It’s marquee season on Broadway — the moment just before spring shows go into full swing, and freshly postered theaters taunt their half-baked wares to hungry passers-by. Every new show is a potential hit, and this sense of promise makes a theater-lover giddy with ticket-buying anticipation.
What to see first is the real question: “How to Succeed,” starring a wandless Daniel Radcliff? Or “Book of Mormon,” whose workshops were such a smash that reviews might be irrelevant? (As the show’s pervasive ad material frequently reminds us, “Vogue” has already surmised that “Mormon” might be “the funniest musical of all time.”) Then, of course, there’s “Catch Me if You Can,” the new project from the team behind that most rapturous of musical-theater perfections, “Hairspray.” Can they live up to their poppy, Tony-gilded reputation? Let’s hope so!
Lest one think that musicals hold sole sway over the artistic fate of Times Square, let’s not forget about the plays. To name a few of the spring’s more tantalizing offerings, there’s “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” (Robin Williams goes feline), “Jerusalem” (Mark Rylance in yet another tour-de-force) and “Arcadia” (Byron meets physics meets Stoppard).
“Good People,” from David Lindsay-Abaire by way of MTC, has already delivered on its pre-season promise. Get tickets now — this classically structured tragi-comedy is already selling out. Like last year’s “Time Stands Still” (also directed by Daniel Sullivan), “Good People” proves that fourth-wall, realistic theater is never old-fashioned. In this month’s “Playbill,” Lindsay-Abaire says “Good People” is about “the myth in America that anyone can accomplish anything if they just work hard enough.” The play pits über-talent Frances McDormand against equally good Tate Donovan — to spellbinding effect. Both actors’ characters started in low-class, “Southie” Boston, but one managed to get out and find success. Choice, luck, and the integrity of the American dream are explored in what is ultimately an enormously satisfying night of theater.
Of course, these Broadway shows are the tip of the iceberg that is New York Theater. Off-Broadway’s gestating hits are no less tempting. (Tony Kushner at the Public? Lynn Nottage at Second Stage? Arin Arbus, Sam Gold, Adam Rapp, Alex Timbers, and Geoffrey Rush? Too much talent! Too much!)
But it’s Broadway’s new marquees that symbolize the hope for what lies ahead. Shiny, untested, and pristine, they beckon us to their empty, satiny caverns. I, for one, can’t wait for the spelunking ahead.