TIME movies

Behind The Sound of Music: Why the Real Maria Went to the von Trapps’

Familie von Trapp
Imagno/Austrian Archives (S)/Getty Images Family Von Trapp singing in a radioshow in London on Dec. 9, 1937

When the movie of The Sound of Music premiered 50 years ago, on Mar. 2, 1965, the world learned the story of would-be nun Maria, whose superiors, at their wits’ end over her flightiness, sent her to work as a governess for an Austrian naval captain with seven children.

But in reality, though Maria and the von Trapp family were real people, some details differed. For example, as TIME reported in 1949, before The Sound of Music was a play or a movie, her reason for going to the family was not quite like the cinematic version:

As a novice in a Salzburg convent, Maria Augusta began to get “bad headaches,” she says, and her superiors decided to give her a vacation helping care for the seven children of the widowed Baron Georg von Trapp. Maria Augusta married the baron, bore him three children.

All the Trapps sang and in 1937 Soprano Lotte Lehmann heard them at it. She insisted that they enter choral competition at the Salzburg Festival that year. They took first prize, but never sang at Salzburg again; ardently Roman Catholic and ardently anti-Nazi, they left home just before Hitler seized Austria.

The story’s description of Maria is about as far from the film’s flibbertigibbet as possible. Rather, she has “the charm and will of a medieval matriarch.”

Interestingly, an earlier TIME story about the Trapp family, from 1938, reported on the Lotte Lehmann anecdote and the family coming to the U.S. to sing, “surpris[ing] many a gas-station attendant with their dirndl dresses and Lederhosen,” with no mention of the Nazis, the actual reason they ended up leaving their homeland. Their transition to living in the U.S. was not completely smooth — though Maria loved long-distance calls, she told TIME that she hated that the envelopes were oblong and that people put mayonnaise on pears — but eventually they settled down in Vermont, where the family still maintains an inn.

Read next: Can Even a Cranky Guy Fall for The Sound of Music?

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TIME Advertising

This Ad Perfectly Captures the Horrors of New Motherhood

It's also great birth control

HelloFlo doesn’t just tackle first periods — it’s also breaking into the mom market.

The women’s health company, which scored a viral hit last year with an ad about a young girl’s “first moon party,” is back with a new campaign. In this ad, a new mom takes a break from breastfeeding and changing diapers to perform a musical about how much it sucks to have a tiny baby. “How could I let another woman walk through the terrifying abyss of motherhood without telling her the things I’d seen?” she says.

“For what it’s worth: There’s no laughter after after-birth,” she sings in a full-on Broadway style belt.

When asked if she’s worried about the success of her musical, she replies: “I have suction cups attached to my nipples, squeezing milk out of my rock-hard boobs. I fear nothing.” Once she sees HelloFlo’s new mom kit — which includes essentials like nipple cream, breast pads, lotion and Luna bars — she fears it’s so useful, it will make her musical obsolete. Until she uses it to bribe everyone to see her show.

If you’re a mom, you’ll love this. If you’re not a mom yet, it might scare you off for good.

Read next: This Video Shows Why Being a Mom Is the Hardest Job Out There

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TIME Theater

Here’s Your Chance to See Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet

Times Talks And TIFF In Los Angeles "Imitation Game" Discussion
Amanda Edwards—WireImage/Getty Images Actor Benedict Cumberbatch attends the Times Talks and TIFF In Los Angeles discussion of "The Imitation Game" at The Paley Center for Media on February 16, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.

London fans, get thee to a cinema, go!

You may not be able to fly to London to catch Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as the brooding Prince of Denmark, but fear not: The show will be screened in movie theaters around the globe.

The broadcaster National Theatre Live will begin selling tickets on March 16, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Hamlet runs at London’s Barbican Theatre from Aug. 25 through Oct. 31, with the screening taking place in participating theaters on Oct. 15. Some movie theaters may even show encore performances.

Since the live show is already sold out, according to the Barbican’s website, this now seems like the best option even for Cumberbatch fans who live in London. So get thee to a cinema, go!

[The Hollywood Reporter]

TIME Theater

Josh Radnor: ‘People Who Stuck With the Series’ Understood the How I Met Your Mother Finale

Third Annual Paul Rudd All-Star Bowling Benefit
Jamie McCarthy—Getty Images Josh Radnor attends the Third Annual Paul Rudd All-Star Bowling Benefit at Lucky Strike Lanes & Lounge on Jan. 12, 2015 in New York City.

