Tantalizing stars, musicals spun from novels or movies, impressive displays of acting versatility: Those are the treats headed for Broadway stages this fall and winter, with more of the same to come in the spring.
Those who want more big-name bang for their Broadway bucks — and top ticket prices are often $150 or more for an orchestra seat — are zeroing in on the revival of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, which features blond Bond Daniel Craig, his movie-star wife, Rachel Weisz (in her Broadway debut) and British actor Rafe Spall, with celeb director Mike Nichols staging the production. Billy Crystal is doing a limited run of his Tony Award-winning, justifiably acclaimed solo show 700 Sundays back to Broadway.
Denzel Washington, who scored a Tony Award for his Broadway debut in Fences, is the reason to see the newest revival of A Raisin in the Sun, which also features Diahann Carroll in a long-past-due return to Broadway. Movie hottie Orlando Bloom is wooing Condola Rashad in a new production of Romeo and Juliet, and Ethan Hawke is getting his Shakespearean fix in a new production of Macbeth. Small screen-to-stage headliners include Weeds star Mary-Louise Parker in the new play The Snow Geese and Will & Grace (and Smash) star Debra Messing in Outside Mulligar.
Two different experiences of plays in repertory will give those who love to savor a great actor’s versatility the chance to do just that. The star-driven pairing of Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart (with Billy Crudup and Shuler Hensley ) will probe the mysteries of Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Tony Award winner Mark Rylance takes an even bigger stretch in two of Shakespeare’s works, playing the misshapen monarch in Richard III and Countess Olivia in Twelfth Night.
Folks who think Broadway means musicals have an eclectic bunch of new ones to consider. The ultra-talented director-choreographer Susan Stroman has brought Big Fish, based on Tim Burton’s hit movie, to life. Idina Menzel has a mini reunion with Rent castmate Anthony Rapp and director Michael Greif in If/Then by the Pulitzer-winning Next to Normal creators. Carole King’s decades of hit songs get celebrated in Beautiful, and Mary Bridget Davies evokes a singular singer in A Night With Janis Joplin.
Rocky gets a musical makeover, as do Bullets Over Broadway and The Bridges of Madison County. The Cotton Club comes back to life in After Midnight, with a rotating cast of stars. Or, for a reliable revival, try the revamped Cabaret, which returns to Studio 54 with Alan Cumming re-creating his Tony-winning performance as the Emcee and movie star Michelle Williams as sad chanteuse Sally Bowles.
As enticing as some of the upcoming Broadway shows are, if you’re a real theater lover, you know that Off-Broadway plays and musicals can be just as good (or better). While you can see the Broadway Romeo and Juliet, the Classic Stage Company (www.classicstage.org) is featuring up-and-coming movie star Elizabeth Olsen in its production through Nov. 3. The extravagantly creative, imaginative Julie Taymor offers her take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Theater for a New Audience (www.tfana.org) in Brooklyn Oct. 19-Jan. 12. Blythe Danner and Sarah Jessica Parker star in Amanda Peet’s new play The Commons of Pensacola at Manhattan Theater Club’s City Center Stage I Oct. 21-Jan. 5. Two brilliant British actors, Eileen Atkins and Michael Gambon, perform the Trevor Nunn-adapted Samuel Beckett radio play All That Fall at 59E59 Theaters (www.59e59.org) Nov. 5-Dec. 8. Frank Langella tackles one of the great Shakespearean roles, King Lear, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (www.bam.org) Jan. 7-Feb. 9.