FEATURE: 2017 Fall Season Preview

It’s Labor Day.  Somehow summer’s over.  And now it’s time to get serious about the fall season!

Of course, the Broadway season really began with the opening of “1984” back in June.  This staged version of George Orwell’s iconic book really has no reason to exist other than to capitalize on the zeitgeist; the performances are fine and the production-value high, but a better adaptation of “1984” is on TV/in your newspaper every day.

Marvin’s Room” – the late-Scott McPherson’s honest, heartbreaking, and hysterical look at caretaking – received a well-deserved but low-energy Roundabout revival, which has since closed.  Michael Moore’s mostly one-man show “The Terms of My Surrender”, offering his take on Trump’s America, opened August 10th; my review is forthcoming.  And “Prince of Broadway”, a tribute revue to the career of Director/Producer Harold Prince opened August 24th; you can read my review here.

Looking ahead, the balance of the fall season features 5 new plays, 2 new musicals, 2 play revivals, 1 musical revival, 1 one-man show, and 1 rock concert.  Highlights include: “Junk”, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Ayad Akhtar’s much anticipated follow up to 2013’s glorious “Disgraced”, which dives into the world 1980s Wall Street; opening November 2nd at the Vivian Beaumont.  Steve Martin’s new comedy, “Meteor Shower”, about a dinner party with some cosmic interference, plays the Booth opening November 29th and features Amy Schumer, Keegan-Michael Key, Laura Benanti, and Alan Tudyk; this play is racking up a healthy advance given the collective star power.  Uma Thurman makes her New York stage debut in “The Parisian Woman”, a political drama opening November 30th at the gorgeous Hudson.  And the inimitable Mark Rylance returns to Broadway in the Shakespeare’s Globe production of “Farinelli and the King” – the true story of Philippe V, a Spanish monarch on the brink of madness – opening December 17th at the Belasco. 

David Yazbek’s new musical “The Band’s Visit” opens at the Ethel Barrymore November 10th.  Based on the eponymous 2007 film, this intimate and deeply human show is about an Egyptian Police Band that arrives in Israel to play a concert but due to a mix-up at the border ends up stranded in a remote village in the middle of the desert for 24 hours.  I caught the show during its sold out, critically-acclaimed run at the Atlantic last winter, and it was a season highlight.  The only other new musical arriving this fall is considerably less sophisticated: “SpongeBob SquarePants”, the “Broadway musical for everyone”.  I must admit that I’m a fan of the irreverent Nickelodeon cartoon.  With a score featuring songs from 16 different recording artists—from Cyndi Lauper to David Bowie—this musical opening December 4th will surely have crowds smiling at the Palace.

The Ahrens and Flaherty 1990 classic “Once on This Island” (which gave us the gift of LaChanze) receives its first New York revival, opening December 3rd at the Circle in the Square.  Likewise, David Henry Hwang's masterpiece play “M. Butterfly” gets its first New York revival, featuring Clive Owen and marking Julie Taymor’s directorial return to Broadway following the Spider Man saga.

Rounding out the fall, John Leguizamo, one of America’s best and most-compelling monologists, brings his celebrated sold-out show “Latin History for Morons” to Studio 54.  I caught it at the Public last spring and it was funny, smart, and incisive; miss this one at your peril.  And Bruce Springsteen makes his Broadway debut (Why? Beats me.) in a limited run concert at the Walter Kerr.

If you can, see a show (or multiple!) at one of Off-Broadway’s 19 non-profit theatre companies this fall.  There you will find some of the most vibrant and exciting work being done anywhere in the theatre today.  Support it.

There are a ton of great offerings Off-Broadway this fall.  I will endeavor to see and review as many as possible, but here are some highlights I am looking forward to: Sarah Ruhl’s newest play, “For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday” opens at Playwrights Horizons on September 13th; “Charm”, a new play inspired by the real-life story of Miss Gloria Allen, a black transgender woman who changed the lives of students at Chicago’s LGBTQ community center, opens September 18th at MCC; direct from a sold-out run in London, Anthony Burgess’ “A Clockwork Orange” plays at New World Stages, opening September 25th; Cheryl Strayed’s “Tiny Beautiful Things”, starring Nia Vardalos, returns to the Public after a sold out run last season, opening October 2nd; and another sold out sensation returns in “The Wolves”, Sarah DeLappe’s play about a girls soccer team that was a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, opening November 20th at the Mitzi Newhouse at Lincoln Center.

2017 appears to be THE year for Shakespeare’s notorious problem play, “Measure for Measure”.  Theater for a New Audience in Brooklyn presented a wan production back in June; the Public Theater mounts Elevator Repair Service’s take, in October; and even the York Theatre Company is getting in on the fun, with “Desperate Measures”, a musical version set in the Wild West, also starting this month.  Lest we think all Shakespeare comes in threes, Public Works wraps a weekend-long run of a musicalized “As You Like It” today, which is followed later this month by Classic Stage Company’s Jazz Age version, featuring new music by Stephen Schwartz.

Tired of Shakespeare?  Try Fierstein.  Later this month, Harvey Fierstein’s 1982 magnum opus “Torch Song Trilogy”—now just “Torch Song”—a landmark gay play, kicks off Second Stage’s season with its first New York revival.  This play won Harvey his first (of many) Tony Awards, and catapulted his career.  Michael Urie stars in this new production, directed by Moises Kaufman, which is sure to be a season highlight.

If you’ve never attended a dance concert at the Joyce Theater, treat yourself this fall.  The Joyce, New York’s best venue for modern dance, always features a knockout season and has affordable tickets.  I’m looking forward to Twyla Tharp Dance later this month and the Trisha Brown Dance Company in December, but you can’t go wrong with any of their offerings.  Likewise, don’t miss Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, both at City Center.  And then, of course, there is always the venerable American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet (including their annual production of “The Nutcracker”, a New York staple).  

The 2017 Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music will feature a landmark restaging of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch’s two most iconic works from the legendary, late-choreographer’s repertoire, “Café Müller” and “The Rite of Spring.”  That is sure to be a cultural event of the season.  Check out the rest of the Next Wave Festival schedule, too.  Carnegie Hall just announced their full 2017-2018 season—browse here.  Other great institutions to check out include the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, and New York City Opera

Christine Ebersole continues her Monday-night residency at 54 Below this fall, and folk-legend Judy Collins will headline Joe’s Pub in late-November for a 10 performance run of her tribute to Stephen Sondheim.  Also at Joe’s Pub this fall will be performances by Justin Sayre and Cole Escola, two perennial favorites of mine.  Check out the full Joe’s Pub schedule here.

NOTES: Checking in on “Bandstand” one last time

NOTES: Checking in on “Bandstand” one last time

tl;dr for September 4th