The 11 Most Exciting Shows Opening in New York This Fall
Here are TheaterMania's picks for the new season.
Autumn in New York brings a deluge of new productions to the theater capital of the world. You can't possibly see them all (although you can certainly read about all of them on our comprehensive listings page). For those pressed for time and money, we've narrowed the list down to 10 shows that ought to be on your radar. These are the most promising new musicals, plays, and theatrical experiences from some of the best minds currently working in the theater.
1. KPOP (Begins September 5)
If you loved The Great Comet and Here Lies Love, this is a show you're going to want to see. A giant cast takes us on an immersive trip through a Korean pop music factory in what promises to be the wildest new musical of the season. It features a score by Helen Park and Max Vernon (the composer of last season's The View UpStairs). KPOP is a production of Ars Nova (the original home of The Great Comet) in association with Ma-Yi Theater and Woodshed Collective. Welcome to the golden age of the immersive musical.
2. Oh My Sweet Land (Begins September 8)
The Play Company brings theater into community kitchens and private homes all across the five boroughs this fall. Our protagonist makes Syrian kubbah while telling us about a love affair that took her to Lebanon, Jordan, and into the heart of war-torn Syria. Writer-director Amir Nizar Zuabi and Corinne Jaber were inspired to write this play by a series of interviews they conducted with Syrian refugees. This intimate traveling solo show, starring Nadine Malouf, promises to be one of the most memorable events of the year.
3. Torch Song (Begins September 26)
With Torch Song Trilogy, Harvey Fierstein asserted himself as a theatrical force to be reckoned with. The three plays follow drag performer Arnold Beckoff as he navigates the perilous waters of New York City in the late '70s and early '80s. Fierstein wrote and starred in the original 1982 Broadway run, which played an incredible 1,222 performances. Michael Urie (who wowed audiences last season with his comic panache in The Government Inspector) stars as Arnold in this off-Broadway revival, which is simply labeled Torch Song. The top-notch cast includes Michael Rosen (Dot), Jack DiFalco (Marvin's Room), and Academy Award winner Mercedes Ruehl. This show promises to be one of those unforgettable nights at the theater.
4. Junk (Begins October 5)
Ayad Akhtar emerged as one of America's most astute and provocative new playwrights with Disgraced, his domestic drama about Islam and identity. His latest play is set in the world of high finance in the 1980s and tackles another controversial subject: the moment when America stopped making stuff and started trading debt. Set to open on Broadway at the Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater, it follows junk-bond visionary Robert Merkin (a name that sounds suspiciously similar to Michael Milken) and his hostile takeover of a fabled manufacturing firm. Junk has been described as a cross between The Big Short and one of Shakespeare's histories.
5. The Band's Visit (Begins October 7)
This new musical from David Yazbek (The Full Monty) and Itamar Moses (The Fortress of Solitude) was one of the most acclaimed shows of last season when it was presented at Atlantic Theater Company. Based on the eponymous independent film, it's about an Egyptian police band that gets lost on the way to a concert in Israel and ends up in a small town with no hotel, meaning they have to rely on the kindness of strangers until the next bus arrives in the morning. Director David Cromer's production is transferring to Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theatre, where it will undoubtedly earn scores of new fans with its quiet resonance. Winner of three 2017 Drama Desk Awards, there's already talk of The Band's Visit as a strong contender for the 2018 Tonys.
6. Illyria (Begins October 22)
If you've ever attended a performance of the Public Theater's free Shakespeare in the Park and wondered how something like that ever came to be in a city as money-driven as this one, you need to see this play. It tells the story of Public Theater founder Joseph Papp and his battles with the powerful urban planner and parks commissioner Robert Moses, who saw the crowds of theatergoers as detrimental to Central Park. He demanded Papp charge admission to help offset the cost of reseeding the grass. Considering how Shakespeare in the Park continues to entertain the masses completely gratis, we can see who won out in the end. The play comes from writer-director Richard Nelson, whose Apple and Gabriel family plays have garnered a dedicated following at the Public Theater over the last decade.
7. School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play (Begins November 2)
The title of this play is enough to pique our interest, but the team behind it seals the deal. Off-Broadway audiences know Jocelyn Bioh as an actor who has appeared in several plays by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (her performance as God in last season's Everybody was particularly memorable). This marks her first major New York production as a playwright. Set in an exclusive Ghanaian boarding school, it takes a deep dive into the things girls share (and pointedly don't share) around the world. Rebecca Taichman, who won the 2017 Tony Award for her direction of Paula Vogel's Indecent, helms this production at MCC.
8. Meteor Shower (Begins November 1)
Who could resist a new play by Steve Martin? The American Renaissance man and Bright Star composer returns to Broadway with a new comedy about two married couples having a home dinner date that is described by press material as "a marital free-fall matched in velocity and peril only by the smoldering space rocks tearing through the sky." Amy Schumer makes her Broadway debut with an all-star cast that includes Laura Benanti, Keegan-Michael Key (also making his Broadway debut), and Alan Tudyk. The whole thing sounds like the swinging version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? that Edward Albee probably really wanted to write, but was too restrained to attempt. Bring your popcorn.
9. Pride and Prejudice (Begins November 7)
Primary Stages presents Jane Austen's 1813 tale of two things people still obsess about in 2017: love and money. Elizabeth Bennet comes from the landed English gentry, insular people obsessed with "good" marriages who don't generally appreciate her clever, independent spirit. The ironic exception might be the most eligible bachelor of all, Mr. Darcy. Writer-performer Kate Hamill has proved herself to be off-Broadway's foremost distiller of Brit lit: She penned the popular 2016 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility and last season's Vanity Fair. Pride and Prejudice follows the patter of those two hits, with just eight actors playing multiple roles.
10. Describe the Night (Begins November 10)
In 2010, a plane carrying most of the Polish government (including President Lech Kaczynski) crashed near the Russian city of Smolensk. A cloud of suspicion and distrust still hangs over this tragic incident, with Polish investigators recently revealing the grisly discovery that body parts of the victims were haphazardly mixed up before being placed into coffins in Russia. This wide-ranging and ambitious work by acclaimed playwright Rajiv Joseph (Guards at the Taj) attempts to tie that event to 90 years of Russian history and myth. In a time when everyone seems to be divided by facts and alternative facts, Joseph explores the nascence of our discord in this New York debut at the Atlantic Theater Company. This is a play for the post-truth era.
11. Farinelli and the King (Begins December 5)
Written by Claire van Kampen, this Broadway play stars the playwright's husband, Mark Rylance, as King Philip V of Spain. It charts the fascinating and uncommon relationship between the depressed monarch and a renowned Italian castrato — that's a male opera singer able to sing female vocal parts due to the surgical removal of certain male parts before puberty. Those who caught Rylance in repertory productions of Shakespeare's Richard III and Twelfth Night (his Olivia was the best I've ever seen) know that one should never pass up an opportunity to see him onstage. This is the ticket every theater maniac will want in their stocking this holiday season.