Broadway was one of the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic, and despite more than a few roadblocks, the fall 2021 season proved surprisingly triumphant. It represented both a return to form and a peek into what American theater could look like in the future, complete with a record-breaking number of shows by Black playwrights.
As 2022 begins, new problems have arisen: The omicron variant has closed some shows temporarily and others permanently, but cast and crew members are rolling with the punches, as understudies have gamely stepped into the spotlight to ensure that the show will go on. The next few months will bring a thrilling spring season that includes plays by Broadway favorites (David Mamet, Thornton Wilder, Neil Simon), one-of-a-kind theatrical experiences (like The Little Prince) and a full roster of A-list performers, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Billy Crystal, Daniel Craig and Debra Messing. Here’s your guide to all the plays and musicals beginning performances in the next few months. And remember, before you book a ticket: All theaters in NYC are requiring proof of vaccinations.
ON STAGE NOW
Check out our fall season guide to learn about other new shows, including The Music Man, starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster.
PERFORMANCES BEGINNING IN FEBRUARY
The show: Paradise Square
The premise: If you’ve seen the film Gangs of New York, you might remember its setting: the rough-and-tumble Five Points slum in Lower Manhattan. That neighborhood is the backdrop for a lush new musical about the city’s Irish and Black communities, who lived and worked together during the Civil War, before their period of relative racial harmony was torn apart by the New York City draft riots of 1863. Lovers of dance will be dazzled by the choreography by Bill T. Jones (69), Garrett Coleman and Jason Oremus, which combines elements of tap, Irish step dancing and African Juba.
Why you should book a ticket: Leading the cast as saloon owner Nelly O’Brien is next big thing Joaquina Kalukango, who costarred as Betty X in last year’s One Night in Miami… and earned a Tony nomination for her role in Broadway’s Slave Play.
The details: Barrymore Theatre, from Feb. 22
The show: Plaza Suite
The premise: It’s been 26 years since Sarah Jessica Parker (56) and Matthew Broderick (59) last appeared together on a Broadway stage in the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. They’re finally teaming back up for this urbane Neil Simon comedy, in which they star as three different couples — one long-married duo, one pair of old flames, and the father and mother of the bride — living out their dramas inside the same suite at New York City’s Plaza Hotel.
Why you should book a ticket: Simon’s shows were once fixtures on the New York City stage. The last to appear on the Great White Way was the musical Promises, Promises, for which he wrote the book; it closed in January 2011.
The details: Hudson Theatre, from Feb. 25
PERFORMANCES BEGINNING IN MARCH
The show: Mr. Saturday Night
The premise: In 1992, Billy Crystal, 73, made his directorial debut with this comedy about the rise and fall of standup comic Buddy Young Jr. He’s adapted it into a musical with the help of three-time Tony-winning composer Jason Robert Brown, 51, who wrote Parade and The Bridges of Madison County. It’s been eight years since Crystal last appeared on Broadway, in a 2013-14 revival of his one-man show 700 Sundays.
Why you should book a ticket: David Paymer, 67, got an Oscar nomination for playing Buddy’s brother and manager, Stan, a role he’ll reprise in the musical.
The details: Nederlander Theatre, from March 1
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The show: The Little Prince
The premise: Unlike anything else currently on Broadway, this adaptation of the 1943 Antoine de Saint-Exupéry novella played Paris, Dubai and Sydney before making its way to New York. It’s a Cirque du Soleil–style extravaganza, combining dance, acrobatics, aerial work, video projections and original music, and it tells the story of a young prince who travels through space gaining wisdom from the odd characters he encounters.
Why you should book a ticket: After a year of constantly having to read the news, there’s something refreshing about a largely wordless and abstract work of art. Plus, the main character gets to travel — imagine that!
The details: Broadway Theatre, from March 4
The show: for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf
The premise: Ntozake Shange’s 1976 game-changer struck like a bolt out of the blue when it premiered in 1976, announcing the arrival of a whole new form of theater: the choreopoem. Only the second play by a Black woman to be produced on Broadway, after Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun in 1959, for colored girls… consisted of a series of poetic monologues about subjects such as domestic violence, abortion and rape, paired with movement and music. This season’s revival originated in 2019 at off-Broadway’s Public Theater, with new choreography by Tony nominee Camille A. Brown that New York magazine critic Helen Shaw called “ecstatic.”
