2022 preview

33 Plays and Musicals We Can’t Wait to See in 2022

Back to the theater! (Variants permitting.)

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Joan Marcus, Marc Brenner, Julieta Cervantes and T. Charles Erickson/Long Wharf Theatre
Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Joan Marcus, Marc Brenner, Julieta Cervantes and T. Charles Erickson/Long Wharf Theatre

Now that we’ve seen that it can be done, the theatrical floodgates are truly open. After a precedent-breaking autumn, the lineup for this coming season looks almost … normal? The post-vaccine fall, full of adventurous choices and wild gambles, has turned back toward slightly safer bets with the return on Broadway of big musicals and starry plays. Off Broadway houses are bringing out the pieces they packed away in cotton when the theaters shut down, and there’s a slight sense of déjà vu, because many of them were originally scheduled to open in 2020. Of course, we will see all of them with changed eyes.

With the Omicron wave rocking all boats, though, some of the dates for January shows have changed. Almost every announced show is still planning a run, but preview periods are extending and press openings are moving back. Vaccination requirements have been in place since last year, but now some venues ask that audiences be boosted and/or show a negative COVID test, and these conditions too have been in constant motion since the beginning of the year. So get excited about these shows … but keep a weather eye on the theaters’ websites, since the one thing we can predict is that something will change.

January

Skeleton Crew

Dominique Morisseau’s triptych about Detroit (the other two plays in the cycle are Detroit ’67 and Paradise Blue) is rich in understanding about Black community, the need for worker solidarity, and the musicality of Motor City itself. The time is always right for a Broadway revival of Morisseau’s 2016 play about a failing automotive plant, but it’s perhaps even righter now, given our constantly renewing sense that we live in an economy that thrives on our ruin. Also, Phylicia Rashad stars. (Samuel J. Friedman Theater; in previews now for a January 19 opening.)

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

The only thing that has me worried about this project is that producer Audible has announced it will run only two hours with no intermission. Eugene O’Neill’s excoriating family drama about addiction, delusion, and talent run aground does not usually get through its Journey so quickly — three hours–plus is typical — but the casting of theatrical power couple Bill Camp and Elizabeth Marvel has me so excited to see it I’ve squelched my doubts. Maybe they just mean it will feel like it’s flying by? (Minetta Lane Theater; in previews January 11.)

Black No More

George S. Schuyler’s 1931 satirical novel proposed a Swiftian answer to the “race problem:” Invent a mechanism that turns Black people white. A little under 100 years later, composer Tariq Trotter (of the Roots) and book writer John Ridley turn the novel into a musical with choreography by the great Bill T. Jones. The New Group show stars Brandon Victor Dixon — which on its own is a reason to buy a ticket. (Pershing Square Signature Theater; in previews January 11.)

Shhhh

Playwright (and Pulitzer finalist) Clare Barron’s cheerfully transgressive productions are some of my favorite shows ever: It’s impossible to forget the poltergeist energy of her preteen anarcho-comedy Dance Nation or the hurricane of I’ll Never Love Again, in which she, uh, reenacted her own adolescent sexual awakening. In Shhhh, Barron continues her investigation into erotic kink, trauma, and pleasure — and the Atlantic is delicately warning ticket buyers that the material will be pretty strong. Consider yourself hushed, if you’re into that kind of thing. (Atlantic Theater Company; in previews January 12.)

Intimate Apparel

No playwright has had a season quite like Lynn Nottage’s: a new play on Broadway (Clyde’s), immersive programming at the Signature (The Watering Hole), and the book for the is-this-a-good-idea Michael Jackson musical MJ. This new opera, though, is easily my most anticipated of all her projects. Composer Ricky Ian Gordon gives Nottage’s beautiful 2003 play a new musical setting, which should convert its already lush sentiment — a turn-of-the-century seamstress tries to stitch together her romantic life — to an even deeper register. Bartlett Sher directs. (Lincoln Center; in previews January 13.)

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More:

—An eerie lighthouse musical by Duncan Sheik and Kyle Jarrow, Whisper House, shines forth at 59E59 (January 11).

—Dave Harris’s play about two men trapped in an American minstrel show, Tambo & Bones, at Playwrights Horizons (January 19).

February

The Music Man

Meredith Willson’s musical starts with T, which rhymes with me, a person who is clearly going to this show. The 1957 musical about a con man who finds love and leadership while still on the grift might not seem quite so far-fetched as it once did, but I expect that 76 trombones will be able to blast most of those contemporary political worries right out of your head. If you have any left, two of our greatest showmen — Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster — will forcibly tap-dance them into submission. (Winter Garden Theatre; in previews for a February 10 opening.)

Wolf Play

Hansol Jung’s play about a child whose dissatisfied adoptive parent sends the boy away was one of my most anticipated dramas of the season that never was. Now, Soho Rep, known for always treating new writing with scrupulous attention, mounts it at last with a tip-top team including director Dustin Wills — and the collaboration of the very busy Ma-Yi Theatre (see also The Chinese Lady, below). (Soho Rep; in previews February 2.)

