Shakespeare may have died almost 400 years ago, but this season he’s the hottest writer both on and off Broadway. We’ve got two productions each of Romeo and Juliet, one with film heartthrob Orlando Bloom and the other with rising star Elizabeth Olsen. Macbeth will also get two productions, with the Scottish king played by Ethan Hawke or Kenneth Branagh (making his New York stage debut). There will also be an all-male cast staging Twelfth Night and Richard III, and an all-female cast for Julius Caesar (this one is also set in a women’s prison). Here’s a full rundown of Shakespeare’s works coming to stages all over New York.
Romeo and Juliet
Now playing through Jan. 12
The Bard’s timeless tale of young sweethearts torn apart by their warring families has not been seen on Broadway since 1987. In this new production, Orlando Bloom who has set hearts atwitter in two of the most popular film franchises of recent years—Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings—leaps onto the Broadway stage as Romeo. Opposite him is Tony nominee Condola Rashad, who switches from the lonely army bride in The Trip to Bountiful to the teenage Juliet, trembling on the brink of first passion. Director David Leveaux (Broadway revivals of Nine, The Real Thing, Anna Christie, Fiddler on the Roof) gives the story a contemporary setting and, to add to the tension, casts Romeo’s family as white and Juliet’s as African-American. Also starring are Tony winner Chuck Cooper (The Life) as Lord Capulet, Juliet’s stern father, Tony nominee Jayne Houdyshell (Well) as the caustic nurse, Tony winner Brent Carver (Kiss of the Spider Woman) as the faithful Friar Laurence, Obie winner Christian Camargo (Hamlet) as Mercutio, Romeo’s quick-witted comrade, and Obie and Lortel winner Rosyln Ruff (The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars) as Lady Capulet, Juliet’s mother.
Romeo and Juliet
In previews. Opens Oct. 16 for a limited run through Nov. 10
If you desire a more intimate rendering of Shakespeare, or wish to compare and contrast different perspectives on the same play, head downtown to the East Village for Classic Stage Company’s staging. This version will be directed by Tea Alagic and also employs a contemporary setting. Elizabeth Olsen emerged from the shadow of her famous sisters Mary-Kate and Ashley in the critically acclaimed Martha Marcy May Marlene and now performs the iconic role of Juliet opposite recent NYU grad Julian Chihi’s Romeo. Also starring are Emmy nominee T.R. Knight (Grey’s Anatomy) as Mercutio, Tony nominee Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent) as the Nurse, Daniel Davis (The Nanny, La Cage Aux Folles) as Friar Laurence, and David Garrison (Married with Children) as Lord Capulet. classicstage.org
Now playing through Nov. 10
The universal themes of power, corruption, and political intrigue render Julius Caesar adaptable to any time or country. Famous productions have transferred the setting from imperial Rome to fascist Europe, ancient Africa and contemporary times. This production is set in a women’s prison with an all-female cast, directed by Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!). And the cast is accompanied by a full metal band. Harriet Walter, who has played royalty on stage (Elizabeth I in Mary Stuart) and screen (Queen Adelaide in The Young Victoria), heads the cast as Brutus, the leader of the rebellion against Caesar. The show, which is being put on in conjunction with the U.K.’s Donmar Warehouse, found a perfect home at St. Ann’s Warehouse, the avant-garde off Broadway theater. stannswarehouse.org
Twelfth Night and Richard III
Previews begin Oct. 15. Open Nov. 10 for a limited run through Feb. 2, 2014
Almost as if to balance the sexual scorecard, the all-female Julius Caesar will be followed by an all-male cast in a repertory presentation of Twelfth Night and Richard III. The idea here is to replicate the theatrical experience from Shakespeare’s day, when all the roles were played by men (the stage was not seen as a fit place for women in the Elizabethan era). In addition, the lighting will be provided by 100 candles and an onstage orchestra will be playing period instruments. Two-time Tony winner Mark Rylance (Boeing-Boeing, Jerusalem) will give a stunningly versatile dual performance as the lady Olivia in Twelfth Night and the titular hunchback tyrant in Richard III, for which he earned raves in London at Shakespeare’s Globe. Also in the cast are actor-writer-comedian Stephen Fry (Wilde, Blackadder) as Malvolio, Olivia’s pompous butler, and Tony nominee and Drama Desk winner Samuel Barnett (The History Boys, HBO’s John Adams) in the female roles of Viola, who disguises herself as a male page in Twelfth Night, and Queen Elizabeth, Richard’s sister-in-law.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Oct. 19-Jan. 12, 2014
Tony winner Julie Taymor uses her brilliant theatrical imagination that brought The Lion King to the stage, for a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Bard’s beloved comedy of mismatched lovers. The production will launch Theater for a New Audience’s inaugural season at the new Center for Shakespeare and Classical Drama (tfana.org), located in Brooklyn. Oscar winner Elliot Goldenthal, who has collaborated with Taymor on numerous projects including the film versions of The Tempest and Titus, will compose the score. The cast includes Tina Benko, Max Cassella (The Sopranos, The Lion King), David Harewood, and Kathryn Hunter in a company of 36 actors. To underscore just how popular this piece of work is, the Metropolitan Opera is also staging Taymor’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream this season at Lincoln Center.
