Below is a calendar of theater opening* in New York in October, with two greatly-anticipated musicals by Stephen Sondheim, one never produced before.
The other, “Merrily We Roll Along,” was long considered a flop, but a starry revival had a brief, acclaimed Off-Broadway run, and is now one of the three shows opening on Broadway this month. The others are “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding,” which marks Jocelyn Bioh’s Broadway playwriting debut and “Gutenberg The Musical,” which reunites Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells, the original stars of “The Book of Mormon.”
It’s worth noting that the new Sondheim musical, now entitled “Here We Are,” is debuting not on Broadway but at The Shed. The excitement this month spreads beyond the vintage venues, to places like the authoritatively named Brooklyn Center for Theatre Research in Greenpoint, home to a newly named generation (see October 6), the 17 locations for the 20th annual Prelude Festival (October 7), and to a closet in the East Village, the latest livestream from a pioneer of digital theater (October 27.)
This calendar is organized chronologically by opening date*, but we must consider the dates subject to change, thanks to the continuing vagaries of COVID-19.
Each title below is linked to a relevant website.
Key: Broadway: Red 🟥. Off Broadway: Blue 🟦. Off Off Broadway: Green 🟩.
Digital or Hybrid Theater: Yellow 🟨.
Theater festival: Orange 🟧.
Puppetry: Brown 🟫.
Staged Reading 📖
Immersive and/or site-specific: Silver ⬜️
Opera: Purple🟪. Concert 🎶 Out of town 🚍
🎶An Evening with LaChanze (PACNYC)
The first of three concerts by award-winning theater performers at the newly opening Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center site.
🟥Jaja’s African Hair Braiding (MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater)
Written by Jocelyn Bioh (“School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play” and “Merry Wives” in Central Park), making her Broadway playwriting debut. Directed by Whitney White
Cast: Brittany Adebumola, Maechi Aharanwa, Rachel Christopher, Kalyne Coleman,Somi Kakoma, Lakisha May, Nana Mensah, Michael Oloyede, Dominique Thorne, Zenzi Williams
A sweltering summer day at Jaja’s bustling hair braiding salon in Harlem, where every day, a lively and eclectic group of West African immigrant hair braiders are creating masterpieces on the heads of neighborhood women
October 3 – November 5
🟦Druid O’Casey (NYU Skirball)
The Irish playwright Sean O’Casey’s famed Dublin Trilogy, presented in a marathon production by Ireland’s Druid Theatre: “The Plough and the Stars” is the story of newlyweds Jack and Nora Clitheroe living in a city on the brink of rebellion in 1916. In “The Shadow of a Gunman, “Donal Davoren, Seumas Shields and Minnie Powell find themselves tragically tangled up in the Irish War of Independence. In “Juno and the Paycock,” the Boyle family see their fortunes dashed amidst the upheaval of the Irish Civil War.
🟩South (SoHo Playhouse)
Accompanied by a two-piece acoustical band, Florencia Iriondo performs her musical about leaving Argentina, to start over in New York
September 20 – November 15
🟦Bite Me (WP Theater)
The relationship in high school and then ten years later between a privileged white boy and an overachieving Black girl who both feel like misfits.
The play by Eliana Pipes, which began September 23, runs through October 22
🟩The Making of a Great Moment (Urban Stages)
In this comedy by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Bill Bowers and Esther Williamson portray two actors who are on an ambitious quest — to tour their play “Great Moments in Human Achievement” across the country… by bicycle.
Sept 28-Oct 29
🟩The Great Divide (HERE Arts)
In this solo play, writer/performer Amy Crossman explores what it means to choose life and love in the face of incalculable loss.
🎶An Evening with Brian Stokes Mitchell (PACNYC)
🟩Elsa Lanchester: She’s Alive (Laurie Beechman Theater)
A solo biographical play of the actress best-known today for playing The Bride of Frankenstein, written and performed by Charlotte Booker (Born Yesteday, Psycho Beach Party.) Booker recreates a bawdy cabaret act that Lanchester toured with late in life.
October 6 – November 3
🟩Zoomers (Brooklyn Center for Theater Research)
In this new play by Matt Gasda, two recent Ivy League graduates who seem to have it all, including more weed than they can smoke , find themselves adrift in the social landscape of New York. Gasda received oodles of attention for his previous play “Dimes Square,” chronicling “the Dimes Square scene, a loose jumble of young artists and writers and fashion figures who are the city’s latest wave of soi-disant downtownistas”
October 1 – 15
🟧Best Friends (14th Street Y)
Part of the STAV festival celebrating Israeli arts and culture, this play by the late Anat Gov tells the saga of a friendship between three women over three decades. There are separate performances in Hebrew and in English.
