This Fall in Theater: Cher, a Baby Actor, and a 20-Foot Gorilla

The six shows to watch for this season.

Photo courtesy of The Cher Show

Diversity isn’t just mixing it up in terms of casting and creative teams—it’s also about genre and style of presentation. And this fall, theater is mighty diverse on Broadway and off-Broadway and in Brooklyn. Here’s a cross-section of the wildly divergent performance styles and narrative approaches happening all over town this season. Find the play, musical, or multimedia performance that’s right for you. And then go find its exact opposite and enjoy that, too!

Hippest Remake of a Rodgers & Hammerstein Classic

It’s the 75th anniversary of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s breakthrough musical Oklahoma! That’s the show at which your grandparents met and fell in love. Well, the old chestnut is back, but in a deconstructed, moodier way. Director Daniel Fish creates an immersive, morally murky version of the corny classic. The tunes are still just as lovely but arranged for a twangy, bluegrass band. Maybe you too will find true love—and not in a detached, ironic way. St. Ann’s Warehouse; previews start September 27; opens October 7

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The 2015 Fisher Center/Bard College production of Oklahoma! / Photo by Cory Weaver

The Play With the Biggest Casting Surprise

Broadway is not always kind to plays. Most of the media attention and hype goes to musicals. So producer logic is to mount a show with a small cast, preferably including a celebrity who can sell tickets. That’s not happening here. A mob of more than 30 actors—including 12 children and a baby—flew over from London for Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman, a sprawling Irish family drama set during the Troubles conflict. Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre; previews start October 2; opens October 21

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Photo by Johan Persson/Courtesy of The Ferryman

Splashiest Eye Candy

Once upon a time, special effects on Broadway were cool. But that was, like, 30 years ago, with The Phantom of the Opera’s flying chandelier. Did you catch the spectacle-heavy Rocky musical? I rest my case. And yet! Here comes King Kong swinging onto the scene. It’s got a 20-foot-high mechanical beast-puppet; big, belt-y tunes; and a love story to make you go ape. Broadway Theatre; previews start October 5; opens November 8

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Photo by James Morgan/Global Creatures

Favorite Celeb Onstage

This fall, there are celebrities gigging onstage (Bryan Cranston, Michael Cera, and Glenn Close, to name three). However, our heart is truly fluttering for the former star of Scandal. In 2009, Kerry Washington was a supporting player in David Mamet’s Race. Now she’s the main attraction. In American Son, Washington plays half of a married interracial couple who meets at a Florida police station to learn the fate of their missing son. Booth Theatre; previews start October 6; opens November 4

Best Second Chance of an Off-Broadway Cult Fave

Last fall, the talk of the town was a short (70-minute) comedy set in a small African nation (Ghana) by an unknown playwright (Jocelyn Bioh). And it was fantastic. School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play is about students at a private girls’ school who are dying to qualify for the Miss Universe pageant. Will the shade of their skin be a factor? MCC Theater is giving this sharp, funny heartbreaker a return engagement. Don’t miss out. Lucille Lortel Theatre; previews start October 16; opens October 22

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Photo courtesy of School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play

The Diva-est Musical That Cher Fans Have Been Waiting For

Book writer Rick Elice did pretty well by the Four Seasons to create the hit musical Jersey Boys. We’ll see if The Cher Show can spark the same box-office magic. The lanky, throaty, politically outspoken pop star—played by Stephanie J. Block, Teal Wicks, and Micaela Diamond—has stories. And a buttocks-baring body sheath designed by Bob Mackie. Do you believe in life after love? Sure you do. Neil Simon Theatre; previews start November 1; opens December 3

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