The coming Broadway season has something for everyone – a musical by Sting, a magician-filled SUV, the incomparable Hugh Jackman, the equally regal Helen Mirren, a musical set in a funeral parlor and not one, but two Gyllenhaals. Here’s a look at some highlights of the 2014-15 season:
STARS, STARS, STARS
You want A-listers? Broadway listened. Bradley Cooper, Michael Cera, Hugh Jackman, Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor, Glenn Close, Gretchen Mol, Kristin Chenoweth, Helen Mirren, James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick, Tavi Gevinson, Nathan Lane, Rose Byrne, Alan Alda, Brian Dennehy, Mia Farrow, Candice Bergen, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Chenoweth, Carol Burnett, Anjelica Huston and Tony Danza.
It wouldn’t be a new Broadway season without some revivals: “Side Show” returns for a second time; Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing” for a third time in October; Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance” for a third time in the fall; “The Elephant Man” for third time starting in November; and the screwball comedy “Noises Off” for a third time next winter.
Producers have dug deep into America’s past to pull out four classic tales: The play “You Can’t Take It With You,” by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, which first debuted in 1936, comes back in September; the 1944 show “On the Town,” with music by Leonard Bernstein and book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, returns in October; “An American in Paris,” an adaptation of the 1951 Gene Kelly film, comes in spring; and another Comden-Green comedy, “On the Twentieth Century,” steams into town in February.
YOU HAD US AT HUGH
Hugh Jackman is coming back this fall in “The River” by Jez Butterworth, but does it really matter what he’s doing? For the record, the play, the first since Butterworth’s “Jerusalem,” is about a trout fisherman in a remote cabin who is visited by two of the women in his life. It’s new and moody but Jackman is box-office catnip – his one-man show in 2011 routinely sold out, as did “The Boy From Oz” in 2003 and “A Steady Rain” with Daniel Craig in 2009.
Helen Mirren will be playing British Queen Elizabeth II this spring in “The Audience,” which imagines the private weekly meetings between the monarch and 12 prime ministers, while Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe will be romancing each other starting in March in the Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein II musical “The King and I.”
BROWN ROUND 2
Three-time Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown will seek redemption this winter with his musical of “Honeymoon in Vegas.” Brown’s last show, the lush and romantic “The Bridges of Madison County” closed in May after just 137 performances. Brown’s luck on Broadway has been pretty awful, with “Parade,” “Urban Cowboy” and “13” each not lasting long.
A TORCH PASSES
Kenneth Lonergan’s play “This Is Our Youth” debuted off-Broadway in 1996 and has over the years featured such high-profile actors as Mark Ruffalo, Josh Hamilton, Matt Damon, Colin Hanks, Chris Klein, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anna Paquin. Now it’s time for Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin and Tavi Gevinson, all three making their Broadway debuts.
WE KNOW YOU GUYS
Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick will be together again on Broadway in a revival of Terrence McNally’s “It’s Only a Play.” The duo last appeared together in “The Odd Couple” and famously before that in a little show called “The Producers.” In the updated version of “It’s Only a Play,” Broderick plays an anxious writer, and Lane is stage actor-turned-TV-star best friend.
NO RABBIT PULLING
Seven magicians – including an anti-conjurer, a futurist, an escapologist and an inventor – take the stage for “The Illusionists – Witness the Impossible.” They’re going to hang upside-down, pull gross things from their throats and use swords in creative ways. Critics might be scared to give them a thumbs-down.
Two shows promise sparks from challenging material: The London import “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” based on an adaptation of Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel about a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome who tries to find a dog’s killer, and “Fun Home,” a musical adapted from Alison Bechdel’s memoir about growing up in a funeral home with a closeted gay dad.
2 PETER PANS
There’s no reason to grow up this season: “Finding Neverland,” a musical led by Diane Paulus explores the Peter Pan book’s back story and Allison Williams stars as the iconic title character in NBC’s Dec. 4 telecast of “Peter Pan Live!” the heavily anticipated follow-up to “The Sound of Music.”
Maggie Gyllenhaal will make her Broadway debut starring opposite Ewan McGregor in “The Real Thing” starting in October, while her brother, Jake, will also make his Broadway bow in Nick Payne’s play “Constellations” beginning in December. Those who love Gyllenhaals might be able to see both in the same day.
TWO BY TWO BY TWO BY…
Producers of A.R. Gurney’s romantic play “Love Letters” seem to have found a way to get you to see the show over and over: they’ve stacked it with changing pairs of stars. Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow start out in September, then Carol Burnett and Dennehy, then Alan Alda and Candice Bergen, then Stacy Keach and Diana Rigg, and finally Anjelica Huston and Martin Sheen.
NO QUIET PARTY
A polite dinner party spirals out of control in Ayad Akhtar’s “Disgraced,” which hits Broadway in September having already won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for drama. It will star Hari Dhillon, who played the Muslim-American lawyer at the heart of the play in London. Akhtar, the author of “American Dervish,” is one of theater’s most vibrant, exciting young writers.
ROCKER IN THE HOUSE
Sting, a 16-time Grammy Award winner and former lead singer of The Police, has written the music for “The Last Ship,” with a story by both “Red” playwright John Logan and “Next to Normal” writer Brian Yorkey. The musical is inspired by Sting’s memories of growing up in northeast England.
Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy both will come off-Broadway to co-star in Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music starting in February. And “In the Heights” composer-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda will premiere a hip-hop retelling of the life and death of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton at The Public Theater in January.