Fall 2014 Preview Guide

Andrew Rannells Begins As Hedwig

AndrewRannellsinHedwigAndrew Rannells replaces Neil Patrick Harris in the lead role of Hedwig and the Angry Inch tonight (August 20th) through October 12th. Harris won a Tony for his portrait of the “girlyboy from communist East Berlin” (in the words of the rock musical) who became “the internationally ignored song stylist barely standing before you.”

AndrewRannellsportrait

“I love that Hedwig is so strong but also so vulnerable,” Rannells has said, “and I love that she is so funny but also so hurt and sensitive. I just love all her contradictions.”

book-of-mormon-3Rannells, a native of Nebraska who will celebrate his 36th birthday on August 23rd, broke into Broadway at 28 as the replacement for slick dj Link Larkin  in “Hairspray,” went on to portray Bob Gaudio in “Jersey Boys,” but really made his mark in 2011 originating the role of Elder Price in “The Book of Mormon,” a performance that snagged him a Tony nomination.

Lena Dunham attended the opening night of Mormon, and cast him as Elijah, Hannah’s bisexual ex-boyfriend in “Girls,” a part he continues to play. He was also cast in “The New Normal” as Bryan, one-half a gay couple who have decided to have a child, a TV series that was canceled after a single season.

If in taking on Hedwig, Rannells may struck some as trying on a completely different character from the ones he’s done in the past, the truth is, he’s already portrayed Hedwig – in a production in Austin in 2002.

Here is Andrew Rannells performing I Believe from the Book of Mormon on the 2011 Tony Awards broadcast

Here is Andrew Rannells performing with Neil Patrick Harris in the 2013 Tony Awards broadcast (along with Megan Hilty and Laura Benanti)

Hedwig & the Angry Inch Belasco Theatre

Mamma Mia in Bryant Park: Watch Dancing Queen, Waterloo, Etc.

Mamma Mia opened on Broadway in 2001, just a few months after the first Broadway in Bryant Park, a weekly summer series of free lunch-time concerts featuring current Broadway casts. Cast members from the popular jukebox musical have appeared on the Bryant Park stage regularly, and 2014 was no exception.

The Winner Takes It All

Mamma Mia

Dancing Queen

Waterloo

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