Broadway enters 2023 with atypical caution after rocky fall


NEW YORK — After a bruising fall 2022 that saw several new shows fail and lots of unanswered questions about the fragile fiscal state of New York’s theater biz, Broadway is entering 2023 with atypical caution.

The typically slower winter season is set to be even quieter than normal, with only one Broadway production, Sharr White’s “Pictures From Home,” currently slated to open before the spring breakers appear with their parents’ credit cards in hand.

Serious theatergoers will get Nathan Lane, Zoe Wanamaker and Danny Burstein, no less, in a very promising play based on the evocative 1992 visual memoir of photographer Larry Sultan. Other than that, everyone else on Broadway will just try and make it through the cold. Good luck to all of them.

But come March, those adorable theater kids will arrive with the certainty of cherry blossoms, ready to resuscitate Broadway from its likely winter doldrums.

What will they find?

“Bad Cinderella,” for one.

The addition of that adjective to the title of the Broadway engagement of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new London production of “Cinderella” likely is intended as a kind of insurance policy for a self-declared “unconventional” fairy tale retelling with detractors on the other side of the pond but a hip sense of its own import. But it could be tough on the family market, which the show might well need. Time will tell on the whole badness thing.

The new Lloyd-Webber musical, which features an original story and book by Emerald Fennell, lyrics by David Zippel and direction from Laurence Connor (who did fine worked rehabilitating the touring version of “Les Miserables” some years ago), opens March 22, just a few days after the much-anticipated revival of “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’.”

This fine tribute to the legend of dancing has been “reimagined” with precision and definition by Wayne Cilento, a trouper who was part of the original Broadway cast in 1978. That production notched 1,744 performances — a huge run for the time — and the new producers will be hoping for a similar engagement.

They have a shot: Fosse the man is much better known now by civilians than was the case in the 1970s. That’s why “Dancin’” has become “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’.” There’s music by Neil Diamond in the show, by the way, which should please fans of “A Beautiful Noise,” the Neil show currently playing on Broadway.

Two more revivals of iconic Stephen Sondheim musicals are slated for 2023. First up is the new production of “Sweeney Todd,” the story of a barber who likes to cut throats, sure, but also a salon filled with some of the Great One’s sweetest melodies, not least of which is “Johanna,” perhaps his most plaintive and haunting melody. Josh Groban will be providing the filler for the meat pies, alongside the ever-versatile Annaleigh Ashford as Mrs. Lovett.

Although popular all over the world, “Sweeney” (written with Hugh Wheeler) has not been on Broadway for more than 40 years. The new production will be staged by “Hamilton” director Thomas Kail and features movement from the always unpredictable Steven Hoggett and music supervision from the inimitable Alex Lacamore, who (in my book) has done more than any other single individual to update Broadway’s sound.

The cast of "Merrily We Roll Along" by Roundabout Theatre Company.

Come fall, Daniel Radcliffe, Jonathan Groff and the rest of the once-optimistic crew will be on Broadway with “Merrily We Roll Along,” which was simply fabulous this past fall at the New York Theatre Workshop. Can’t wait for it to get there from here, as they sing in the show.

Also in March: “Life of Pi,” a new play by Lolita Chakrabarti, adapted from the novel by Yann Martel. Most people, of course, know the story from the wonderful 2012 movie which won four Academy Awards.

April tends to be Broadway’s busiest month — thanks to the Tony deadline, which gets far too much attention in my view — and the slate that month includes a new, Nashville-flavored musical comedy called “Shucked” (another show with a title tempting critics to pun a little); Bartlett Sher’s Lincoln Center big-budget revival of “Camelot” (ah, Camelot!) starring Andrew Burnap, Jordan Donica and Phillipa Soo; and a brand new musical by the nonagenarian John Kander (still working!) and the late Fred Ebb titled “New York, New York.”

That last show, which looks well suited not just to tourists but to everyone in love with old-school Gotham, was inspired by the 1977 Martin Scorsese film of the same name and is to be directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman. Set just after World War II, the show’s multiple, collagelike storylines will follow an array of New Yorkers. Many of the songs are new (Lin-Manuel Miranda is involved) and some are from one of the best trunks in Broadway history.

Ben Rappaport as Jack Paar and Sean Hayes as Oscar Levant in Doug Wright’s "Good Night, Oscar" at the Goodman Theatre.

What else? Well, there likely will be more shows to be announced in January. Perhaps “The Notebook” will join the likes of “Good Night, Oscar,” a play about Oscar Levant which blew me away when I saw the Chicago premiere some months ago. Everyone in New York will be talking about Sean Hayes’ performance as the pianist, racounteur and free-speaking truth teller with much to teach us all. Trust me on this one: Hayes won’t be there for longfollowing the April opening, so don’t wait around.

Add in “Fat Ham,” a new Shakespearean deconstruction by James Ijames, the winner of the most recent Pulitzer Prize, Jodie Comer (killer in TV’s “Killing Eve”) in the legal drama “Prima Facie,” and, in the sultry days of summer, a jukebox musical dedicated to the song stylings of Britney Spears: “Once Upon a One More Time.”

As the great Tony Kushner once wrote: “The world only spins forward.” I’d suggest stopping it for a while and getting off for a Broadway show or two.

Chris Jones is a Tribune critic.

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