Serious Theater Hits Broadway—At a Price

Anchored by such old favorites as “Wicked” and “Beauty and the Beast,” Broadway did record-breaking business last year. It took in nearly $30 million in the last week alone. You may say that’s not surprising, considering that tickets run about $100 each. Nor will you be surprised to learn that producers, emboldened by all that success, have decided to hike the top ticket prices to $120 a seat. But there is good news. Broadway is now not just the home of big-budget movie musicals like “Hairspray” but once again a place to see some serious theater. Here are our picks for the hot new shows this winter and spring:

Journey's End by R.C. Sherriff (Belasco Theatre, opens Feb. 22)

The recent high-profile success of London imports such as “The History Boys” and “Democracy” has meant new opportunities for shows once considered too serious for the Great White Way. Based on Sheriff’s experiences in World War I, “Journey’s End” is not only a beautifully written drama about the horrors of war and the value and fragility of friendship, but a moving example of what can accomplished on a stage. Starring the truly dishy (and talented) Hugh Dancy, this promises to be a great night of theater.

Talk Radio by Eric Bogosian (Longacre Theatre, opens Feb. 25)

Though “Talk Radio” is loosely based on the real-life murder of Alan Berg in 1984, the nearly 20 years since its debut have seen the birth of cable news and the trials and tribulations of Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Tucker Carlson. Liev Schrieber (“The Manchurian Candidate,” “The Omen” and a 2005 Tony-award winner for “Glengarry Glenn Ross”) is due to take a star turn as the acerbic late-night talk-show host on the verge of national syndication and a nervous breakdown. (“Law and Order” fans, take note: playwright Eric Bogosian is now Captain Ross on “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” and this Broadway production stars Stephanie March, formerly of “Law and Order: SVU.”)

Curtains by John Kander, Fred Ebb and Rupert Holmes (Al Hirschfeld Theatre, opens March 22)

Hot off the success of its Los Angeles run, “Curtains” blows into town to give “Drowsy Chaperone” (also from L.A.) a run for its money. It’s a murder-mystery musical set in 1950’s Boston at (wait for it) the tryout of a new musical.  Musicals don’t have to make sense; their job is simply to serve the lyrics and the music. Rumor has it, David Hyde Pierce strides far from his past as Niles in “Frasier” as the singing and dancing Lieutenant Frank Cioffi.  If you like your musicals old-fashioned and in no way based on film, this is the season’s choice for you.

The Year Of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (Booth Theatre, opens March 29)

Vanessa Redgrave, the subject of so much Oscar buzz for her performance in the film “Venus,” is coming to Broadway in what may be this season’s most highly anticipated show. Based on Joan Didion’s award-winning memoir of the same name, “The Year of Magical Thinking” is a one-woman show that tells the story of the sudden death of Didion’s husband and the very serious illness of her daughter. The book was praised for its honesty and humor and indeed, Didion turned her grief into a literary tour de force that at once explicates and forgives the overwhelming eccentricity of sadness.  If this seems like an unlikely choice for the theater, consider Redgrave. It will be a pleasure to see one of our finest actors bring this to life.