This is one of the busiest Octobers I can recall in the theater. With so many great shows happening at one time in New York, how do you decide what to see? Here are the six shows I'm most excited about seeing, with explanations why.
1. Slave Play (currently running)
There is a deep, unsettling connection between the taboo and the erotic — and Slave Play exposes that link for the entire world to see (or, at least, everyone in the Golden Theatre). A giant splash of a New York debut for writer Jeremy O. Harris, Slave Play was the most controversial play off-Broadway last winter when it ran at New York Theatre Workshop. It was also an extremely hard-to-get ticket. You can see why for yourself in this Broadway transfer — another first for the outspoken 30-year-old playwright.
2. The Glass Menagerie (October 3-20)
I know, I know…this Tennessee Williams memory play about heavenly potential and crushing disappointment has been revived to death (thrice on Broadway in the last 15 years). But you've never quite seen it like this. Lovingly dubbed "spooky Glass Menagerie," this promises to be the most chilling version you've ever seen — just in time for Halloween! Austin Pendleton, one of the foremost interpreters of Williams, helms the show with his Wars of the Roses codirector Peter Bloch. Matt de Rogatis (who played Richard III in that production) takes on the central role of Tom.
3. La Breve Y Maravillosa Vida de Oscar Wao (performances begin October 12)
Repertorio Español commissioned this world-premiere Spanish-language adaptation of Junot Díaz's 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. It's about Oscar, an overweight Dominican-American nerd growing up in New Jersey, who dreams of writing fantasy fiction and designing role-playing games. The novel sprawls to reveal the backstory of his family, and the larger Dominican diaspora. That's a difficult thing to stage, but Repertorio has proven over the last half-century that it can fit the entire world within its intimate theater. Don't worry if you don't speak Spanish: All of Repertorio's shows are performed with English titles.
4. Soft Power (currently running)
This new musical takes the form of a fever dream in which a Chinese theater producer (played by Conrad Ricamora) journeys to the United States and falls in love with Hillary Clinton. (Do you think she'll come see the show?) The innovative libretto is by David Henry Hwang (Tony winner for M. Butterfly), with music and additional lyrics by Jeanine Tesori (Tony winner for Fun Home). This is an A-list creative team mounting a form-defying show in the theater that hosted the original productions of Hamilton and Fun Home — meaning it's almost certain to be the most talked-about new musical of the year.
5. Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation (currently running)
For 37 years, Gerard Alessandrini has been keeping Broadway fans in stitches with this irreverent musical revue. Whether he's taking aim at show like La Cage aux Folles in "I Ham What I Ham," or performers like Mandy Patinkin in "Super-Frantic-Hyper-Active-Self-Indulgent-Mandy" (a spoof on "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"), Alessandrini puts into song what most people would only whisper as they speed-walk down Shubert Alley. After the rousing success of Alessandrini's last show, Spamilton: An American Parody, audiences will be eager to see what he skewers next — can we expect a roast of Woke-lahoma!?
6. Little Shop of Horrors (currently running)
Written by the extraordinary team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin), Little Shop of Horrors is about a sad-sack florist who is given an offer he cannot refuse by a bloodthirsty plant. It's Faust with an all-American score, and it is probably the reason I love musical theater so much (I wore out my VHS copy of the 1986 film adaptation when I was a kid). This first-rate off-Broadway revival stars Jonathan Groff, Tammy Blanchard, and Christian Borle. Book now: Tickets have been selling faster than lilies from Mushnik's Flower Shop.