The Broadway actor describes his current role and the Mother backlash

Having met and bid farewell to the Mother, Josh Radnor is set on reinventing himself.

Since October, Radnor has been starring in Disgraced, a Broadway play that won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It’s about the degree to which a Muslim-American lawyer (Hari Dhillon) is able to outrun the stereotypes associated with his religion, provoked by the interrogations of his dinner guests, including an art dealer (Radnor)—and in the frankness with which it addresses issues of race and religion, it’s a far cry from Radnor’s last big role. On nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother, Radnor, playing Ted, pined for love winningly, a journey Radnor is now ready to push back against. The actor told TIME: “Sometimes if I’m doing something lighter as an actor, I want to find something heavier.”

Not that Mother was so simplistic. There was plenty of heaviness in the controversial finale, which aired last March. That episode revealed that the Mother, the character audiences had been waiting for years to meet and who had developed in her brief time onscreen real chemistry with Ted, had been dead throughout the series-long narration. A year on, Radnor is sanguine about the controversy: “Various arts are littered with stories of things being greeted with outrage that go on to find their place and be looked on in a different way.” As for Disgraced (playing at New York’s Lyceum Theatre through March 1), there’s been little but praise. It’s a story about how Radnor met with acclaim that he’s only too happy to narrate.

TIME: What went into the decision to act on Broadway now, coming off the momentum of How I Met Your Mother’s finale last year?

Josh Radnor: I did a couple of plays over the years during our summer months off on the show. If I don’t do a play for a while, I miss it a lot. I didn’t have an overarching plan about coming back to Broadway, but I admired the novel [Ayad Akhtar, the playwright] wrote and we became friends. Last April, the show had ended a month earlier, and he told me I had an offer to do it on Broadway. It doesn’t take you long to say yes to something like that, to work with a friend on something amazing on Broadway—a play that feels culturally relevant, everything I wanted to do on Broadway. I’d be a fool not to do it.

Talk about that relevance: Has it been complicated for you to perform in a play about anti-Muslim prejudice given all that’s happened in the world since the run began?

It speaks to two things: This ongoing tragedy that unspools across the front page of paper every day. The play is set in 2011, and he was working on it for years before. It also speaks to Ayad’s prescience as a writer, being slightly ahead of the story, being able to take these issues on. It was a very strange day when the Charlie Hebdo [killings] happened in France, and we have a line about the French banning the veil and their problem with Islam. I remember thinking Oh man, there’s those lines about France, people will think they added this in. But [that] was in there from the start; he just had his finger on the pulse.

Did you worry about this play taking a toll on your reputation as someone who was a part of a fun, sunny comedy? Did you think it’d offend fans in a way that’d cause you problems?

No, that’s not something that really crossed my mind. I value the opportunity to participate in something that feels provocative. It’s not recklessly provocative, it’s not sensationalistic—it’s exploring the deepest questions of identity and tribalism. And to me, sometimes if I’m doing something lighter as an actor, I want to find something heavier. I’m doing She Loves Me next season so that’ll be lighter; I like to have a mix of things.

It’s gratifying to me because the guy I’m playing is nothing like the guy I played on TV for so long. An actor’s career is about demolishing that—fighting to get people to see you in a different way. Some people have a very crystallized idea of me as an actor. I was always clear, on How I Met Your Mother, that I was playing a character. In this show, I’m playing a totally different character. If you came to see some version or riff on what I did on TV, you’re gonna be disappointed. One guy wrote me on Twitter, asking: Why weren’t you in the show, and why didn’t they make an announcement? And I was! He just wasn’t wearing his glasses. I took it as a total compliment. I feel like this guy is different from me and from the guy I played on the show. I’ve enjoyed flexing those muscles.

Which is more punishing: Acting on Broadway, or taping a TV show?