Why you should book a ticket: The Public Theater has a pretty unbeatable track record when it comes to transferring shows to Broadway, from Hair to A Chorus Line to Hamilton.
The details: Booth Theatre, from March 4
The show: Take Me Out
The premise: Richard Greenberg’s 2003 Tony winner for best play tells the story of a major league baseball player who comes out as gay and faces the prejudices of fans and other players, with nearly all of the action taking place inside the team’s locker room. (Be warned: Previous productions have featured a lot of nudity.) This revival by Second Stage Theater stars a trio of TV actors: Patrick J. Adams from Suits, Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family and Jesse Williams from Grey’s Anatomy.
Why you should book a ticket: Williams, who is making his Broadway debut, is also set to star in a limited-series adaptation of the play for television.
The details: Hayes Theater, from March 10
The show: Birthday Candles
The premise: Will & Grace star Debra Messing, 53, takes on a unique acting challenge in this new drama by Broadway newcomer Noah Haidle: She plays a woman named Ernestine Ashworth from the ages of 17 to 101, and each scene takes place on a different birthday, in the same kitchen, as she bakes the same cake. Messing has called it “a modern-day Our Town,” and according to early reports, she’ll remain onstage for the entire show, never doing anything to change her physical appearance, as she moves swiftly through the decades.
Why you should book a ticket: Messing will be surrounded by a talented supporting cast that includes Enrico Colantoni, 58, whom you might know from TV's Just Shoot Me! and Veronica Mars.
The details: American Airlines Theatre, from March 18
The show: The Minutes
The premise: This political satire, which premiered at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in 2017, is set entirely within the confines of the most mundane of events: a small-town city council meeting. But don’t expect it to be boring. According to the Chicago Tribune review, “Nothing in this explosive 90-minute drama — which might eventually remind you of William Goldman’s The Lord of the Flies or Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery,’ or maybe even the Duffer brothers’ Stranger Things — is as it seems.” The show’s Tony- and Pulitzer-winning playwright, Tracy Letts (56), stars as the mayor, opposite a cast of Chicago and Broadway veterans, including Blair Brown (75) and Jessie Mueller.
Why you should book a ticket: Scandal-plagued actor Armie Hammer dropped out of the production, but TV fans will be happy to know that he’s been replaced by Noah Reid, who starred most recently as David’s husband, Patrick, on Schitt’s Creek.
The details: Studio 54, from March 19
The show: American Buffalo
The premise: Filled with the four-letter words you’ve come to know and love (or groan at?) from Glengarry Glen Ross playwright David Mamet (74), this dark comedy follows three wannabe thieves as they plan the heist of a valuable coin collection from the Chicago junk shop one of them owns. When the play opened on Broadway in 1977, New York Times critic Clive Barnes summed up Mamet’s skills succinctly: “The man can write.” In this star-studded revival, the trio of rogues is played by Sam Rockwell (53), Darren Criss and Laurence Fishburne (60), who hasn’t been on a Broadway stage since he played Thurgood Marshall in a 2008 one-man play.
Why you should book a ticket: The actors are in good hands with director Neil Pepe, 58, who’s also the artistic director of the Atlantic Theater Company, which Mamet cofounded in 1985.
The details: Circle in the Square Theatre, from March 22
The show: Funny Girl
The premise: Rumors had swirled for years that Broadway would soon be welcoming the first-ever revival of the 1964 biographical musical about actress Fanny Brice, which featured such hits as “People” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” And theater fans whispered about who might fill Barbra Streisand’s leopard-print coat. Lady Gaga? Glee’s Lea Michele? Producers went with an unexpected, if inspired, choice in Beanie Feldstein, whom you might recognize from her roles in Booksmart, Lady Bird and the last season of American Crime Story, in which she played Monica Lewinsky. Feldstein made her Broadway debut opposite Bette Midler in the 2017 revival of Hello, Dolly! — which, as luck would have it, premiered in the same Broadway season as Funny Girl, and went for 10 for 11 at the Tonys. (Funny Girl went 0 for 8.)
