While one could certainly argue that the 2018-19 Broadway season is off to a mixed start, there are certainly shows on the horizon that have our interest piqued.
Some of these shows sound more promising than others and some seem to be Tony contenders before they even open. Here are my picks for the 10 Most Anticipated Shows of 2018-19.
5. The Lifespan of a Fact
Opening: October 18th
Fake news and fact-checking seem to be mentioned daily in our headlines which is why The Lifespan of a Fact opening on Broadway is more timely than ever. The play follows the controversy surrounding a John D’Agata’s essay about the suicide of a Las Vegas teen. Originally submitted to Harper’s, which pulled it from publication over fact-checking issues, D’Agata and his fact-checker Jim Fingal re-submitted the piece to The Believer magazine. The pair than co-wrote a 2012 book “The Lifespan of a Fact” about their debate over whether facts can be invented or changed in an essay.
The play features a tremendous cast with Daniel Radcliffe playing Fingal, Bobby Cannavale as D’Agata and Cherry Jones as Fingal’s boss. You could not ask for a better cast. While Radcliffe is obviously known most for his Harry Potter performance, he is vastly underrated as a stage actor. The same could be said about Cannavale, whom I believe to be apart of the group picking up the torch from DeNiro and Pacino. And of course, Cherry Jones who is a First Lady of American theatre. With all three of these performers along with a compelling story, there is definite interest in this show.
4. King Lear
Opening: April 4th
While I thought that last year’s Three Tall Women would be Glenda Jackson’s Broadway send-off, the news that she’s coming back this spring is very exciting. Even more exciting is the fact that she is taking on Shakespeare’s gauntlet King Lear, playing the title role. Admittedly, this if the first time I’ve seen a woman in the role, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what Jackson brings to it. She’s also going to be surrounded by a talented cast including Elizabeth Marvel, Jayne Houdyshell, Ruth Wilson and Pablo Pascal. With direction from Fun Home’s Sam Gold and Scott Rudin producing, this looks to be winner come Tony time.
Opening: December 6th
When the announcement came that Bryan Cranston would be stepping into the famous Peter Finch role from the film Network, the first thought that came to mind, other than that it was a perfect choice, was that it had award victories all over it. Cranston is widely considered one of the best actors working today and this role is perfectly suited for his talents.
I’ve been critical of Ivo van Hove in the past but it seems like he has a winner on his hands. The play scored rave reviews during its premiere in the West End and I expect the same with American critics.
Opening: April 24th
It’s my guess that Manhattan Theatre Club will definitely have a big year. In addition to the anticipated Choir Boy and The Nap, Ink is my pick as the most anticipated of their season. Set in 1969 London, Ink follows a brash, young Rupert Murdoch on the verge of founding the U.K.’s most influential newspaper. The show transferred to the West End last fall following an acclaimed, sold-out world premiere at the Almeida.
Murdoch is a polarizing figure in this country and I’m sure a play like this is bound to grab some attention from 24-hour news fans.
1. To Kill a Mockingbird
Opening December 13th
Combine Jeff Daniels with an Aaron Sorkin script and direction by Bartlett Sher and you’ve got my money day one. I’m a huge fan of all three and marvel at how they consistently put out great work. I thought the first season of The Newsroom was excellent, so seeing Daniels and Sorkin together again is very appealing.
Sorkin adapted from the novel of the same name by Harper Lee about racial injustice and set in 1930s Alabama. The drama is structured as a memory play, with Scout remembering the events of one summer when her father Atticus defended a black man during a local trial. Sorkin’s script is said to have taken a different turn on the other play adaptation by Christopher Sergel.
This new adaptation was not without its share of controversy. Producer Scott Rudin was sued by Harper Lee’s estate after reviewing the new draft. According to The New York Times, Lee estate executor Tonja B. Carter saw a draft of the script, which seemingly portrays protagonist Atticus Finch as an apologist for the racial status quo rather than the ever-wise, benevolent lawyer depicted in the book. The suit, filed in Alabama, says the agreement signed by Lee in 2015 — eight months before her death at age 89 — called for the adaptation to “remain faithful to the spirit of the book,” according to the paper.
Rudin then counter-sued for $10 Million. The issue was on pace for trial but then settled out of court.
5. King Kong
Opening: November 8th
I honestly don’t know what to make of this show. From its many different writers and composers to its mixed reviews in previous runs to its score, which snippets have left me more confused than impressed, there are just a lot of red flags surrounding this production. However, I am definitely interested to seeing how this show will fare on 42nd St.
Broadway history is mixed when it comes to spectacle shows like this. While there have been hits like Phantom of the Opera there have also been duds like Spiderman. It’s tough to say where King Kong will fall. But I just can’t get over how meta it is that audiences will be filling a Broadway theatre to see a giant gorilla in a show about audiences filling a Broadway theatre to see a giant gorilla.
4. Be More Chill
Opening: March 10th
Aiming to be one of the original stores being told on Broadway this year, we’ve already seen that Be More Chill is going to be a hit with younger audiences. But will it be a hit with critics? And will its intense(sometimes too intense) fandom be enough to carry it through the season to the Tonys? We’ll see.
Regardless, the fact that this show is making it to Broadway is a testament to what a devoted fandom can do in the 21st century on social media. The musical definitely has some kinks to work out before its March bow, but if adjusted, we could be looking at a Tony favorite.
3. Kiss Me, Kate
Opening: March 14th
Interestingly as of right now, this is the only musical revival officially set to open this season. However, the main reason I’m interested to see this show is how they tackle the material in a post #metoo society. We’ve seen this issue addressed in other productions written when attitudes were different. Some have addressed them better than others. I think My Fair Lady did a great job of it and Carousel failed. Which could be a reason why one is still running and the other is closed.
While Kiss Me, Kate doesn’t have the glaring issues(other than an all white male creative team) that some of these other early revivals do, our writer Maegan Clearwood stated it best when she said, “Kate is a superficial joke-fest, which is precisely why it’s so dangerous: the subtle (compared to Shrew, anyway) misogyny is easy to miss beneath the laughs.”
Either way, it features a first rate cast with Kelli O’Hara and Will Chase.
Opening: April 23rd
Another show that definitely will have to address some #metoo issues, Tootsie is already getting some Tony buzz. Based on the film, Tootsie centers on the talented but difficult actor Michael Dorsey who struggles to find work until an audacious, desperate stunt lands him the role of a lifetime. I’m told that the setting of the show has been changed from Michael trying to be a soap star to Broadway star. With Santino Fontana in the lead role, I’m definitely interested to see how audiences take in this one.
1. The Prom
Opening: November 15th
Yes, the read that correctly, I am most looking forward to The Prom. In between all the spectacle and film adaptations, comes a heartfelt LGBTQ-centric storyline that is surely going to grab some hearts.
Written by Chad Beguelin (Aladdin), Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone), and Matthew Sklar (The Wedding Singer), the ripped-from-the-headlines musical “takes place in a small Indiana town, where a prom is canceled after the high school forbids a female student from bringing her girlfriend,” according to an official synopsis. “When a group of eccentric Broadway actors hear her story, they travel to the community in an earnest—if possibly misguided—attempt to correct the injustice.”
I first heard about this show at last year’s BroadwayCon and have only been getting more excited about it since. Friends in Atlanta have raved about it during its premiere run. I’m already dubbing it this season’s dark-horse underdog. Needless to say, I’ll be there day one.