The rule of thumb, for decades, is that only one-in-four commercial Broadway productions makes its money back. But this has been a tougher year than usual. In the year-and-a-half since Broadway reopened, tourism and ticket sales have not returned to pre-pandemic levels, which means some very well-received shows have struggled.
So, looking forward to spring 2023, you never know what’s going to hit or miss. But the shows that make the most money aren’t always the best ones. Often all you can do when trying to predict what will be worth seeing is to look at who wrote the script (and score, if it’s a musical) and who’s directing and starring.
Here are nine Broadway and off-Broadway shows I’m keeping an eye on, some of which I’ve seen in previous incarnations. They’re listed in the order they’re appearing on NYC stages.
The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window
One of the most highly-anticipated productions of the winter is this revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s (A Raisin in the Sun) final play, starring Golden Globe-winner Oscar Isaac (Star Wars) and Emmy-winner Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) as a married couple. Set amongst a group of friends in Greenwich Village in the 1960s, it deals with race, suicide and queerness. Directed by Obie-winner Anne Kaufman, who helmed a revival at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago in 2016, this will be the first time the play has been seen in New York since its brief original run in 1964. BAM Harvey Theatre, begins previews Feb. 4, opens Feb. 23
Even as his Broadway hit The Phantom of the Opera plays its final performances after a remarkable 36-year run, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber brings his latest show, a contemporary retelling of the Cinderella story, to New York. With a book by Oscar-winner Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) and lyrics by David Zippel (City of Angels) the show – just called Cinderella in London – was dogged by the COVID pandemic and closed prematurely. Since then, the creative team has added new songs. Will Lord Lloyd Webber, who was last represented on Broadway with the modest hit School of Rock find success with this new musical? Imperial Theatre, begins previews Feb. 17, opens March 23
This immersive production, first seen in 2018, puts the audience right inside the tents of an improvised refugee camp in Calais, France. Written by Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson and co-directed by Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin, it tells the heart-rending stories of refugees from the Middle East and Africa, all of whom hope to make it to England for a better life. It was enormously affecting the first time around – now more people can encounter this singular theatrical experience. St. Ann’s Warehouse, begins performances Feb. 18
Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece is being revived in a full-scale production starring Tony- and Grammy-nominee Josh Groban as the murderous barber and Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford (Kinky Boots) as his pie-making partner in crime, Mrs. Lovett. The production will be helmed by Tony Award-winning director Thomas Kail (Hamilton), choreographer Stephen Hoggett (Once) and Jonathan Tunick’s original 26-piece orchestration will be conducted by Alex Lacamoire (Hamilton). Over the years, when Sweeney’s been revived, it’s been in smaller, more intimate productions – this promises to be a production that gives full justice to the late composer’s quasi-operatic score. Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, begins previews Feb. 26, opens March 26
Lerner and Loewe’s final show has always felt a bit unfinished – during the out-of-town tryout in Toronto, director Moss Hart suffered a heart attack and librettist/lyricist Alan Jay Lerner was hospitalized for a bleeding ulcer. Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher has enlisted Tony Award-winning author Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, To Kill a Mockingbird) to rewrite the book, and he’s put together an exciting trio of leads: Andrew Burnap (The Inheritance) as King Arthur, Phillipa Soo (Hamilton) as Guinevere and Jordan Donica (My Fair Lady) as Lancelot. Sher has brought new life to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific and The King and I, as well as Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady, paying scrupulous attention to detail and overarching vision, so this is an intriguing new production. Lincoln Center, Beaumont Theatre, begins previews March 9, opens April 13
White Girl in Danger
What will Michael R. Jackson’s follow-up to his idiosyncratic, highly personal Pulitzer- and Tony-winning musical A Strange Loop bring? This show, set in the fictional town of Allwhite, uses tropes from daytime and nighttime soap operas and is centered around a character name Keisha, who steps out of the “blackground.” The piece will be directed by Liliana Blain-Cruz (The Skin of Our Teeth) and choreographed by Raja Feather Kelly (A Strange Loop). I can’t wait to see what Jackson comes up with next. Second Stage/Vineyard Theatre production, Tony Kiser Theatre, previews begin March 15, opens April 10
James Ijames’ Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy was a hit on a small stage at the Public Theater in 2022; how will it fare in a much larger Broadway theater? A retelling of Hamlet, set at a Black family cookout, it deals with questions of masculinity and queerness and is both funny and joyous. The complete off-Broadway cast has been engaged, as has director Saheem Ali. Roundabout, American Airlines Theatre, begins previews March 21, opens April 12
New York, New York
Martin Scorsese’s 1977 film, starring Robert DeNiro and Liza Minnelli, was a flop, but the songwriting duo of John Kander and Fred Ebb wrote some indelible songs, including “The World Goes Round” and the title tune. Bookwriters David Thomson (The Scottsboro Boys) and Sharon Washington (Feeding the Dragon) have created a new story, set in post-World War II New York, and Tony Award-winner Susan Stroman (The Producers) directs and choreographs. Most intriguing is that 95-year-old composer John Kander has teamed up with Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) to write new songs for the show. St. James Theatre, begins previews March 24, opens April 26
Emmy Award-winning actress Jodie Comer (Killing Eve) appears in this one-person play by Suzie Miller, which was a hit in London. Comer plays a barrister who defends men accused of sexual assault, then gets assaulted herself. It will be exciting to see this actress in person. Golden Theatre, begins previews April 11, opens April 23
Other shows to keep an eye on
There are always unexpected surprises each season. John Doyle’s well received production of Lynn Ahrens/Steven Flaherty/Terrence McNally’s chamber musical, A Man of No Importance, starring Jim Parsons and Mare Winningham is rumored to be coming to Broadway.
And I’m interested to see three shows with three terrific directors this spring: Native American author Larissa FastHorse’s The Thanksgiving Play, which received several productions in regional theaters and off-Broadway and will be produced on Broadway with Tony Award-winning director Rachel Chavkin (Hadestown) at the helm; A Doll’s House, starring Jessica Chastain, in a new translation by Amy Herzog and directed by Jamie Lloyd, whose Cyrano was a highlight last season; and Pictures from Home, a new play from Sharr White, starring a powerhouse cast of Nathan Lane, Danny Burstein and Zoё Wanamaker, and directed by Bartlett Sher.