Why you should book a ticket: Five-time Emmy winner Jane Lynch, 61, will be playing Mrs. Rosie Brice.
The details: August Wilson Theatre, from March 26
The show: Macbeth
The premise: Hot off the James Bond franchise, Daniel Craig, 53, will appropriately take on Shakespeare’s bloodiest and most action-packed tragedy, aka “The Scottish Play,” in a new production by Tony-winning director Sam Gold. The actor and director last teamed up to tackle the Bard in an acclaimed off-Broadway production of Othello in 2016 that New York Times critic Ben Brantley, 67, called “electrifying,” “thrilling” and “terrifying.”
Why you should book a ticket: Ruth Negga, an Oscar favorite this year for her role in Passing, will star as Lady Macbeth. She made her New York stage debut in 2020 as another Shakespearean tragic hero: Hamlet.
The details: Longacre Theatre, from March 29
The show: How I Learned to Drive
The premise: Paula Vogel, 70, won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for drama for this challenging and moving memory play about a young woman named Li’l Bit who is sexually abused by her uncle from the ages of 11 to 18. Presented nonchronologically, using driving as a metaphor, the play is an unflinching look at guilt, power and trauma, and it’s finally making its way to Broadway after all these years. Will audiences be even more receptive to its powerful messages in the wake of #MeToo and Jeffrey Epstein?
Why you should book a ticket: The play’s original off-Broadway leads, Mary-Louise Parker (57) and David Morse (68), are reprising their roles, as is director Mark Brokaw.
The details: Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, from March 29
The show: The Skin of Our Teeth
The premise: Many Americans know Thornton Wilder for his Pulitzer-winning 1938 drama Our Town, but the playwright actually picked up two more of the awards in his long career: one for the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey in 1928 and another for the epic comedy The Skin of Our Teeth in 1943. Surreal and structurally audacious, the play follows one suburban family, the Antrobuses, over the course of thousands of years, as they deal with an Ice Age, a biblical flood and war, with plenty of unexpected twists and turns thrown in, including appearances by a dinosaur, a wooly mammoth and Moses. You’ll just have to see it for yourself.
Why you should book a ticket: The production is being helmed by Lincoln Center Theater’s new resident director, Lileana Blain-Cruz, who is often hailed as one of the most exciting young theater directors in New York.
The details: Beaumont Theater, from March 31
PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE TBA
The show: A Strange Loop
The premise: In May 2020, this strikingly creative work by Michael R. Jackson became only the 10th musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama in the award’s first 104 years. The twisty story follows a Black, queer writer named Usher who’s working as an usher at a Broadway musical while writing a musical called A Strange Loop about a Black, queer writer who’s working on a musical. (Got that?! We’re not sure we do, either!) Oh yeah, he’s also ghostwriting a new Tyler Perry play as his day job.
Why you should book a ticket: Usher is accompanied by six “Thoughts,” a Greek chorus of background singers who represent ideas such as self-loathing and sexual ambivalence, plus characters like his conservative Christian mother.
The details: Lyceum Theatre, opening dates to be announced
The Phantom of the Opera: On Jan. 26 — the 34th anniversary of the longest-running musical in Broadway history — actress Emilie Kouatchou will become the first Black actress to star permanently as Christine Daaé, after stepping into the role as an alternate last fall. Learn more and book it.
To Kill a Mockingbird: Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear, 58, makes his Broadway debut as Atticus Finch in the Aaron Sorkin (60) adaptation of the classic Harper Lee novel. Learn more and book it.
Wicked: The blockbuster prequel to The Wizard of Oz welcomes its first Black Glinda, Brittney Johnson, on Valentine’s Day. She’ll join another trailblazer, Transparent actress Alexandra Billings, 59, who plays Madame Morrible and is the first openly transgender actress in the cast. Learn more and book it.
Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine and his work has appeared in The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.