Among the highlights of New York performing arts this week, there are new theatrical openings of note. “Paradise Blue” is one. Another is “Long Day’s Journey into Night” starring Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville. Music coming up ranges from Greek New-Age composer Yanni to rapper Kendrick Lamar. It’s also your last chance to see the acclaimed play “Summer and Smoke”
The format of these weekly short capsule previews is to list newly opening and one-time shows; those near the end of their run; and others highly recommended. We continue to review the best and most noteworthy in depth and separately.
At Pershing Square, Hell’s Kitchen, through June 3.
Dominique Morisseau’s play about a jazz club owner and trumpeter named Blue touches on a lot of obvious themes about Detroit in the 1940s. Racism, violence and poverty are all components of the tune. The story has echoes of real dilemmas of urban renewal: should Blue sell his club, Paradise, or stay on?
“Long Day’s Journey into Night”
At BAM Harvey Theatre, May 8 through May 27 only.
Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville justifiably won warm reviews in Britain for their parts in Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” a Pulitzer winner. The Richard Eyre production had a sold-out run at the Bristol Old Vic as part of its 250th Anniversary events and then moved to London’s Wyndham’s Theatre where the critical reaction from this writer and others was largely positive. This is not so true in New York, where some of the review comments are a little silly. Of course it is a long play, there is no getting away from that. It takes time to show the Tyrone family lurching from darkness to despairing gloom. In London, nobody cares much about authentic American accents on stage, but in New York, they are less easily forgiven. However Jeremy Irons is on form, and worth seeing, hammy accent or not.
At Radio City Music Hall, May 19 only.
Keyboardist Yanni’s music is often compared with that of Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre. He is more New Age than both and his spacey albums include “Inspirato” and “Truth of Touch.”
At Beacon Theatre, May 17 and 18
Browne has looked eternally youthful for the longest time so it may be a surprise that he is closing in on 70 this year. It is only when one considers his catalog including “The Pretender,” “Lawyers in Love” and even “Take It Easy”—a hit for The Eagles—that his long run comes clear. Expect a smattering of every phase of his career over these shows, then go away and discover classic albums such as “Running on Empty.”
At Madison Square Garden, May 29
If you only latched onto Lamar with his Pulitzer win, now is the time to discover one of the most innovative rappers. Also taking part in the show: SZA and Schoolboy Q.
LAST CHANCE TO SEE
“Summer and Smoke”
At Classic Stage Company, through May 20
The Tennessee Williams play has Marin Ireland in the role of Alma Winemille, whose world is turned upside down when she meets John one hot summer. There are surreal hints of angels, and deaths from smoke inhalation — caused by “the fire inside her.” This production is minimalistic and moving.
ALSO WORTH SEEING
At Playwrights Horizons, Hell’s Kitchen through June 3
The scene is set at the national dance finals at Tampa Bay, Florida. The carefully choreographed routines conceal the bitterest of rivalries. Clare Barron’s excellent play should rightly go on to more after this short run off-Broadway.
“Travesties” by Tom Stoppard
At American Airlines Theatre, from March 29, opening April 24, booking through June 17
Tom Stoppard’s clever-clever 1974 play won a Tony in its time, with its complex plot set in 1917 Zurich. The city hosted writer James Joyce, artist Tristan Tzara and leader-in-exile Lenin among others. They are all seen through the eyes of aging diplomat Henry Carr, who looks back with comic confusion. This reviewer saw and recommended the recent London production, nominated for best revival at the last Olivier Awards and now transferring to Broadway with the excellent Tom Hollander as Carr. It is going down a storm. Go see.
“Summer: The Donna Summer Musical”
At Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, from March 28, opens April 23
Donna Summer joins those singers getting a theater tribute. As “The Tina Turner Musical” has a world premiere in London, this New York show attempts to do justice to the disco Queen. It is a transfer from La Jolla Playhouse. Fortunately for the drama, quite a lot of tense plot-lines can be added to her already far-from-smooth ride to success. There is plenty of joy too and dancing to “I Feel Love” and more. It suffers from the common musical malaise of clunky dialogue but gets a little forgiven for the finest pieces of disco known to humanity.
“The Iceman Cometh”
At the Bernard B. Jacobs, previews from March 22, opening April 26
We went into previews knowing this play has a lot of great things going for it. First, it stars Denzel Washington. Second, direction is by George C. Wolfe. Third, Eugene O’Neill’s play was written just before the masterpiece “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” It is another epic story sometimes known as “Waiting for Hickey,” the salesman who gets the party started. Its four-hour run time and large cast makes it a tough staging, as the cast mainly realize their dreams are delusions which will come to nothing. We now know it’s pretty impressive and Washington especially so
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 and 2”
At the Lyric Theatre, first preview: March 16, opening April 22, open dates.
