(Bloomberg) -- This fall, it feels as if big-deal productions are cropping up in theaters of all sizes around the city of New York, with such screen stars as Aubrey Plaza, Josh Gad and Sarah Paulson hitting the stage and works by playwrights and choreographers meeting their first audiences.
Continuing a strong trend since theaters reopened after pandemic lockdowns, a wave of stories by Black artists (both contemporary and historical) is being conveyed on the stage, from JaJa’s African Hair Braiding to Purlie Victorious to Hell’s Kitchen, a new musical featuring the songs of pop star Alicia Keys.
Even Stephen Sondheim, who died in 2021, will have three productions running at once: The smash revival of Sweeney Todd, with Josh Groban and Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford, continues to be one of the town’s hottest tickets; Merrily We Roll Along, starring Jonathan Groff, Lindsay Mendez and Daniel Radcliffe, is rolling with sold-out shows; and Sondheim’s last, unfinished work, Here We Are, will receive a staging at the Shed under the eye of director Joe Mantello.
There is so much to see. Start booking tickets now and you’ll have a full calendar through the holidays.
JaJa’s African Hair Braiding
Where: Samuel J. Friedman TheatreWhen: Through Oct. 29
A decade ago, Jocelyn Bioh was a Broadway actor before she turned to writing and made a splash with the much-admired, sharply comic off-Broadway hit School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play. This fall, she makes her Broadway debut as a playwright with JaJa’s African Hair Braiding, set in a single day in a Harlem hair-braiding salon where neighborhood women commiserate about life and love while their hair is transformed into magnificent coifs.
Gutenberg! The Musical
Where: James Earl Jones TheatreWhen: Through Jan. 28
It’s been a dozen years since Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad starred in the audacious smash The Book of Mormon and established a Broadway bromance for the ages. Now the pair returns in this equally goofy two-hander, which had a successful off-Broadway run in 2006, about novice theater-makers who write a musical about the inventor of the printing press and try to attract investors. Rannells and Gad play dozens of characters to chaotic comedic effect.
Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch
Where: Music Box TheatreWhen: Through Jan. 7
Leslie Odom Jr., best known for his Tony Award-winning turn as Aaron Burr in Hamilton, returns to Broadway in this scathing comedy about a preacher’s efforts to reclaim his inheritance. The play was penned by the legendary Ossie Davis, who starred in the original 1963 production with his equally accomplished wife, Ruby Dee. Her role will be played by the delightful Kara Young, a standout in last year’s Cost of Living.
Here We Are
Where: The ShedWhen: Sept. 28 – Jan. 7
For more than a decade, Stephen Sondheim chipped away at an ambitious new musical based on two films by the influential surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel. Shortly before he died in 2021, he gave his blessing to the show, enabling his longtime collaborators—the playwright David Ives and director Joe Mantello—to forge ahead with this posthumous off-Broadway premiere. Meanwhile, Sondheim’s notoriously knotty but beloved 1981 musical Merrily We Roll Along is now on Broadway after a recent, acclaimed off-Broadway run, with Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez.
Fall for Dance
Where: New York City CenterWhen: Sept. 27 – Oct. 8
For 20 years, this annual autumn showcase has been the city’s premier sampler platter of dance. Five programs spread over two weeks give audiences a taste of myriad dance styles performed by top-notch local and international artists. Highlights this year include work by Crystal Pite performed by Ballet BC (Program 1); Spain’s virtuosic Sergio Bernal Dance Company (Program 2); excerpts from the pioneering hip-hop production Jam on the Groove (Program 3); and Brazil’s revered Grupo Corpo (Program 5).
New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre
Where: David H. Koch TheaterWhen: Through Oct. 15 (NYCB)/Oct. 18-29 (ABT)
City Ballet celebrates its 75th anniversary with a fall season entirely comprising works by its legendary co-founder, George Balanchine; it features five distinct programs that illustrate the stunning breadth of his artistry, from lush grandeur to sleek neoclassicism. American Ballet Theatre will then move into the Koch Theater with an eclectic lineup whose highlights include Jiří Kylián’s ravishing, Petite Mort; Frederick Ashton’s The Dream; and On the Dnipro, a 2009 meditation on love and war by the renowned Ukrainian choreographer Alexei Ratmansky.
