Most Anticipated Shows of the 2015-16 Broadway Season

Chris Peterson

With Hamilton already burning up the box offices, is there a lot to still be excited about this season on Broadway? 

You bet there is! 

This season will feature some pretty spectacular revivals as well as some interesting premiers both in musicals and plays. Here are some we're particularly excited about. 

Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

Opening: April 21, 2016

Story: A backstage musical about the events that led to the creation of the groundbreaking Eubie Blake-Noble Sissle musical Shuffle Along. 

On paper, this is going to be quite the show. With an all-star cast which includes Audra McDonald, Billy Porter, Brian Stokes-Mitchell and Joshua Henry, director George C. Wolfe and choreographer Savion Glover, this is surely going to get some Tony attention. Enough to give Hamilton a run? Maybe. 

China Doll

Opening: November 19, 2015

Story: A two-character play about a billionaire, Mickey Ross (Pacino), who has just bought a new airplane for his young fiance as he prepares to go into semi retirement. Ross in the process of leaving his office, and is giving last minute instructions to his young assistant. He takes one last phone call… 

One of the greatest actors of our time, with one of the greatest American playwrights and one of the best directors working today? With those three names attached, what theatre-aficionado isn't excited about seeing this?

Spring Awakening

Opening: September 27, 2015

Cast: Austin McKenzie, Sandra Mae Frank, Patrick Page, Marlee Matlin and Camryn Manheim

Based on Frank Wedekind's 1891 German expressionist drama about adolescent unease, rebellion and sexuality. The limited engagement at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre —performed simultaneously in American Sign Language and spoken English by a cast of 27, including both hearing and non-hearing actors.

Since this opened in CA, we've been crossing our fingers for a New York opening and now we're just two weeks away from previews! Deaf West have blown NY audiences away before with Big River, so we cannot wait to see this re-imagining of one of the best pieces of work of the 21st Century. 

Old Times

Opening: October 6, 2015

Cast: Clive Owen, Eve Best, Kelly Reilly

Deeley is quite looking forward to meeting Anna, his wife Kate’s friend from long ago. But as the night goes on, Anna’s visit quickly shifts from an ordinary sharing of memories to a quiet battle for power. Original music by Tom Yorke.

While the plot of the play is certainly intriguing enough, it's the original music my Radiohead's Tom Yorke that's caught our interest. 

Dames At Sea

Opening: October 22, 2015

John Bolton, Mara Davi, Danny Gardner, Eloise Kropp, Lesli Margherita and Cary Tedde

Story: Ruby steps off a bus from Utah and into her first Broadway show, but hours before the opening night curtain is to rise, the cast learns their theater is being demolished. So Ruby and the cast, with the help of some adoring sailors, set a plan in motion to perform the show on a naval battleship.

After years of being a staple of community, regional and educational theatre, Dames at Sea will finally hit a Broadway stage. I've seen the show a couple of times and I'm hoping that they take another look at the material and beef it up a bit. If they've done that, then you can expect a fun time. 

The Gin Game

Opening: Oct. 14, 2015

Cast: James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson

Story: An elderly couple at a nursing home play an increasingly tense series of gin rummy games as they expose truths about their failures, disappointments and insecurities.

The Gin Game is a wonderful piece of theatre, with James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson, it could be even better. With three Tony awards between them, these two are living theatrical legends and the chance to see them together on stage for the first time in 50 years is something that shouldn't be missed. 

 On Your Feet!

Opening: November 5, 2015

Cast: Ana Villafañe, Josh Segarra

The story of two people who — through an unwavering dedication to one another and their pursuit of the American dream — showcased their talent, their music and their heritage to the world in a remarkable rise to global super-stardom.

With the soon to be absence of Mamma Mia there is definitely room for an upbeat jukebox musical and On Your Feet! looks to be the perfect fit. I don't know how much Estefan's music will interest Broadway audiences, but it will certainly bring a new flavor to the genre. 

The Crucible

Opening: April 7, 2016

Cast: Ben Whishaw, Saoirse Ronan, Ciaran Hinds. Sophie Okonedo

Story: Arthur Miller's political allegory framed as a story about a man falsely charged with witchcraft in colonial, Salem, MA. 

In celebration of Miller's 100th Birthday, I'm personally thrilled to see this one make its way back to New York. It features a strong cast and I love the choice of Tony Winner Sophie Okonedo as Elizabeth Proctor.

Fiddler on the Roof

Opening: December 17, 2015

Cast: Danny Burstein, Jessica Hecht and Adam Kantor

The story of Fiddler - inspired by the stories of Sholom Aleichem - concerns Tevye and his daughters, who are yearning for something new even as great changes are happening in the world outside their village of Anatevka.

Fiddler on the Roof has an incredible and devoted following. Beyond the fantastic music and dance, there are wonderful themes of family, love and of course, tradition. The announced cast is exceptional with Broadway Icon, Danny Burstein leading the way as Tevye, the cast also features vets such as Jessica Hecht and Adam Kantor with Bartlett Sher directing. 

