For an industry often choked up with so many big, expensive musicals, this spring’s Broadway season features a remarkable number of plays. Like, so many plays. On the heels of openings like The Ferryman, The Waverly Gallery, American Son, and Choir Boy last fall and winter, this spring will see seven more plays come to Broadway, including Glenda Jackson doing Shakespeare and Heidi Schreck bringing her Off Broadway sensation to midtown. Fear not: There will still be big movie-to-musical adaptations, original musicals, and musical revivals — though the recently opened Kiss Me, Kate! will only have one other competitor, Oklahoma!, in its category at the Tonys. And while Broadway tends to hog the attention with a glut of March and April openings, there’s still plenty to see elsewhere (and more cheaply) in New York, including ambitious London imports, new musicals, takes on both Socrates and Helen of Troy. Here are the ones you need to know about.
Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations
Per Broadway decree, all group acts get a musical now. With Ain’t Too Proud, the time has come for Motown’s the Temptations, in a production directed by Jersey Boys vet Des McAnuff and written by Dominique Morisseau, best known for her plays Off Broadway. Look out, also, for Jeremy Pope, a breakout in Choir Boy earlier this season. Imperial Theatre; previews February 28, opens March 21.
What the Constitution Means to Me
Heidi Schreck’s inventive investigation of both American politics and her personal history arrives on Broadway. The play, in which Schreck restages the debates about the Constitution she participated in as a teenager, was our critic Sara Holdren’s No. 1 theater production of last year — and if you don’t take our word, consider Tony Kushner’s. Helen Hayes Theater; previews March 14, opens March 31.
Glenda Jackson, an 82-year-old force of nature, returns to playing Shakespeare’s stormy king, the role that brought her out of acting retirement in London. This time, she’s working with a new director, Sam Gold, who toyed with the Bard recently in Hamlet and Othello, and a luxury supporting cast, including Ruth Wilson, Jayne Houdyshell, Elizabeth Marvel, and Pedro Pascal. Cort Theatre; previews February 28, opens April 4.
Dark, sexy, and served with a side of corn bread (at least in its Off Broadway iteration): Daniel Fish stages a daring, revised version of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic that is nothing like the hoopskirt-a-palooza you may have done in high school, unless you had a really wild drama teacher. Circle in the Square Theatre; previews March 19, opens April 7.
Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus
In the wake of the blood and gore at the end of Shakespeare’s Roman tragedy, queer theater artist Taylor Mac has decided to stage … a comedy? Nathan Lane and Kristine Nielsen (replacing Andrea Martin, who broke her ribs in rehearsal) play two servants cleaning up the bodies, and probably cracking wise about it all. Booth Theatre; previews March 11, opens April 11.
Keri Russell and Adam Driver, two of acting’s best smolderers, star across from each other in the Michael Mayer-directed revival of the Lanford Wilson play that originally came to Broadway with Joan Allen and John Malkovich in 1987. So far, this production’s really leaned on the sex appeal, and they’re not wrong? Hudson Theatre; previews March 15, opens April 16.
The myths of Orpheus and Eurydice and Persephone and Hades link together in a folk spectacle from song- and book-writer Anaïs Mitchell, which she developed out of a community theater project turned concept album with director Rachel Chavkin (last on Broadway with The Great Comet). Walter Kerr Theatre; previews March 22, opens April 17.
Hillary and Clinton
Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow play versions of a couple you may have heard about in the news in A Doll’s House, Part 2 playwright Lucas Hnath’s off-kilter imagining of the 2008 New Hampshire Democratic primary. The big question: Will Hillary herself drop by to see it? John Golden Theatre; previews March 16, opens April 18.
All My Sons
This Arthur Miller revival had its own backstage drama last December when original director Gregory Mosher dropped out after a dispute with the Miller estate over casting actors of color. Jack O’Brien quickly stepped in to replace Mosher, and the production boasts plum star-casting with leads Annette Bening and Tracy Letts. American Airlines Theater; previews April 3, opens April 22.
Santino Fontana, late of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, comes back to Broadway in heels and a wig in an adaptation of the 1982 Dustin Hoffman movie helmed by director Scott Ellis (he also did Kiss Me, Kate! this season). This version subs in a Broadway show for the soap opera, which makes it all the easier to get into the songs, from The Band’s Visit Tony winner David Yazbek. Marquis Theatre; previews March 29, opens April 23.
A hit on the West End, James Graham’s Ink follows Rupert Murdoch’s early rise to power with his takeover of The Sun. Rupert Goold directs, with Bertie Carvel as Murdoch and Jonny Lee Miller as Sun editor Larry Lamb. Think of it all as a prequel to Succession. Samuel J. Friedman Theatre; previews April 2, opens April 24.
All the movies you loved as a kid must eventually become Broadway musicals. Alex Timbers (of Peter and the Starcatcher and Rocky) directs the adaptation of the Tim Burton film, with 17-year-old Sophia Caruso in the Winona Ryder role and Alex Brightman as the ghost with the most. Beetlejuice got creamed in a few key reviews out of town in D.C., but with enough retooling (New York’s former theater cric Scott Brown is a co-writer) could it be … showtime? Winter Garden Theatre; previews March 28, opens April 25.
Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune
This doesn’t premiere until after this season’s Tony’s cutoff at the end of April, but we couldn’t not include two great theater actors Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon doing a Terrence McNally classic. Broadhurst Theatre; previews May 4, opens May 30.
The Lehman Trilogy
Stefano Massini’s play, redeveloped in English by Ben Power for London’s National Theatre, stretches from 1844 to 2008 in telling the quite literally changing fortunes of the Lehman family. Adam Godley, Ben Miles, and Simon Russell Beale play both the original trio of brothers who immigrated to America as well as their descendants and associates in the epic, three-part production directed by Sam Mendes. Park Avenue Armory; performances March 22 to April 20.
A feel-good book turned movie gets a musical, but with a starry creative team, including director Sam Gold, music from Spring Awakening’s Duncan Sheik, and a book from Lynn Nottage. Atlantic Theater Company, Linda Goss Theater; performances May 12 to July 7.
The Secret Life of Bees
April Matthis stars as Toni Stone, the first woman to go pro in the Negro Leagues in Lydia R. Diamond’s new play. Laura Pels Theatre; performances begin May 23, opens June 20.
The Cradle Will Rock
A pro-labor play told almost entirely with music and boasting a curious history (Orson Welles directed the original production, which was nearly shut down on opening night), The Cradle Will Rock now gets a revival directed by John Doyle, who has a penchant for finding interesting angles on difficult revivals. Classic Stage Company; performances March 21 to May 19.
Norma Jeane Baker of Troy
The Shed, an ambitious new arts center in Hudson Yards, opens with a variety of ambitious programming, including this partly sung performance piece about both Marilyn Monroe and Helen of Troy that unites the unlikely trio of poet Anne Carson, soprano Renée Fleming, and Paddington himself, Ben Whishaw. The Shed; performances April 6 to May 19.
When not playing a singing cowboy, or “that guy” in any number of movies, Tim Blake Nelson found the time to write a play about Socrates, starring his Juilliard classmate Michael Stuhlbarg as the philosopher himself. The Public Theater; performances April 2 to May 19.
Grief Is the Thing With Feathers
Playwright Enda Walsh, of Ballyturk, adapts Max Porter’s novel about a father, played by Cillian Murphy, grieving the death of his wife alongside his two sons. St. Ann’s Warehouse; performances April 20 to May 12.