Previews begin Oct. 24. Opens Nov. 21 for a limited run through Jan. 12, 2014
It’s considered bad luck in theatrical circles to mention the name Macbeth backstage—many performers refer to Shakespeare’s tale of vaulted ambition and witchcraft simply as “The Scottish Play.” Yet it’s also one of the most sought-after roles in the classical repertory. Two major Macbeths can be seen this season. The first will star Ethan Hawke, returning to Lincoln Center after his triumphs there in Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia trilogy and the two-part Henry IV, both staged by Tony winner Jack O’Brien (Hairspray) who also directs this production. The cast also includes Anne-Marie Duff as the sleepwalking Lady Macbeth, Tony winner Richard Easton (The Invention of Love), Tony nominee Brian d’Arcy James (The Sweet Smell of Success, Shrek, Smash), Daniel Sunjata (Take Me Out), Jonny Orsini (The Nance), and, in an interesting bit of casting, Malcolm Gets, John Glover, and Byron Jennings as the three witches. Keep reading to find out more about the other upcoming Macbeth.
Opens Dec. 6
The Bard will be well represented at the opera as this season. The Metropolitan Opera will present Verdi’s musical take on The Merry Wives of Windsor with the jovial Sir John Falstaff pursuing the clever ladies who are out to make a fool of him. This production will be the first new Falstaff the Met has presented since 1964 and is set in the English countryside in the mid-20th century. This is one of music director James Levine’s favorite scores and he conducts it for the first time since 2005.
Antony and Cleopatra
Feb. 18-March 23, 2014
Off Broadway’s Public Theater is a hotbed of theatrical innovation and later this season, the company will collaborate with Miami’s Gable Stage and Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company for a “radical new staging” of this story of the legendary Egyptian queen and her love affair with the noble Roman general. Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney (Choir Boy, The Brother/Sister Plays, Wig Out) directs the production, which will be set in the late 1700s in Saint-Domingue on the eve of the Haitian Revolution against the French. The cast consists of actors from both the U.S. and the U.K., with the title roles taken by the British Jonathan Cake (Medea) and the American Joaquina Kalukango (Hurt Village). publictheater.org
The Enchanted Island
Opens Feb. 26, 2014
Story by Shakespeare, music by Vivaldi, Purcell, Rameau, and Handel, sets by Phelim McDermott of The Addams Family musical, and Placido Domingo making a grand entrance as Neptune on a giant seashell. Who could ask for anything more? The Met revives its hit 2011 production of this musical pastiche, which combines the plotlines of The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream with some of the greatest music of the baroque era.
The second major mounting of the Scottish play will star Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet, Henry V, My Week with Marilyn) in his New York stage debut. He also serves as co-director with Broadway’s Rob Ashford (How to Succeed) of this version, which had a highly praised run at the Manchester Festival in England. That production was performed in a deconsecrated church with a dirt floor and the audience sitting in long pews. For the New York performances, it will be re-imagined for the vast 55,000-square-foot space in the Park Avenue Armory’s Drill Hall. British actress Alex Kingston, who plays Lady Macbeth, will also be making her New York debut. For those who can’t wait till next year, the Manchester production will be broadcast in U.S. cinemas as part of the National Theater Live series starting on Oct. 17, 2013. armoryonpark.org