October 4 – 27
🟧🟨Prelude Festival (Segal Theater Center and 16 other locations)
The 20th edition, offering “a completely free survey of the current New York moment and the work being prepared for the next season and beyond” is being presented from October 7 to October 27. Panels, talks inc selected performances will be live-streamed on: www.HowlRound.com
(The locations: Segal Theater Center, The Tank, The Brick, The Invisible Dog Art Center, Collapsable Hole, Prospect Park, Torn Page, Anita’s Way, Mercury Store, Theatrelab, Newtown Creek Nature Walk, Jersey City Theatre Center, PS21: Performance Spaces for the 21st Century, CultureLab LIC, Elebash Hall, Park Avenue Armory, The Watermill Center.
🎶An Evening with Ben Platt (PACNYC)
🎶 When We Get There (York at Theater at St. Jean’s)
In this staged concert of a musical with music and lyrics by Charlie Barnett, a widow, her housekeeper, her housekeeper’s daughter and her handyman take a car-trip from New Jersey participate in Martin Luther King Jr.’s Selma civil rights march of 1965.
October 2 – 15
🟩Rip Tide (Axis)
A new play written and performed by Edgar Oliver, actor, writer, performance artist, East Village stalwart, about where his New York performing life all began for him — The Pyramid Club, the Avenue A hangout that helped define the East Village drag, gay, punk and art scenes of the 1980s.
🟦(pray), (Ars Nova at Greenwich House)
A sacred offering created, directed and choreographed by nicHi douglas with music by S T A R R Busby and
JJJJJerome Ellis, channeling the joy and vitality of a Sunday Baptist Church service through a surreal and Afrofuturist lens.
September 23–October 28, 2023
🟥Merrily We Roll Along (Hudson Theater)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groff, Lindsay Mendez, Krystal Joy Brown, Katie Rose Clarke, Reg Rogers
Writers: Stephen Sondheim (music & lyrics), George Furth (book)
Director: Maria Friedman
The first Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s famously problematic musical that goes backward in time telling the story of three friends who lose the idealism of their youth. My review of the production Off Broadway
September 19 – March 24
🟦The Refuge Plays (Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theater)
Nathan Alan Davis’s three-part tale that follows one Black family over 70 years deep in the woods of Southern Illinois.
September 16 – November 12
🟥Gutenberg The Musical (James Earl Jones Theater)
Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells, the original stars of “The Book of Mormon,” reunite for this two-handed spoof of a bad Broadway musical, portraying two aspiring musical theater writers, Bud and Doug, who are putting on an investor’s reading of their new work about the invention of the printing press, portraying all the characters by themselves, and taking many liberties to try to make it more Broadway-worthy, adding a love interest, fabricating a villain, and getting everything wrong. The play was first presented twenty years ago at the comedy club Upright Citizens Brigade by the duo, Scott Brown and Anthony King, who went on to adapt Beetlejuice.
September 15 – January 28, 2024
🟫The Vanishing Elephant (New Victory at Stage 42)
Jenny the elephant is captured and taken from India to America, performing as the Vanishing Elephant with Harry Houdini. Based on a true story. The puppet pachyderm grows from tot to teen to towering adult
🟩All The Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented The Villain, (DR2 Theater.)
In this solo show, Patrick Page unfolds the Bard’s “two decade exploration of evil,” going more or less chronologically through his characters: from Richard III, Aaron the Moor, and Shylock with Antonio, to Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and Prospero with Ariel.
I saw this production during the pandemic as a work of digital theater. It’s not traditional theater, but Page performs the soliloquies of these various characters with passion and precision; it’s not a traditional lecture, but his commentary is illuminating.
September 29 to January 7.
🟩Helen. (En Garde Arts and SuperGeographics at La MaMa)
Caitlin George’s new play with a new comic, feminist version of the story of Helen of Troy. “Helen. aims to contextualize marginalization of women, in history and myth…”
🟦Partnership (Mint at Theatre Row)
This third Mint production of a play by Elizabeth Baker (1876-1962), tells the story of self-reliant and accomplished career woman content with her thriving business, until everything changes when her chief rival proposes a merger… and matrimony.
