On Broadway, Georgetown: What’s New and What’s Hot

By Mark Edelman

Headed to the Big Apple in the next few weeks? Here’s a rundown of the season’s new shows on Broadway. These titles stood out for me on recent trips up Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. Best place to get tickets is probably www.broadway.com, where you find the real prices, not scalpers. More to come before the Tony Awards are announced in June.

TOMMY     Nederlander Theatre       41st Street between 7th and 8th Ave.

Director Des McAnuff, who shepherded the Broadway original, returns to Pete Townshend’s seminal rock opera in this splashy high tech production of the Who’s opus. The storytelling is solid, and the cast, led by Ali Louis Bourzgui, performs the hell out of these rock and roll anthems. The notion of “deaf, dumb and blind” has lost some of its appeal in an age more sensitive to diversity, but Tommy still rocks.

“Water for Elephants” ensemble. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS     Imperial Theatre    45th between Broadway and 8th

This charming musicalization of Sara  Gruen’s run-away-to-the-circus novel features a book by Rick Elice, who made “Peter and the Starcatcher” so charming as well (he also wrote “Jersey Boys”). Cirque Du Soleil alum Shana Carroll drafted some of the best tumblers and acrobats around to give the show a verisimilitude unmatched on Broadway this season. Puppet designs are simple yet first rate—think Disney’s “The Lion King” on a budget. Just about everyone lives happily ever after in this terrific new musical for the whole family.

AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE    Circle in the Square   50th between Broadway and 8th through June 23

Henrik Ibsen’s classic about an idealistic scientist who can’t understand why his hometown would be willing to poison visitors to make a buck stars two HBO series stalwarts: Jeremy Strong, who played brother Kendall in “Succession” and “Sopranos” gumba Michael Imperioli. Strong is the scientist, Imperioli his brother, the town mayor in this new version by Amy Herzog, who adapted Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” with Jessica Chastain last season. If you think science denial, fake news and mob rule are recent additions to our political landscape, the immediacy of this 142-year-old play will astound and depress you. 

THE OUTSIDERS      Jacobs Theatre    45th between Broadway and 8th 

This fresh-faced new musical, based on the S.E. Hinton novel every high school junior used to read, is so honestly sung and acted by mostly Broadway newbies that you have to check your program to see if they actually grew up greasers or jocks (here called “Socs”) in weather-beaten Tulsa. Stand-out performances from Brody Grant as greaser Ponyboy, Joshua Boone as their grown up mentor Dallas and Emma Pittman as the luminous Soc heartthrob Cherry should make this new work — a Dustbowl reimagining of the Romeo & Juliet tale — a magnet for youngsters who have already seen teen hits “Six” and  “& Julia.” 

THE NOTEBOOK   Schoenfeld Theatre  45th between Broadway and 8th

The Nicholas Sparks rom-com gets a faithful musicalization thanks to a poppy score by Ingrid Michaelson, who penned the ear worm “The Way I Am” and other indie hits. Like its Ryan Gosling-Rachel McAdams film fore bearer, the new musical, supervised by Tony Award winning director Michael Grief with Schele Williams,  follows the rich girl meets poor boy on vacation trope thru the decades as circumstances threaten to derail the love story we all know is coming. Oh, and it rains.

Roger Bart and Casey Likes in “Back to the Future.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

BACK TO THE FUTURE    Winter Garden Theater   Broadway at 50th

A hit in the U.K., this crowd-pleasing musical stars Broadway vet Roger Bart as Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd in the movie), the wiry-haired inventor who builds a time machine into an old DeLorean. The show pulls out all of the stops, including a car that really flies: no surprise, I guess, in a theater where Grizabella the cat rose up to heaven eight times a week for 20 years. 

APPROPRIATE     Belasco Theatre 44th between 6th and 7th

Sarah Paulson stars in this sometimes spooky, often funny coming to terms drama about a southern family dealing with the not so squeaky clean heritage of their revered patriarch. D.C. native playwright Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins—a Pulitzer Prize finalist—is  all the rage on the N.Y. stage with this new work, a certain Tony nominee for Best Play. 

MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG   Hudson Theatre 44th between 6th and 7th through July 7

If you missed our own Keegan Theatre’s production of this Sondheim musical, there’s still time to catch it on Broadway, where a starry production is a likely Tony Award Best Revival nominee. Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe (he of Harry Potter fame) and Lucy Mendez make up an irrepressible trio of youngsters for whom Broadway dreams just don’t work out. It’s Sondheim’s most hummable score.

The writer is a playwright who loves writing about theater. He is a lifetime member of the Broadway League and a Tony voter. 


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