I don’t know that I could describe the pace of the TV show as punishing. It was quite a civilized schedule. We had one week off a month, a four-month break each year, and shot three days a week. We only shot nine days a month. It was great for people who were having families, or for me and Jason [Segel], who were creating our own projects. It’s certainly different doing eight shows a week. There’s something fascinating about it as an actor. You have to fight being mechanical and listen to keep it fresh. You can fall into thinking, “This is my performance,” rather than living it. There are days that have a Groundhog Day feeling. There are days we look at each other and say I can’t believe I’m still doing this play! But it’s the audience’s first time hearing it. With eight shows a week, no matter what you do—this play’s only 85 minutes, so it’s more merciful, but you do have to let your whole day coalesce around it.

Theater Review Disgraced
Joan Marcus—Boneau/Bryan-Brown/APFrom left: Gretchen Mol, Karen Pittman, Hari Dhillon and Josh Radnor in a scene from Disgraced.

A year or so on, how do you think the How I Met Your Mother finale aged? A lot of longtime fans were angry at the time with the revelation that “The Mother” died of a terminal illness.

I think the series and the finale are going to age pretty well, that’s my sense. Various arts are littered with stories of things being greeted with outrage that go on to find their place and be looked on in a different way. I think some of that outrage spoke to how passionately people felt about it. With television series, people really feel a sense of ownership. They spend hours with it, intimate hours, in their pajamas, when they’re sick—I loved hearing from fans how the show had brightened their day in the midst of tough times. If you really look at the DNA of the show from the beginning, it was always about really tough stuff. Some weeks, it was a really broad comedy, and some weeks, it made you cry. We never shied away from the fact that death exists and that you don’t always get what you want. It wasn’t a fantasy, it always had real life intruding.

[Show creators] Carter [Bays] and Craig [Thomas], this was their plan from the beginning, and no one objected. When I read the finale script, I thought it was a beautiful, poignant way to say goodbye to these characters. I was a fan, and I think that a lot of people who stuck with the series from day one really got it. The people who didn’t—I hope this isn’t offensive—a lot of the young fans were offended by it. They were more upset with the idea of death than anything. There’s a book I hold up in Disgraced called The Denial of Death. It’s about the idea we’re living our lives oriented around trying to deny death at every turn. I don’t know that that’s the healthiest way to live: We hide old people, we don’t want to see sick people. I don’t know we have a healthy relationship with mortality. People got upset! But if you look at, thematically, what they were going for, there’s some beautiful stuff there.

Are you planning to direct more feature films in the future?

Yes, but I can’t talk about what’s in the works: It’s partly superstition — partly I just can’t. Discovering the directing thing while I was on the show was really important for me and opened up avenues for ways to tell stories.

Your How I Met Your Mother co-star, Neil Patrick Harris, was recently on Broadway in Hedwig and the Angry Inch and is set to host the Oscars. Do you two exchange tips on performing live?

The last time I saw Neil was when I saw Hedwig. I haven’t heard from him since then, but I’m excited to watch him! As for tips: We trust each other to do our thing.

Read next: Darren Criss Will Return to Broadway as the Next Hedwig

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TIME Theater

Darren Criss Will Return to Broadway as the Next Hedwig

Darren Criss attends GQ and Giorgio Armani Grammys After Party in Hollywood, Calif. on Feb. 8, 2015.
Joe Scarnic—Getty Images Darren Criss attends GQ and Giorgio Armani Grammys After Party in Hollywood, Calif. on Feb. 8, 2015.

Criss will begin a limited engagement starting April 29

For a show originally intended as a limited engagement, Hedwig sure has legs. Which, come to think of it, is no surprise at all.

Glee star Darren Criss will be the latest actor to don the high heels and fishnets of rock singer Hedwig Robinson in Broadway’s smash revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Criss will begin a limited 12-week engagement starting April 29 at the Belasco Theatre, following John Cameron Mitchell’s exit on April 26. This marks the fifth headliner to play the role since the production opened in April 2014.

The role signifies a return to Broadway for Criss, who made his debut succeeding Daniel Radcliffe in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. The three weeks in which Criss starred in 2012 broke the box office, earning over $4 million and becoming the most profitable three weeks of the revival’s 11-month run.

Criss will replace current star Mitchell, the show’s co-creator (with composer and lyricist Stephen Trask) who has taken up Hedwig’s mantle almost two decades after the musical’s original off Broadway production. Mitchell is the fourth Hedwig in the revival, preceded by Dexter alum Michael C. Hall (who temporarily steps in for an injured Mitchell from Feb. 17 through 21) and Girls and The Book of Mormonstar Andrew Rannells. All four men follow the revival’s original star, Neil Patrick Harris, who earned a Tony Award for the role last June.

