Correction appended: Jan. 14, 2015
The first half of the Broadway season has been, at best, a disappointment. Only one new musical — The Last Ship, which has already announced its closing later this month — along with a surfeit of big-star revivals (It’s Only a Play, with Nathan Lane;The Elephant Man, with Bradley Cooper). But Broadway’s season, now more than ever, is heavily backloaded, with most of the high-profile shows waiting until closer to the spring and Tony-nomination time.
Among the most promising shows waiting in the wings:
Honeymoon in Vegas (opening Jan. 15). Big musicals generally don’t like to open in the frigid, audience-challenged month of January. But last year’s Beautiful: The Carole King Musical bucked the conventional wisdom, opened in January and became one of the season’s unexpected hits. Trying to duplicate that feat this year is Honeymoon in Vegas, based on the 1992 movie about a guy who takes his fiancee to Vegas, then has to keep her out of the hands of a smooth-talking gambler. Jason Robert Brown (last season’s Bridges of Madison County) wrote the score, and Tony Danza stars in the show, which got good reviews in a pre-Broadway run at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse.
Fish in the Dark (Mar. 5). The publicity campaign is already in high gear for the Broadway debut — as both star and playwright — of TV’s favorite comedy sourpuss, Larry David. The Curb Your Enthusiasm star and Seinfeld co-creator has divulged few details of the story — it’s about a death in the family and centers on a character very much like Larry David — but has surrounded himself with a formidable cast of TV and Broadway vets, among them Rita Wilson, Rosie Perez, Jayne Houdyshell and Lewis J. Stadlen.
The Audience (Mar. 8). Helen Mirren, who at this point could probably fill in for Queen Elizabeth at knighthood ceremonies, once again plays the British monarch in Peter Morgan’s historical drama, which imagines the conversations between the Queen and a succession of British prime ministers, from Winston Churchill to David Cameron. Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot) directs the production, which was a hit at London’s National Theatre, as well as in a live movie-theater presentation in 2013.
The Heidi Chronicles (Mar. 19). The first Broadway revival of Wendy Wasserstein’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1989 play, about an art historian whose life mirrors the ups and downs of the women’s movement from the 1960s through the ’80s. Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) stars as the confused feminist, and director Pam MacKinnon (who won a Tony for the recent revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf) will help us determine whether the play holds up as more than a period piece.
Skylight (Apr. 2). Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan star in a revival of David Hare’s 1995 play about a restaurateur who pays an unexpected visit to the flat of his former girlfriend. Another British import (directed, again, by the estimable Stephen Daldry) that arrives here following rave reviews and sellout crowds in London.
Wolf Hall, Parts 1 & 2 (Apr. 9). A double dose of British history: the Royal Shakespeare Company’s acclaimed adaptation of Hillary Mantel’s bestselling novels about intrigue in the court of Henry VIII. The two plays, adapted by Mike Poulton and originally titled Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, were hits in London, but whether they can entice Americans theatergoers to spend two music-free evenings at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theater (longtime home to Cats and Mamma Mia) remains to be seen.
Finding Neverland (Apr. 15). The critics were mixed when this musical based on the movie about Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie premiered last year at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. But producer Harvey Weinstein, overseeing his first Broadway show, is a determined man, and he’s corralled star Matthew Morrison (Glee) and director Diane Paulus (who helmed the hit revivals of Hair, Porgy and Bess and Pippin) to try to transform it into a Broadway smash.
The King and I (Apr. 16). The lovely, creamy-voiced Kelli O’Hara continues her march through the Rodgers & Hammerstein songbook, starring in a revival of the team’s beloved 1951 show about a British schoolteacher and the King of Siam. Director Bartlett Sher, who guided O’Hara in the successful 2008 revival of South Pacific, is again at the helm, and Japanese actor Ken Watanabe makes his Broadway debut as the king.
Fun Home (Apr. 19). The critics have already given a big thumbs-up to Lisa Kron’s heartfelt musical, with songs by Jeanine Tesori, based on graphic novelist Alison Bechdel’s memoir of her troubled family life. The question is whether this very downtown show, transferring to Broadway after its acclaimed 2013 run at the Public Theater, can win over a mainstream audience.
Doctor Zhivago (Apr. 21). Either the biggest hit or the biggest joke of the spring season: a lavish musical (with songs by Lucy Simon) based on Boris Pasternak’s famed novel about the Russian Revolution. Critics who saw the show in Australia were impressed, but the lack of stars and a poor track record for foreign-born musical spectacles on Broadway (see Rocky) could make it a Russian white elephant.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the first name of the playwright for Wolf Hall. He is Mike Poulton.