The Chinese Lady

Lloyd Suh’s play was already superbly mounted by the Ma-Yi company in 2018, so it’s a double delight that the Public Theater is co-presenting not just the play but Ralph B. Peña’s production, a precision instrument of subtle, painful comedy. Suh’s play borrows its story from the real Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to come to the U.S., where she was exhibited as an exotic curiosity in sideshows. Where her real story vanishes into historical obscurity, Suh reclaims it as one of our country’s vivid founding mysteries. (Public Theater; in previews February 23.)

Larry Owens: Sondheimia

The siren-voiced talent tornado who first swept away the comedy scene, then demolished the theatrical scene — by flooring us all in Michael R. Jackson’s A Strange Loop — now aims at Carnegie Hall for a no-doubt gale-force night of Stephen Sondheim songs and assorted classics. I cannot imagine a single more virtuosity-packed evening anywhere in midtown. (Carnegie Hall; February 25.)

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More:

—The crafty experimentalists at Elevator Repair Service perform Chekhov’s Seagull at the Skirball Center at NYU (February 2).

—Aleshea Harris returns after the smashing success of What to Send Up When It Goes Down with On Sugarland at the New York Theater Workshop (February 2).

—Sanaz Toossi presents her drama about Iranian language students, English, at the Atlantic Theater Company (February 4).

—One of our great classical actors, John Douglas Thompson, takes on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice at Theater for a New Audience (February 5).

—Dominique Morisseau’s Confederates, a braided narrative about two Black women a century apart, one of whom is a Union spy, arrives at Signature Theater (February 22).

March

for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf

Camille A. Brown brings Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem to Broadway, where the series of poems interwoven with movement and song last appeared in a triumphant run in 1978. Brown choreographed the Public’s recent Off Broadway revival and now takes over directing duties, appropriately for a piece that flows among art forms, always with a woman’s moving body at the pulsing, feeling center. (Booth Theater; in previews March 4.)

Macbeth

If you think the most recent James Bond movie was sad (uh, spoiler?), then go see Daniel Craig in Shakespeare’s Scottish play and have your tragedy-meter readjusted. No one gets out alive, but everyone gets out with a monologue, so it’s lucky that Craig and Ruth Negga (herself fresh from playing a lively and thinking Hamlet) play the royal-by-any-means-necessary central couple. Sam Gold directs. (Longacre Theater; in previews March 29.)

Oratorio for Living Things

Heather Christian’s ethereal, bluesy canticles were one of the most precious touchstones during the shutdown — she wrote a Mother Teresa monodrama for the digital Theater in Quarantine and an audio-only musical meditation for Playwrights Horizons. Now, though, her work is back sharing space with audiences, blossoming in this long-awaited, maximalist music-theater ritual, directed by wizard of the offbeat, Lee Sunday Evans. (Ars Nova at Greenwich House; dates TBA.)

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More:

—Thirty years after the movie, Billy Crystal revisits his crabby old showbiz character in a new Broadway musical of Mr. Saturday Night with music by Jason Robert Brown (March 1).

—The superb sci-fi musical Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future returns for a run at Brooklyn’s Irondale Arts Center (March 2). [Editor’s note, 1/11/2022: This show has been postponed to the 2022-2023 season.]

—Shaina Taub’s new musical Suffs about women getting the vote appears at the Public Theater (March 10).

—Billy Porter directs The Life for City Center’s “Encores!” series in a season that includes The Tap Dance Kid and Into the Woods (March 16).

—Beanie Feldstein comes to Broadway in the long-awaited Funny Girl revival (March 26).

—Director of the moment Lileana Blain-Cruz helms Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth at Lincoln Center (March 31).

April

Cyrano de Bergerac

James McAvoy plays the angry, rejected soldier at the heart of Edmond Rostand’s classic romantic tragedy without putting on a rubber nose — though he spits Martin Crimp’s percussive, foul-mouthed adaptation out with such aggression you wouldn’t dare ask him about it. I saw this Jamie Lloyd production in London, and it’s as plain as the (redacted) on your face that you’ll need to grab a ticket as fast as you can. (Brooklyn Academy of Music; in previews April 5.)

Wedding Band

The great playwright Alice Childress had been largely sidelined by history, but now revivals have begun to grapple with her legacy in earnest. Her backstage comic drama Trouble in Mind finally made it to Broadway in the fall, and now another of her works — a lacerating and heartbroken 1972 play about how white supremacy can lie coiled up in those who try to love you — arrives hard on its heels. Awoye Timpo directs.
(Theater for a New Audience; in previews April 23.)

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More:

—In April: Sam Hunter’s A Case for the Existence of God brings his characteristic humanism to the Signature Theater (April 12).

—In May: Robert Icke’s Hamlet finally comes over from London, spreading its moody wings at the Park Avenue Armory (May 31).

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33 Plays and Musicals We Can’t Wait to See in 2022