This article originally appeared on EW.com.

TIME celebrities

Cabaret’s Joel Grey Comes Out: ‘If You Have to Put a Label On It, I’m a Gay Man’

Actor Joel Grey attends the 73rd Annual George Foster Peabody Awards at the Waldorf Astoria on May 19, 2014 in New York.
Debby Wong—Corbis Actor Joel Grey attends the 73rd Annual George Foster Peabody Awards at the Waldorf Astoria on May 19, 2014 in New York.

"All the people close to me have known for years who I am," Grey tells People

Broadway icon and award-winning actor star Joel Grey is speaking publicly about his sexuality for the very first time.

“I don’t like labels,” Grey tells People magazine, “but if you have to put a label on it, I’m a gay man.”

The 82-year-old won an Oscar and a Tony for his role as the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret (Grey has also appeared on Private Practice and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) He was married for 24 years to actress Jo Wilderand and raised two children, a time period he calls the “happiest of my life.”

“All the people close to me have known for years who I am,” Grey says. “[Yet] it took time to embrace that other part of who I always was.”

The announcement kicks off a busy year for the actor: his memoir and a new photography book are due later in 2015.

Read more excerpts from the interview at People.

MONEY Super Bowl

The 5 Best Deals If You’re Not Watching the Super Bowl

"The Book of Mormon" on Broadway at Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York City
Stephen Lovekin—Getty Images "The Book of Mormon" on Broadway at Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York City

Lower prices and shorter lines await those who skip watching football on February 1 in favor of other attractions.

If the only hawks you care about seeing Super Bowl Sunday have wings and feathers, there’s a good chance your wish can come true—for cheap, no less.

Thanks to the one-third of the U.S. population that will be parked in front of their TVs watching football on February 1, it will be easier for the rest to snag discounts at zoos, ski resorts, spas, and other attractions—not to mention score seats at otherwise unavailable shows and restaurants.

Here are five suggestions for Super Bowl-skippers in search of good deals.

1. Take in a show

Super Bowl Sunday is a great time to see musicals and other popular shows that are normally hard to get into. For example, as of January 21, $99 evening tickets to perennially sold-out Broadway show “Book of Mormon” were still available for February 1 directly through Telecharge. And even if tickets to a hit show are all sold out at the box office, you’re still likely to get a discount on the resale market: Tickets on Stubhub for the same February 1 “Book of Mormon” performance are $40 cheaper than those for the following Sunday.

To look for theater performances near you, check Ticketmaster.com.

2. Finally eat at that restaurant you’ve been wanting to try

While everyone else has to settle for mediocre tailgate snacks, you have a much better shot than usual at scoring an enviable meal at some of your city’s hottest eateries. Restaurant reservation site OpenTable.com typically seats only about half the number of bookings on Super Bowl Sunday as on the Sunday before or after.

Some cities offer even better odds. In Philadelphia, reservations are typically down 60%, OpenTable found. But even major markets like New York City and Boston experience a pronounced dip: 30-40% fewer people will dine out in those cities on February 1.

A word to the wise: Even though your chances improve dramatically on game day, “some of the hottest and most acclaimed restaurants can still be tough to get into,” says Tiffany Fox, a spokeswoman for OpenTable. “So people shouldn’t wait to the last minute to book if there’s a special spot they’ve been dying to get into.”

3. Enjoy zoos and theme parks without the crowds

While Disney World spokespeople claim the event has no impact on park attendance, Disney vacation planning sites like EasyWDW.com and TheMouseForLess.com recommend visiting the parks on Super Bowl Sunday because you can expect far less company.

The game “keeps many locals away and is usually a great time to tour the parks,” notes TheMouseForLess.com, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios was “virtually dead on Super Bowl Sunday each of the last three years,” according to EasyWDW.com.

If you’re not going to be in sunny California or Florida come game day, try your local zoo or wildlife park. The Nashville Zoo, for example, is offering a “Zooperbowl Deal” this year that cuts admission by half. And last year the Virginia Zoo offered 50% off to anyone wearing merchandise from a Super Bowl participating team.