Where: The Public TheaterWhen: Begins Oct. 24
Nearly 10 years in the making, this new musical, inspired by the life of Grammy-winning artist Alicia Keys, finally arrives onstage. Hell’s Kitchen follows a 17-year-old girl’s turbulent adolescence in a New York housing complex and features some of Keys’s hit songs, as well as new material she wrote for the production. Directed by Michael Grief (Rent) and arriving with comparable buzz in the theater where Hamilton was born, it has raised high expectations.
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea
Where: Lucille Lortel TheatreWhen: Oct. 30 – Jan. 7
Fresh off an internet-breaking, Emmy-nominated turn in the second season of White Lotus, Aubrey Plaza makes her stage debut in this off-Broadway revival of John Patrick Shanley’s 1984 two-person play Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, already one of the season’s hottest tickets. Christopher Abbot plays the volatile stranger she meets in a Bronx dive bar, and together they embark on a brutal romantic roller coaster of violence, tenderness and musings about the nature of love.
How to Dance in Ohio
Where: Belasco TheatreWhen: Begins Nov. 15
This season’s most intriguing, original and poignant new musical, based on Alexandra Shiva’s 2015 documentary of the same name, follows a group of young autistic adults at a counseling center in Columbus, Ohio, as they prepare for a spring formal and confront their social anxieties. Much of the creative team is making Broadway debuts, as are several cast members, including the seven autistic actors who originated their principal roles in a warmly received, out-of-town production last year in Syracuse, New York.
Where: Helen Hayes TheaterWhen: Begins Nov. 29
For years, the playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins has been crafting some of America’s most startling theater. Now, the two-time Pulitzer finalist will make his Broadway debut with this 2013 play about a dysfunctional family that gathers in Arkansas following its patriarch’s death. Naturally, secrets surface and the family grapples with its past, which leads to an unraveling that Jacobs-Jenkins renders with stinging wit. And Sarah Paulson stars.
The Rite of Spring: common ground(s)
Where: Park Avenue ArmoryWhen: Nov. 29 – Dec. 14
It seems as if every choreographer has made a version of The Rite of Spring, the infamous ballet that first made waves in 1913, in part because of Stravinsky’s shocking score. Pina Bausch’s feverish 1975 take, considered a masterpiece, will be performed here by an ensemble of 36 dancers from 14 African countries. It will be accompanied by common ground(s), a new work by the eminent Senegalese choreographer Germaine Acogny and the former Bausch dancer Malou Airaudo that acts as a response and antidote.
Dance at the Perelman
Where: PAC-NYC: Perelman Performing Arts CenterWhen: Various dates
The inaugural lineup of New York’s gorgeous new performance space at the World Trade Center includes a trio of compelling dance offerings: The world premiere of Watch Night, directed and choreographed by Bill T. Jones, mixes opera and poetry with Jones’s evocative moves (Nov. 3-18); Is It Thursday Yet? stars Jenn Freeman in an autobiographical work about her autism diagnosis and is directed and choreographed by Sonya Tayeh (Dec. 8-23); and The March, an exploration of collective movement by the esteemed choreographers Tendayi Kuumba, Annie-B Parson and Donna Uchizono (Dec. 10-16).
Florencia en el Amazonas
Where: The Metropolitan OperaWhen: Nov. 16 – Dec. 14
Daniel Catan’s beloved 1996 opera gets a brand-new production from Mary Zimmerman. In one of the contemporary repertoire’s rare Spanish-language pieces, viewers follow a diva’s trip into the Amazon in search of her lost lover in a tale inflected with magical realism. Its lush, soaring score will be conducted by the Met music director Yannick Nezet Seguin, and real-life diva Ailyn Pérez will star.
--With assistance from James Tarmy.
(Corrects spelling of Daniel Radcliffe’s name in third paragraph.Corrects program number for Jam on the Groove in Fall for Dance Section.)
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