Winter is upon us, and all anyone wants to do is stay indoors and binge-watch the latest hot commodity on Netflix, but the theater season is far from quiet. Downtown at the Public Theater and other venues, you have the funky and category-defying Under the Radar Festival. P.S. 122 has reopened its doors after six years of renovations with a goodbye edition of its storied Coil Festival. And, of course, Broadway is gearing up for its spring rampage of openings to vie for Tony Award consideration. Here are just a handful of NYC shows I have on my short list.
You’ve seen the animated movie (and, if you have kids, you’ve seen it 89 times): Are you ready for the live version? Disney Theatrical unveils its newest stage transformation since 2014’s Aladdin in a bid to have three blockbusters on the Great White Way. The score is by the same husband-and-wife team that did the film, including the earworm “Let It Go.” British director Michael Grandage oversees the fairy tale–meets–Arctic wonderland visuals. We’ll see if the result leaves children and critics cold—or Wicked-ly excited.
St. James Theatre
246 West 44th Street (between Seventh and Eighth Avenues), Midtown
Previews start Thursday, February 22; opens Thursday, March 22
Playwright Aleshea Harris makes her NYC theater debut with this audacious, mythopoetic road trip in which twin sisters trek to California in search of revenge.
Soho Rep has long built a reputation on discovering vital and disruptive new voices in American playwriting, and Harris’s mashup of Western flicks, hip hop, and Afropunk sounds like combustible stuff. You’ll want to get in on the ground floor for this one.
46 Walker Street (between Broadway and Church Street), SoHo
Tuesday, February 6–Sunday, March 11
Tony Kushner’s two-part epic drama about AIDS and the political revolution may have just turned 25 years old, but the modern classic has lost none of its brilliance and urgency. Consider this: The key figure of vicious lawyer Roy Cohn (played by Nathan Lane) was a mentor to the young Donald J. Trump. Scary. This production is a transfer from London’s National Theatre, directed by the magical Marianne Elliott (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time). The ensemble includes blazing turns by Andrew Garfield and Denise Gough. This revival of the Pulitzer-winning work is on Broadway for only 18 weeks. Both plays will run in repertory.
Neil Simon Theatre
250 West 52nd Street (between Broadway and Eighth Avenue), Midtown
Previews start Friday, February 23; opens Wednesday, March 28
Like you, I can’t accept that it’s been five years since 30 Rock went off the air. What the heckfire has Liz Lemon—er, Tina Fey—been up to? Well, besides writing and producing other TV series (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and doing the occasional movie…this, a candy-colored stage adaptation of her near-perfect 2004 film about high school female social dynamics. The tunes are cowritten by Jeff Richmond and Nell Benjamin; Fey handles the book; and director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw brings all the sass and wit that made The Book of Mormon and Something Rotten! such high-energy delights. You go, Glen Coco.
August Wilson Theatre
245 West 52nd Street (between Broadway and Eighth Avenue), Midtown
Previews start Monday, March 12; opens Sunday, April 8
Condola Rashad is one of those luminous, utterly crystalline actresses for whom I will drop everything to see, no matter what it is.
She has never given a false performance, and that includes her beautiful turn last season as a mixed-up daughter in A Doll’s House, Part 2. Now Rashad lands one of her biggest roles to date, as the 15th-century French peasant girl who—inspired by divine visions—leads her nation’s army into war against England. This is George Bernard Shaw’s 1923 version of the tale, so expect lots of juicy, idea-packed rhetoric and banter.
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street (between Broadway and Eighth Avenue), Midtown
Previews start Tuesday, April 3; opens Wednesday, April 25
British stage icon Antony Sher has spent his life working through the great Shakespearean personae: Richard III, Shylock, Sir John Falstaff. Now he puts his uniquely intelligent, vital stamp on the Everest of older male roles, King Lear. Directed by his longtime partner and head of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Gregory Doran, Sher should bring the requisite fury and tears as the aged monarch who loses his kingdom, his children, and his mind.
BAM Harvey Theater
651 Fulton Street, Fort Greene
Saturday, April 7–Sunday, April 29
I’ve been a huge fan of playwright Young Jean Lee since her early days off-off Broadway. More than one online pundit has snickered that it took a play about the most privileged demographic to propel this Korean-American dramatist into the mainstream, but she’s always been a rising star. From her foulmouthed riff on English Romantic poets, The Appeal (2004), to the all-nude dance freak-out Untitled Feminist Show (2012), Lee’s plays have been marked by incredibly precise, charged language and a willingness to make the audience squirm. This 2014 family drama (which debuted at the Public Theater) is about a family of men dealing with love and despair. Director Anna D. Shapiro steers a fancy cast that includes Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name) and Tom Skerritt.
The Hayes Theater
240 West 44th Street (between Seventh and Eighth Avenues), Midtown
Previews start Friday, June 29; opens Monday, July 23