4. Hit the slopes

Skiers and snowboarders hitting the slopes instead of the sofa over Super Bowl weekend are in for a treat: Lift lines will be scant, and many ski resorts plan to roll out deep discounts that day.

The average booked savings on Liftopia.com during last year’s game day was 29% off window rates, making it the best value of any Sunday during the regular ski season. Prices are expected to drop similarly this year, but you will need to book in advance to take advantage.

The Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in Colorado, for example, has cut lift tickets to $57 this year, or 33% off, according to Liftopia. Utah’s Snowbasin slashed rates by 29% to $63. And in Vermont, Okemo Mountain is offering tickets for $73, or a 21% discount.

5. Have a spa day

If you’d literally rather stare at the ceiling than watch football, you can do exactly that—while getting a discounted massage or facial. You’ll find deals all across the country as spas promote their services for so-called Super Bowl widows (and widowers).

“If you don’t see a special at your favorite spa, just ask,” says Beth McGroarty, research director at spa directory site Spafinder.com. “Bookings may be lighter, and under-the-radar deals may be available—especially group discounts.”

If you don’t have a particular spa in mind, browse ratings on sites like Spafinder and Yelp and make calls to compare prices. Some examples of Super Bowl spa deals currently available include 15% off regular services at Clay Health Club + Spa in New York City; 25% off services at Kohler Waters Spa in Kohler, Wisconsin; and $50 off massages at The Palms Spa in Miami Beach, Florida.

TIME Theater

Clinton the Musical Set for Off-Broadway Premiere

Timoth A. Clary—AFP/Getty Images Karl Kenzler, left, Alet Taylor, right, and Duke LaFoon, center, perform a song from Clinton: The Musical during the New York Musical Theatre Festival special preview on July 2, 2014.

Official opening on April 9 at the New World Stages

Clinton the Musical, which debuted last summer at the New York Musical Theater Festival, is set for an Off-Broadway premiere this spring.

The New World Stages theatre, with 349 seats, will host the musical that pokes fun at the scandals from the Clinton administration, the New York Times reports. Former President Bill Clinton is split into two characters — a tough-minded Bill and an easily-tempted one — while Hillary plans for her own Senate run amidst the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

The musical was created by Paul Hodge and Michael Hodge, two brothers from Australia, and is directed by Dan Knechtges, of Tail! Spin! fame, another political comedy that debuted last fall.

Clinton the Musical will begin performances on March 26 with an official opening on April 9.


TIME Theater

Cold Weather, Hot Shows: Honeymoon in Vegas and Constellations

"Honeymoon In Vegas" Broadway Opening Night - Arrivals & Curtain Call
Walter McBride—Getty Images/WireImage From left: Matthew Saldivar, Tony Danza, Rob McClure, Brynn O'Malley, Nancy Opel and David Josefsberg with the cast during the Broadway Opening Night Performance Curtain Call for Honeymoon in Vegas at the Nederlander Theatre on Jan. 15, 2014 in New York City.

Broadway's bleakest month is brightened by two very different shows

“Opening in January.” They’re the three most depressing words in movies — a telltale sign that the lame action film or Jennifer Lopez thriller you’re being touted is a sorry leftover, dumped by the studio in the fallow month following the big holiday releases. It’s not much different on Broadway, where big shows tend to close, not open, during the most low-trafficked month of the year. Two recent openings, however, are making this January a happy exception.

Honeymoon in Vegas, a long-aborning musical that opened last night at the Nederlander Theater, is based on the 1992 Andrew Bergman movie about a marriage-phobic guy who takes his fiancee to Vegas to tie the knot, only to see her fall into the clutches of a lovelorn gambler. With a book by Bergman himself and songs by the prolific Jason Robert Brown, it makes the screen-to-stage transition better than a lot of recent musicals (like last season’s Bridges of Madison County, which Brown also scored). The show is splashy and fun, and I’m betting it’s a hit.

Fans of the movie, it must be said, will notice a few deficiencies. As the nervous bachelor Jack Singer, Rob McClure (so wonderful in the title role of the musical Chaplin) settles for generic Broadway spunk, a far cry from the frantic angst that Nicolas Cage brought to the movie role. And the show’s biggest star, Tony Danza, is just a TV-bland smoothie as the gambler, with none of James Caan’s intriguing mix of menace and vulnerability on the big screen.

