Broadway is Back

Crowds are returning to Times Square, where the offerings are plentiful and star-filled

| 04 Apr 2022 | 01:11

Whatever it takes. Vaccinated, boosted, masked. No matter how grateful we’ve all been for Zoom these past two years, there is nothing that comes close to the experience of live performance, especially on Broadway.

Reviews be damned. The Hugh Jackman-Sutton Foster headed “The Music Man” was the highest grossing show when the Broadway League resumed weekly grosses. Premium tickets sell at hundreds of dollars, as they do for the starry revival of Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite,” with husband and wife Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker. But don’t let top prices keep you away. The average ticket admission is $136, and there are a number of offerings with deep discounts either through the TKTS Booth or online.

Daniel Craig, of James Bond fame, recently tested positive for COVID, but producers hope his star power, health permitting, will pull people into the Longacre Theater to see “Macbeth.” Billy Crystal fans find him in “Mr. Saturday Night,” the new musical based on his 1992 film.

For something different, there’s “A Strange Loop.” The Pulitzer Prize winner has been called a psychological funhouse mirror, about a gay Black writer creating a musical about a gay Black writer.

“Paradise Square” is an ambitious musical and fictionalized take on the infamous Draft Riots beginning in Five Points in1863. What started as protests against the Civil War draft morphed into racist violence against the Black population throughout Manhattan.

“Hangmen” touts itself as a killer comedy. It’s the Martin McDonagh Olivier Best Play winner that asks: What’s Britain’s second-most famous executioner to do once hanging is abolished?

Looking for a modern farce about sex and politics? “Potus,” by 28-year-old playwright Selina Fillinger, is subtitled “Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive.” Producers have moved the opening date to be eligible for this year’s Tony Awards.

Immersive Experience

“The Little Prince” promises an immersive experience, opening April 14 at the Broadway Theater. Debra Messing (“Will & Grace”) ages from 17 to 101 in Noah Handle’s “Birthday Candles” via the Roundabout Theatre Company. Tracy Letts’ “The Minutes,” halted in previews because of COVID restrictions, sees Ian Barford and Blair Brown heading the cast at Studio 54.

Revivals to note include “Take Me Out,” the Tony Award winner by Richard Greenberg. It’s about the star center fielder for a fictional baseball team who comes out of the closet and faces a world of prejudice off the field. Jesse Williams (“Grey’s Anatomy”) heads the cast.

Laurence Fishburne, Sam Rockwell, and Darren Criss take on David Mamet’s “American Buffalo” at Circle in the Square. First seen on Broadway in 1977, the new trio enter the company of actors in previous productions including William H. Macy, Robert Duvall, and Al Pacino.

Talk about stepping into big shoes. Beanie Feldstein is Fanny Brice in the revival of “Funny Girl.” Barbra Streisand’s indelible performance of the Jule Styne-Bob Merrill score in 1964 was nominated, but lost at Tony Award time to Carol Channing in “Hello, Dolly!”

A series of driving lessons turns dark and ugly in “How I Learned To Drive,” Paula Vogel’s exploration of the complex relationship between a young girl and her uncle. Mary Louise Parker and David Morse are repeating the roles they played Off Broadway, where the play won the Pulitzer Prize.

Seven Black women tell their stories about survival and sexism through poetry, song and movement, in “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.” The “choreopoem” revival by Ntozake Shange is considered a classic.

At Lincoln Center, Thornton Wilder’s 1942 often revived “The Skin of our Teeth” will open at the Vivian Beaumont April 25th. “Beetlejuice,” the horror-comedy based on the popular film, was closed down when the pandemic hit. It gets its chance at the Marquis.

Off Broadway

Off Broadway, there’s so much happening that it’s only possible to name a few shows. Check out the Public Theater and the Armory, and companies like the Atlantic and the Vineyard.

Imagine a class-action lawsuit filed by an American lawyer, involving a multinational tech corporation and the Chinese government. That’s “Golden Shield,” by Anchuli Felicia King. MTC brings us this American premiere exploring loyalties and the art of translation.

“Confederates,” at the Signature Center, is by the MacArthur Genius Fellow Dominique Morisseau. The play explores what freedom looks like straddling two eras in Morisseau’s tragicomic style.

Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman are the creators of “Harmony,” based on a 1920s German group, the Comedian Harmonists. They were world famous, known for sophisticated harmonies and eccentric stage antics.

A couple of caveats. Some theaters have stopped offering printed tickets. Good luck to anyone without access to a printer or smartphone. At the Hudson, “Plaza Suite” won’t allow ticket pick ups at all before the show. It’s called Contactless Mobile Ticketing. Ticket pick ups for “Paradise Square” won’t start until the house opens, so expect lines and delays there.

Broadway performers are vaccinated, but there have been some breakthrough infections. Hail to understudies! COVID restrictions are fluid. The Broadway League has said it will keep its protocols in place at least until end of April. Check the latest before you go!

Crowds are back in Times Square. Tourists are returning. Multiple productions are scheduling limited engagements. Even so, one question lingering for producers is whether there are now enough show-goers, feeling safe enough to support everything that’s being offered.