October 1 – November 12
🟦Here We Are (The Shed)
This was the musical that Stephen Sondheim had been working on for many years with David Ives when he died. It is inspired by two Luis Buñuel’s films – The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Exterminating Angel – with Act I following a group of people searching for dinner amidst surreal encounters, while the second act traps them in their chosen dining spot.
It features an astonishing cast of some of the most exciting actors performing on the New York stage: Francois Battiste, Tracie Bennett, Bobby Cannavale, Micaela Diamond, Amber Gray, Jin Ha, Rachel Bay Jones, Denis O’Hare, Steven Pasquale, David Hyde Pierce, and Jeremy Shamos.
September 28 – January 7.
🎶Jukebox: The Musical (Merkin Concert Hall)
A quintet of Broadway performers sing from Jersey Boys, Jagged Little Pill, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Neil Diamond Musical: A Beautiful Noise, Moulin Rouge, MJ the Musical and The Cher Show
🟦Arms and the Man (Gingold at Theatre Row)
George Bernard Shaw’s comedy about a soldier who seeks shelter in a young woman’s bedroom, setting off a chain of improbable comic situations, as he introduces to her his unconventional views on love, sex, war, and life.
October 17 – November 18
🟨Nosferatu, A 3D Symphony of Horror (Theater in Quarantine via NYU Skirball)
One of the pioneers of digital theater during the pandemic lockdown, Theater in Quarantine, reimagines the 1922 vampire classic, livestreaming it from the closet of Joshua William Gelb’s East Village apartment.
🟩King of the Jews (HERE Arts)
In Leslie Epstein’s play based on his 1979 novel, the Nazis force a group of Jewish waiters and cooks and entertainers in the Polish ghetto to form a Judenrat, a group of self-governing Jews who will thenceforth govern the lives, and determine the deaths, of their co-religionists.
October 24 – November 19
🟦Stereophonic (Playwrights Horizons)
A rock band recording a new album finds itself suddenly on the cusp of superstardom in this new play by David Adjmi, a playwright probably best known for the legal battle surrounding his “Three’s Company” parody “3C.” He is also the author of a terrific memoir, Lot Six. Stereophonic features original music by Arcade Fire’s Will Butler
Oct 6 – Nov 19
🟩Snatch Adams & Tainty McCracken Present It’s That Time of the Month (Soho Rep)
Becca Blackwell (Hurricane Diane) co-writes and co-stars in this over-the-top comedy portraying Snatch Adams, a 6-foot tall vagina who lost her job as a clown at Planned Parenthood, who is hired as host of a talk show with recently Me-Too’ed comic Tainty McCracken (performed by Amanda Duarte.)
October 25 – December 3
🟦Mikel Murfi’s trilogy (Irish Arts Center)
Mikel Murfi presents all three of his solo plays in repertory chronicling his beloved Sligo through the wanderings of small town cobbler Pat Farnon: The Man in the Woman’s Shoes; I Hear You and Rejoice , and the third installment never before seen in New York: The Mysterious Case of Kitsy Rainey
October 24 – November 18
This selection of plays in October is organized chronologically by opening night, but includes the dates when a show’s run starts and ends (when available.)
Opening night is usually not the same as the first performance on Broadway and Off-Broadway. There is usually a “preview period” that can last days or weeks, sometimes months. But professional reviews are forbidden from being published until opening night, which is why I organize this calendar by opening night (when it exists and when I can find it) rather than first performance, as a way to support the continuing relevance of theater reviewing. (Shows that begin previews in October but don’t open until November will be featured in next month’s calendar.) Check out my essay: Broadway Opening Night. What It Means. How It’s Changed. 7 Facts to Clear Up The Confusion and Crystallize the Outrage.
What Is Broadway 🟥, Off Broadway 🟦 and Off-Off Broadway🟩?
Off-Broadway theaters, by definition, have anywhere from 100 to 499 seats. If a theater has more seats than that, it’s a Broadway house. If it has fewer, it’s Off-Off Broadway. (There is a more sophisticated definition, having to do with contracts, and more elaborate distinctions, having to do with ticket prices, number and location of theaters, length of runs, willingness to take artistic risks, etc.)
(Lincoln Center has separate Broadway, Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway theaters. Several of the city’s performing arts centers, such as The Shed, Little Island, Park Avenue Armory, NYU Skirball, and now PAC NYC at the World Trade Center site technically exist outside Broadway/Off-Broadway/Off-Off Broadway classifications; I list them as Off-Broadway, even though most have more than 500 seats.)