But hey, this is a Broadway musical, where production ingenuity, not character subtlety, is the coin of the realm. And by that measure, Honeymoon in Vegas is in the chips.

The story, for one thing, has more heft and coherence than most musical-comedies. Jack’s resistance to marriage stems from a promise to his dying mother (Nancy Opel), who pops up throughout the show, amusingly, as a nagging dybbuk. Then, just when Jack is about to break the curse and get Betsy (Brynn O’Malley) into a Vegas wedding chapel, he loses $58,000 in a poker game to the gambler — who offers to forgive the debt in exchange for a weekend with the girlfriend.

Director Gary Griffin (Broadway’s The Color Purple) takes all this seriously enough that the slick, Vegas-style production numbers don’t render the moral dilemma meaningless. Brown, one of the new generation of theatrical songwriters indebted to Stephen Sondheim, here seems to be channeling Jerry Herman instead, with bright, listener-friendly tunes full of big-band sizzle and lounge-show steam.

And then there are the flying Elvises. In the film’s most famous scene, Jack hitches a ride back to Vegas with a band of skydiving Elvis impersonators and parachute-jumps to Betsy’s rescue. The pompadoured Elvii — dressed in gold spangled leisure suits, grunting in unison — are a real hoot, and the skydiving sequence is done with such witty, low-tech stagecraft that it instantly earns a spot (along with “The Telephone Hour” from Bye Bye Birdie, and Susan Stroman’s walker-tapping grannies in The Producers) on my list of Broadway’s great comic production numbers.

Nothing could be further from the splashy Honeymoon in Vegas than the spare, mystical, two-character play Constellations, which also opened this week in a Manhattan Theater Club production. But if the first is an affirmation of the pleasures of old-fashioned Broadway professionalism, the second is heartening proof that Broadway can still, occasionally, find a place for serious and challenging new work, too.

Nick Payne’s one-act play, first produced at London’s Royal Court Theatre, is the chronicle of a couple’s life together, told in brief, time-jumbled scenes that recount the key moments of their relationship, from their first meeting (at a rain-soaked barbecue) through various crises, reconciliations and turning points. The gimmick (and I mean that in the nicest way) is that each scene is replayed several times, often in short, repetitive snippets, representing various alternate scenarios. A first night at Marianne’s apartment, for example, ends abruptly (“I’m not asking you to understand, I’m asking you to leave”), then warily, then tenderly, depending on each new iteration of the dialogue and tone of voice.

The point, we are told a little more explicitly than you might expect, lies in Marianne’s work as a theoretical physicist. She expounds on something called the “quantum multiverse,” where “every choice, every decision you’ve ever and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes.” Scientifically speaking, there’s probably less here than meets the eye, but it’s a neat artistic construct to bring home the randomness of life, the way our personal histories can turn on the thinnest of dimes.

It wouldn’t work, however, without the exacting direction of Michael Longhurst (who directed the original London production). Each scene and time change is signaled with a quick change of lighting and a Law and Order-style sound burst. Just as important is the fine-grained acting by Jake Gillenhaal (doing an acceptable British accent) and Ruth Wilson (doing her real one), who register each emotional shift with precision and feeling.

I could have done without one major plot turn — a health crisis — that takes the play in a more conventional (if undeniably affecting) direction. Yet Payne sustains his conceit to the end, and manages to complete a theatrical high-wire act with breathtaking skill. Even the flying Elvises would be impressed.

TIME Theater

Broadway’s Second Season: 10 Shows to Watch For

From left: Broadway bound cast of Finding Neverland Jo Lawry, Tata Vega, Darlene Love, Gary Barlow, Aidan Gemme, Hayden Signoretti, Sawyer Nunes, Alex Dreier and Laura Michelle Kelly after performing songs on ABC's 'Good Morning America' on Nov. 27, 2014 in New York City.
Jenny Anderson—2014 Getty Images From left: Broadway bound cast of Finding Neverland Jo Lawry, Tata Vega, Darlene Love, Gary Barlow, Aidan Gemme, Hayden Signoretti, Sawyer Nunes, Alex Dreier and Laura Michelle Kelly after performing songs on ABC's 'Good Morning America' on Nov. 27, 2014 in New York City.

Big musicals, British imports and Larry David highlight Broadway's winter-spring semester

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.

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