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The 9 Shows You Need to See in New York This Fall

These are the shows on and off-Broadway I am most looking forward to seeing.

Theater is back! And considering what's playing in New York City this fall, it's back with a vengeance. These are the 9 shows I'm most excited to see in the coming months. Whether you're looking for a trenchant new drama, a very musical evening, or you just want to laugh your ass off (yes, please) there is something on this list for you.

Anthony Roth Costanzo and Justin Vivian Bond star in Only an Octave Apart.
(© Ruvén Afanador)

1. Only an Octave Apart (first performance September 21)
Theater audiences likely already know Justin Vivian Bond, "Kiki" of Kiki & Herb and the grand doyenne of the New York cabaret scene. But they should also know Anthony Roth Costanzo, the opera star who made a big splash in the lavish Met production of Akhnaten. Costanzo is a countertenor, which is the highest male voice in music. Mx. Bond's range is...not quite that high. The two artists represent two different voices from two very different musical disciplines — but can they come together to make something beautiful? Can they find the connection between Purcell's 17th-century aria "Dido's Lament" and Dido's early 2000s radio hit "White Flag?" I can't wait to find out.

2. The Visitor (first performance October 7)
This musical adaptation of Thomas McCarthy's 2007 film about a widowed college professor who gets wrapped up in the fight to keep two young undocumented immigrants from being deported features an A-list cast and creative team. Tony winner David Hyde Pierce (Curtains) will play Walter, the college professor, while Tony winner Ari'el Stachel (The Band's Visit) will play Tarek. The score is by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (Next To Normal), with a book by Yorkey and Kwame Kwei-Armah (Elmina's Kitchen) and direction by Daniel Sullivan (nearly every Shakespeare in the Park). This was set to open last year at the Public's Newman Theater (original home of Hamilton and Fun Home), so to say that it is the most highly anticipated new musical in New York is an understatement.

3. Caroline, or Change (first performance October 8)
This is one of those musicals that didn't quite take off on Broadway, but about which people still speak wistfully. With music by Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home) and book/lyrics by Tony Kushner (Angels in America), it tells the story of Caroline, a Black maid working for a Jewish family in 1963 Louisiana, just as the civil rights movement is about to change America forever. One of my greatest regrets is never seeing the original production, but when I arrived in New York at the end of summer 2004, it was already gone. This new production at Studio 54 for the Roundabout Theatre Company is an opportunity for Broadway audiences to experience a musical that many people feel never got a fair shake, and perhaps rediscover a lost gem that was ahead of its time.

Michael Benjamin Washington starred in the 2019 Signature Theatre revival of Anna Deavere Smith's Fires in the Mirror.
(© Joan Marcus)

4. Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 (first performance October 12)
Anna Deavere Smith interviewed over 350 Angelenos for this sweeping theatrical documentary about the 1992 Rodney King beating, a shocking incident of police brutality caught on camera that led to protests and riots — nearly three decades before George Floyd became a household name. 1992 was also the year that Smith created her acclaimed documentary play about the Crown Heights race riots, Fires in the Mirror, which was revived off-Broadway in 2019 at Signature Theatre. Smith returns to Signature for this new play about a seemingly old subject, which is distressingly still as relevant as ever.

Jackie Hoffman is one of the many hilarious actors appearing in Fairycakes.
(© David Gordon)

5. Fairycakes (first performance October 14)
If you need a laugh, this looks like a promising ticket. From the mind of Douglas Carter Beane (The Little Dog Laughed, The Nance) comes this wild mash-up of A Midsummer Night's Dream and multiple classic fairytales. It features an all-star cast of some of the best stage comedians in the country, including Jackie Hoffman (The Addams Family), Ann Harada (Avenue Q), Arnie Burton (Peter and the Starcatcher), Julie Halston (everything by Charles Busch), Mo Rocca (The Daily Show), Chris Myers (An Octoroon), and Jason Tam (Be More Chill). I will be shocked if there is any unmasticated scenery left by the end of this run.

Rob McClure stars in Mrs. Doubtfire on Broadway.
(© Joan Marcus)

6. Mrs. Doubtfire (first performance October 21)
I've been looking forward to this one for over two years now. The 1993 Robin Williams film about a father who disguises himself as a British nanny in order to circumvent the terms of his custody agreement regularly played on repeat in my childhood home. While the new Broadway musical performed three previews in March 2020, Covid put an end to all of that — until now. The musical represents the sophomore outing of the creative team behind Something Rotten (who did pretty darn well for their freshman musical). It stars Rob McClure, a replacement in Something Rotten and one of Broadway's nicest guys. Mrs. Doubtfire promises to be a night of rip-roaring musical comedy, which is something you might be in the market for after a grueling year-and-a-half.

Ade Otukoya, Emana Rachelle, Sandra Okuboyejo, Abena, Nana Mensah, and Charlie Hudson III star in Jocelyn Bioh's Nollywood Dreams, directed by Saheem Ali, at MCC Theater.
(© Caitlin McNaney)

7. Nollywood Dreams (first performance October 21)
Another holdover from the before times, Jocelyn Bioh's newest comedy takes place in the boom times of Nigerian cinema — the 1990s. It's about an aspiring ingenue trying to break into the business and the aging star who stands in her way. Could this be All About Eve à la Lagos? Bioh struck comic gold in her 2017 debut, School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play, which was set in 1980s Ghana (costume designers love her). Her fresh take on Shakespeare's Merry Wives was also the perfect way to welcome back New York audiences to Shakespeare in the Park. Bioh is one of America's funniest, shrewdest playwrights, and that makes Nollywood Dreams a must-see.

Uzo Aduba leads the cast of Lynn Nottage's Clyde's on Broadway.
(© David Gordon)

8. Clyde's (first performance November 3)
When a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner has a new play on Broadway, attention must be paid, which is why Lynn Nottage's Clyde's has a big red circle around it in my calendar. Nottage is the writer of Ruined and Sweat, as well as the forthcoming Michael Jackson bio-musical on Broadway. Clyde's is about a truck stop sandwich shop staffed by the formerly incarcerated. It stars Uzo Aduba (Orange Is the New Black) and Edmund Donovan, who has become one of my favorite actors following his breathtaking performances in Greater Clements and Lewiston/Clarkston. Nottage has a gift for dramatizing the lives of the most marginalized in our society, so I am glad that she has made room on Broadway for a group of Americans who are routinely excluded — often through the insidious device of a box on an employment application.

Babak Tafti starred in Sylvia Khoury's Against the Hillside at Ensemble Studio Theatre in 2018. The actor and playwright reunite for Selling Kabul at Playwrights Horizons.
(© Gerry Goodstein)

9. Selling Kabul (first performance November 17)
Sylvia Khoury's latest play is about Taroon, a translator for the US military in Afghanistan who has been left behind by the recent withdrawal of troops, and who spends his days in hiding from the Taliban. The consistently compelling actor Babak Tafti (Othello, The Profane) stars as Taroon. Khoury impressed me with her dramatization of individuals swimming against the riptide of global events in her 2019 drama, Power Strip, about Syrian refugees in Greece. Selling Kabul was announced before the sudden collapse of Afghanistan's forces, and recent events have made this already timely play even more urgent.