Those of us who have seen the London hit will know that a good knowledge of Harry Potter is useful, but it all makes some kind of sense even if you don’t. This is a sequel to the books, with Harry Potter now an adult and out to save the world. Hint: see Part 1, then Part 2 in that order. You’ll be mightily confused to see them the other way around. See Part 1 alone, and you are left at a cliffhanger; see Part 2 alone and it makes no sense at all. One of the reasons for its success is that most playgoers see both, and hopefully in the right order.
At the August Wilson Theatre. First preview: March 12, opening April 8, booking through September.
No pressure. Tina Fey has got some $15 million of theater money riding on this. It cannot fail for her, and the word is that it will not – she has recruited serious talent. The director-choreographer is Casey Nicholaw and lyrics are by Nell Benjamin, of “Legally Blonde” fame.
“My Fair Lady”
At the Vivian Beaumont, first preview: March 15, opening April 9, to September.
Bartlett Sher is an obvious choice of director after reviving “South Pacific” and “The King and I.” The cast includes TV star Lauren Ambrose – actually not the most obvious Eliza Doolittle. Harry Hadden-Paton moves on from “Downton Abbey” as Henry Higgins, and, best of all, there is Diana Rigg as his mother.
At Imperial Theatre, previews from February 28 and opens on April 12, booking through September
The cast includes opera singer Renee Fleming as well as Joshua Henry and Jessie Mueller. It is a classic and the buzz has been positive. The return after 24 years has largely been cheered: “half-terrific” and “meticulously curated” indeed.
“Three Tall Women”
At Golden Theatre, previews from February 27, opens March 29, through June 4.
Edward Albee’s acclaimed later play, which rescued his reputation, was inspired by his mother. It has two-time Oscar winner Glenda Jackson returning to Broadway after her 30-year absence. She is backed by Laurie Metcalf – the Tony winner for “Doll’s House,” although still waiting for her first Oscar. Alison Pill, of “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” fame, takes on the younger role. As most playgoers know, the story has three versions of the same woman at various stages of her life. This is a textbook example of a stunning revival.
“Springsteen on Broadway”
At Walter Kerr Theatre, extended through December 15.
Following on from his autobiography “Born to Run,” The Boss conceived a one-man acoustic show including spoken words and songs. It is back in the news after an extension was announced through to near the end of the year. He is joined by his wife Patti Scialfa for backing vocals in places.
“Angels in America”
At the Neil Simon Theatre, previews from February 23 and opening March 21, booking through June.
This critic saw the early versions of this production at London’s Royal National Theatre. Tony Kushner’s 1993 epic play was winner of many awards, including the Pulitzer. The two-part story was initially controversial with its exploration of the topics of AIDS and gay couples. Nathan Lane plays White House lawyer Roy Cohn and Andrew Garfield plays AIDS patient Pryor Walter.
“Escape to Margaritaville”
At the Marquis Theatre, previews from February 16 and opening on March 15, booking into November
Songwriter Jimmy Buffett’s hits such as “Margaritaville,” “Come Monday,” “Volcano,” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” are cunningly worked into a feel-good musical comedy about a romance between a lawyer and a barman. Buffett fans bought every ticket for its off-Broadway tryouts.
At St James Theatre, previews from February 22, opens March 2, booking through December currently.
The ubiquitous Michael Grandage directs as the Oscar-winning movie comes to Broadway. In its new form, some of the film magic is replaced by a new magic: there are twice as many songs woven in. This is a surefire sellout just given the level of interest in the film and all things Disney. If “Aladdin” can make it big even after mixed reviews out of town, this Denver transfer certainly can. It is helped by set pieces such as the signature song “Let It Go.”
“A Bronx Tale”
At Longacre Theatre, open dates, booking though June.
This show is recommended any week, not just this one. It is a musical account of the story that has already been a book, a play and of course a Robert De Niro movie.
At Richard Rodgers Theater, open dates.
A show about American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton might not sound a rewarding prospect, but this is still one of the highlights of Broadway. Hamilton had a huge character and a most eventful life. The raps are hilarious. It also has contemporary resonance – how will we be remembered – and our Presidents too.
At Brooks Atkinson Theatre, extended through December.
This wonderfully funny show keeps getting extended. You might remember the 2007 film of the same name. It’s the basis of play which makes it worth heading to Brooks Akinson for. A theater-loving writer friend, who was a waitress in her college days, recently saw it. She went along with low expectations, and came out impressed with its cheery feminist messages and sympathy for waiting staff – “the hardest job in the world.”
Click on the slideshow for images of some of the productions and stars
Founder Louise Blouin