Therese Raquin

Opening: October 29, 2015

Cast: Keira Knightley, Gabriel Ebert, Judith Light and Matt Ryan

Story: A quiet young woman with a restless spirit, Thérèse (Keira Knightley) submits to a loveless life at the side of her weak and selfish husband (Tony Award® winner Gabriel Ebert, Matilda), and her controlling mother-in-law (two-time Tony Award winner Judith Light, The Assembled Parties) … until she meets his childhood friend, Laurent (Matt Ryan, “Constantine”). When their overwhelming passion spins violently out of control, they realize that love can be a dangerous game, and sometimes there is no winner.

Roundabout Theatre Company is bringing Emile Zola's classic novel to Broadway with a star studded cast that is surely going to get some attention. While Knightley is known for her blockbuster and period films, she does have some West End credits to her name an a Olivier Award Nomination as well. Matched with a cast of Gabriel Ebert, Judith Light and Matt Ryan, the one will certainly be one to see. 

Allegiance

Opening: November 8, 2015

Cast: George Takei, Lea Salonga, Telly Leung, Katie Rose Clarke, Michael K. Lee, Christopheren Nomura, Greg Watanabe

An epic story of love, war and heroism set during the Japanese American internment of World War II, following the story of the Kimura family in the weeks and years following Pearl Harbor, as they are relocated from their farm in Salinas, California to the Heart Mountain internment camp in the rural plains of Wyoming. 

There's a lot to be excited about this one. Whether it's the Broadway return of Lea Solonga, or the chance to see George Takei, there are plenty of reasons to see this. But for me, it's the chance to see a powerful story of a Japanese family going through the internment during World War II, a period in American history that isn't covered nearly enough. 

As you can see, there is plenty to be excited about this coming season. We'll be there, will you?

Always Wanted to Do This

Aaron Netsky

Last night I read that the Broadway production of The Visit, Kander and Ebb’s last collaboration, will close. I’ve been following the progress of this musical for a long time, because it has been progressing for a long time. In fact, the first scheduled Broadway opening for The Visit, based on a play of the same name by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, was March 15, 2001. It might have been one of the first musicals I ever followed the Broadway opening of, part of my first ever watching of the Tonys. It would have been a really weird addition to that year’s musicals, it fits in this year’s group much more nicely, but fitting in was never the point. This was a passion project. All involved have been trying to get this musical to Broadway for fifteen years, and even though it is closing without Tonys and with only a few months of performances, the mark of its success is that no one gave up on it in all that time. Oh, to be part of a passion project.

I actually have been part of passion projects. Not on the scale of The Visit, no, and not on Broadway, or even off. I’m referring to the musicals I have been part of that started with the director saying, “I’ve always wanted to do this piece,” and really meaning it. Either it was never the right time, or there were never the right resources, or she didn’t feel ready, for whatever reason; people often put off what they most want to do, because it’s got to be special. I myself have such a show, two in fact, that I want to put on one day, but for me it’s a lack of resources, I’m not waiting for the right moment (though it might be along in the coming months, if I’m very lucky). There is something magical about knowing that you are making someone’s long-term goal come to fruition. It makes you want to do your best, not that you should ever do anything less.

My first experience in a passion project came about my junior year of college, when the fall musical was Pacific Overtures. The director loved Asian culture, taught several classes about it, and incorporated it into classes that were not specifically about it. She routinely put on Asian-themed plays, but, as has been recently observed with the coming of Allegiance to Broadway, there are not a lot of Asian-themed musicals, and even fewer written by Asians. Pacific Overtures, of course, was written by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, but it was based on the story of the “opening” of Japan by the West, and, originally, was performed mostly in the style of Kabuki theatre. We used some Kabuki, some Noh, and I learned to use a bokken for an awesome fight scene, choreographed by a fellow student who made special trips to a dojo to learn the art. It was nothing like any of us who were involved had ever done before, so we were immersed in a way that being in more conventional musicals does not require.

The next one was my first professional show out of college, one that I actually got not from an open audition, but on a recommendation from a former professor. It’s always cool to get a gig on a recommendation. The musical was Zorba, and the director, himself of Greek descent, had always wanted to do it, and he chose it to be the inaugural production at a brand, spanking new theatrical space that was not even completed when we opened, which meant we were dancing on the concrete floor of a former bus station, but we didn’t care. The thrill of “will the show be ready” was amplified by “will the audience’s seats be ready,” and we bonded over the rush of it all. It was a special time for our leader, and that upped our game. There’s an actual stage in place, now, but my legs and I will always remember the concrete floor, which was perfectly appropriate for a musical about mine workers.

As exciting as these experiences were for me, though, I look forward to the day that I can truly understand how the directors felt to see their long germinating project finally appear, so they could share it with others. For a lot of people, that is their first Broadway production, but for some it is sharing their passions with generation after generation of theatre students who might not otherwise have looked into an obscure, foreign sounding musical, or christening a new theatre far from the hustle and bustle of New York City. Watching The Visit, I could tell that Chita Rivera was particularly proud to be performing this particular musical on Broadway, because of all of the years and work that went into it. So don’t wait too long for the perfect moment to make your passion project happen, but don’t despair if it takes a decade or two. They could have given up on The Visit dozens of times, but they made it to Broadway, and they did with persistence.

Aaron Netsky writes the 366 Days/366 Musicals blog: a new essay about a different musical every day through next May. It’s only just begun, so come on over and get caught up: http://366days366musicals.tumblr.com