What to See? Why So Pricey? Our Theater Critics Have Your Answers

Sight unseen, Ben and Jesse, pick two shows that will be Tony-nominated next spring. GREG HUDSON

BEN BRANTLEY It seems safe to say that, regardless of the reviews it receives here, Matthew Lopez’s “The Inheritance,” opening in November at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, will receive a nod for Best Play. After all, this six-hour epic about gay men has the ambition (and the chutzpah) to style itself as a 21st-century heir to both “Angels in America” and “Howards End,” and critics and audiences alike swooned for it when it was previously staged in London.

Among musicals, the sumptuous “Moulin Rouge!” (which, admittedly, I’ve seen, twice) is guaranteed a slew of nominations — Best Musical and Best Actress (Karen Olivo), for sure, along with a lot for design. (It will miss out on best music and lyrics, since its score is made up of pre-existing pop hits.)

JESSE GREEN Aside from Ben’s predictions — and keeping to the “sight unseen” requirement, which for me eliminates “Jagged Little Pill” and “The Sound Inside” — I’d start with “Caroline, or Change,” the revival of Jeanine Tesori and Tony Kushner’s 2003 musical. The 2017 Chichester Festival Theater production, later a West End hit, is coming to the Roundabout Theater Company in March with Sharon D. Clarke in the gargantuan (and Tony-bait) title role.

And it’s hard to bet against Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” even if it’s a frequent Broadway visitor. The 1962 original and the 1976, 2005 and 2012 revivals have all netted Tony wins or at least nominations, and the one opening in the spring, directed by Joe Mantello, stars Laurie Metcalf and Rupert Everett. Enough said.

Can you tell us about must-see shows in London? HOLLY R.

BRANTLEY If you can make it to the Royal Court Theater before Oct. 12 (and I sure wish I could), you can catch the latest from Caryl Churchill, my choice for best living playwright in the English language. Its title is “Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp.,” and it is made up of four short plays about … well, literal description is kind of moot when it comes to Ms. Churchill. But it’s opened to great reviews and is directed by the playwright’s most eloquent interpreter of the moment, James Macdonald.

Will there be enough musicals with original music to compete for the Tony Awards? BARRY BRADFORD

GREEN If you are asking about the Best Score award, which honors original work only, the answer is almost certainly yes. Four shows that qualify for the category — “The Lightning Thief,” “Six,” “Diana” and “Flying Over Sunset” — have already been announced, and though the nominating committee has discretion to decide “whether a sufficient number of eligible candidates exist in quality or quantity to merit the granting of an award,” I’d be surprised if they nixed any.

If you are asking about the Best Musical award, the question is moot, because a show need not have an original score to be considered in that category. So the four named above will have to fight it out with four jukebox musicals: “Moulin Rouge!” “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” “Jagged Little Pill” and “Girl from the North Country,” all of which use pre-existing songs.

Two wild cards: “American Utopia,” David Byrne’s concert show, may or may not be considered in the Best Musical category. (Its score, however, is not original to the stage.) And it’s still possible that some as-yet-unannounced musicals (including “Almost Famous,” now testing the waters in San Diego) may open before the eligibility cutoff of April 23, thus expanding the options.

What are the three best “feel-good” shows (play or musical, new or old, Broadway or Off-) scheduled for New York City this fall? JUDITH M. KENNEDY

BRANTLEY Though I normally shudder at the thought of audience participation, the Broadway shows opening this season that are most likely to comfort and exhilarate at the same time do indeed involve such activity (although only with your consent). Both had previous, highly successful Off Broadway runs, so they are known quantities.

One is “Secret,” Derren Brown’s one-mentalist show at the Cort Theater, where he looks deep into the minds of theatergoers and somehow creates the illusion that those gathered there are all connected.

The other is “Freestyle Love Supreme,” at the Booth Theater, a show in which words and stories from the audience are woven, on the spot, into hip-hop rhythm and rhyme. Its creators are the incredibly talented Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail, the guys who brought us “Hamilton,” and the improv master Anthony Veneziale.

And if you’re a fan of the 2016 Irish movie “Sing Street,” which is celebrated for eliciting cozy feelings and happy tears, you’ll be pleased to hear that a stage adaptation is coming to New York Theater Workshop Off Broadway, with a team that auspiciously includes Enda Walsh (who did the book for the stage version of “Once”) and the director Rebecca Taichman, who won a Tony for Paula Vogel’s “Indecent” two years ago.

Do you see an end in sight for Broadway ticket prices? TOM ALTIZER

GREEN Sadly no. I think the top prices will keep going up, just as they do for movies, concerts and sporting events. But I do think it’s possible that producers will find innovative ways to offer a broader range of options for many shows, if not the biggest hits. I also hope that audiences who balk at luxury prices, even for luxury products, will consider the much better bargains (and often higher quality) of Off Broadway and beyond. They may even catch a “Hamilton” or “Dear Evan Hansen” while it’s still a steal.


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