Live, in-person theater has been keeping its powder dry for the last 18 months, premiering works online or simply staying silent. Now that it’s safe-ish to return, the theater season this fall contains a number of explosions-in-waiting — pieces we’ve been looking forward to for ages — and new works that have used that time to rewire the form. Here are the shows we think will have the biggest blast radius.
Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 9/2
Opened in 2016 and closed in January 2020, Waitress returns for a second serving with its composer, Sara Bareilles, in the lead and other past favorites (like Tony-nominated Christopher Fitzgerald) back in their bittersweeter-than-pie parts.
Lucille Lortel Theatre, 9/8
The penetrating social dramatist Martyna Majok won a 2018 Pulitzer for her play Cost of Living, so right before the shutdown, breaths were bated for this drama about the nightmare of being an American Dreamer.
?!: New Works
Brick Theater, 9/8
One of the most experimental of New York’s weird tiny spaces, the Brick in Williamsburg throws itself into frenetic programming with this 15-night festival of split bills showcasing the deep fringe of performance. (The title is pronounced interrobang.)
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 9/14
The hardest-working man on Broadway, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, starts the year with his 20-year-old solo show about growing up in the ’50s and the powerful woman who raised him. He’ll be back in December directing Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew.
Letters of Suresh
Second Stage Theater, 9/14
The Pulitzer-shortlisted playwright Rajiv Joseph examines the way letters can fold and unfold a relationship, even across vast psychic distances. It’s an appropriate theme for this past year — a time when everyone had to work out how to have intimacy without closeness.
SIX: The Musical
Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 9/17
Even before this irreverent pop-concert musical traveled from the West End, superfans were singing the songs in the halls at BroadwayCon. There’s just something about the story of Henry VIII’s monstrous behavior and his six wives (“Divorced! Beheaded! Survived!”) flouncing away from the patriarchy that really speaks to the youth of today.
Only an Octave Apart
St. Ann’s Warehouse, 9/21
The city’s favorite trans diva, Justin Vivian Bond, and countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo slide between high opera and transgressive pop cabaret, making music out of politics and politics out of Purcell.
What to Send Up When It Goes Down
Playwrights Horizons, 9/24
Aleshea Harris’s powerful ceremony of rage and repair returns. It’s worth seeing even if you’ve already been — repetition will only enhance the way the choreopoem uses ritual structure to galvanize and heal the viewer.
Is This A Room
Lyceum Theater, 9/24
Director Tina Satter uses the transcript of the arrest of whistleblower Reality Winner for this beautiful verbatim production, which was a roaring success both Off Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre and at the Kitchen. It now comes to Broadway, with the same astonishing performer, Emily Davis, playing Winner.
Other September shows:
• Hamilton, Chicago, Wicked, The Lion King, 9/14
• Sun & Sea, Brooklyn Academy of Music, 9/15
• Chicken & Biscuits, Circle in the Square, 9/23
• The Lehman Trilogy, Nederlander Theater, 9/25
Lyceum Theatre, 10/1
The gorgeous downtown production transfers: Theatrical treasure Deirdre O’Connell lip-syncs to a recording of playwright Lucas Hnath’s mother as she tells her story of abduction and violence. Presented in repertory with Is This a Room.
Thoughts of a Colored Man
John Golden Theatre, 10/1
Keenan Scott II’s play uses poetic monologues and casual banter alike to create a three-dimensional portrait of Black manhood in America.
Caroline, or Change
Studio 54, 10/8
In London, Sharon D. Clarke won an Olivier Award for her performance in Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s surreal, magisterial modern musical about a maid in 1963 Louisiana who does laundry in a white family’s basement as the civil-rights movement tries to spin her in a new direction.
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 10/8
It wasn’t a sure thing that Adrienne Warren would return to Tina, so the announcement that she’ll be back in the iconic wig, tearing the roof off Broadway, comes as welcome news. Even if you saw Tina before the shutdown, you might want to come back — performances like Warren’s only roll around once a decade.
The Performing Garage, 10/12
The Wooster Group presents Bertolt Brecht’s Lehrstück, or “learning play,” about a poor Russian woman who rouses slowly to political consciousness and carries a movement with her. Kate Valk — the iron flower of downtown — plays the title role.
Stephen Sondheim Theatre, 10/21
Some of us spent the shutdown watching Rob McClure’s hilarious DIY “Conductor Cam” videos on YouTube, in which he evoked an entire scenario with merely a raised eyebrow. Imagine what he can do when he’s got prosthetics, a Broadway ensemble, and director Jerry Zaks at his back.
Robert W. Wilson, MCC Theater Space, 10/21
The stiletto-sharp playwright Jocelyn Bioh teams up again with her Merry Wives director, Saheem Ali, to present a soapy comedy about ambition and romance in the ’90s Nigerian movie scene.
Trouble in Mind
American Airlines Theatre, 10/29
After a delay of a little over 50 years, Alice Childress’s funny, deft, and still painfully relevant play about Black actors navigating racist expectations finally comes to Broadway. Charles Randolph-Wright directs a cast that includes the divine LaChanze.
Other October shows:
• Twilight: Los Angeles, Signature Theater, 10/12
• Fairycakes, Greenwich House Theater, 10/14
• Dance, Joyce Theater, 10/19
• Trevor: The Musical, Stage 42, 10/25
Helen Hayes Theater, 11/3
Lynn Nottage’s comedy about a truck stop’s kitchen crew of formerly incarcerated folks whose return to the outside world involves a quest for the perfect sandwich. The cast includes Uzo Aduba, Ron Cephas Jones, and Kara Young, one of the city’s fastest-rising stars.
The Book of Mormon
Eugene O’Neill Theatre, 11/5
After making a zillion dollars, the 2011 musical comedy about Mormons on a mission to Uganda returns with its book lightly rewritten after cast members asked that some of the humor be reevaluated.
Flying Over Sunset
Vivian Beaumont Theater, 11/11
Cary Grant, Clare Boothe Luce, and Aldous Huxley all drop acid together in Tom Kitt, Michael Korie, and James Lapine’s new musical. The tap phenomenon Michelle Dorrance choreographs.
HERE Mainstage Theatre, 11/11
Hillary Miller’s comic thriller about a university department forced to conduct self-defense training, which brings academics to the brink of losing their faculties.
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 11/15
The word anticipated doesn’t quite capture the general freak-out around Marianne Elliott’s revival of George Furth and Stephen Sondheim’s midlife-crisis musical, starring the liquid Katrina Lenk (as a gender-swapped singleton Bobbie) and the great Patti LuPone as Joanne,
the dinosaur surviving the crunch.
Other November shows:
• In the Southern Breeze, Rattlestick Theater, 11/3
• Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Lyric Theatre, 11/12
• Selling Kabul, Playwrights Horizons, 11/17
• Assassins, Classic Stage Company, TBA
MJ: The Musical
Neil Simon Theatre, 12/6
You know he’s bad, he’s bad, you know it. Lynn Nottage wrote the book around 25 Michael Jackson songs; Christopher Wheeldon directs and choreographs.
The Music Man
Winter Garden Theatre, 12/20
The revival of Meredith Willson’s 1957 musical about a populist flimflam man who manages to dominate an entire town will surely launch a thousand think pieces about post-Trump art — or it may just be a big old brassy good time. The unsinkable Sutton Foster and undimmable Hugh Jackman star.