Every year, it seems that more and more film and TV stars are using their time between shoots to make their Broadway debut, or return to the stage after previous critically acclaimed appearances. Yes, they get to stretch their acting muscles, but the real winner is you, the audience, who get to not only see your favorite stars in the flesh, but also see them in a way you never imagined. Is that studious Michelle Williams vamping it up as Sally Bowles in Cabaret? And Breaking Bad fans won’t want to miss Bryan Cranston’s take on another troubled, but way less dangerous, man when he stars as Lyndon Johnson in All the Way. Here is a rundown of the major stars headed to the Great White Way.
Debra Messing in Outside Mullingar
Previews Jan. 3, Opens Jan. 23
Debra Messing switches from her sophisticated (albeit slightly neurotic) TV characters of Grace Adler on Will and Grace and Julia Huston on Smash to Rosemary, an eccentric Irishwoman in a rural farm county in this romantic drama by John Patrick Shanley (Moonstruck, Doubt). Rosemary is approaching 40 and determined to get together with Anthony, played by Brian F. O’Bryne (Shanley’s Doubt), an introverted cattle farmer. But Anthony’s father threatens to disinherit him and a feud develops between the two families. Will Rosemary and Anthony unite their lands and love? Find out in this heartbreaking and funny show which has been described as a kind of “Irish Moonstruck.”
Bryan Cranston in All the Way
Previews Feb. 10, Opens March 6
Three-time Emmy winner Bryan Cranston shocked TV audiences as the meth-dealing ex-chemistry teacher Walter White in AMC’s Breaking Bad series. He’ll be playing another guy under pressure when he assumes the role of President Lyndon Johnson in Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way, an historical drama detailing LBJ’s efforts to pass civil rights legislation through a reluctant congress in the early 1960s. The Broadway cast also includes Michael McKean, known for his roles in comedies like This is Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind. The large cast features a number of stage vets, including Brandon J. Dirden (The Piano Lesson), John McMartin (Into the Woods, Grey Gardens), Robert Petkoff (Ragtime, Anything Goes), Rob Campbell (Translations, Ivanov), and Roslyn Ruff (Romeo and Juliet), playing other real-life figures caught up in the national struggle.
Tyne Daly in Mothers and Sons
Previews begin Feb. 23, Opens March 24
Tyne Daly has won six Emmys for three different television roles (namely as one of the leads of Cagney & Lacey). But she also has a Tony win on her list of accolades. She took home the statue in 1990 for her ferocious Mama Rose in the 1989 revival of Gypsy. Her latest Broadway performance will be as a different kind of mom in Mothers and Sons, Terrence McNally’s moving drama about reunion and reconciliation, which premiered at the Bucks County Playhouse in 2013. Daly plays Katharine, who makes an unexpected visit to Cal, the former lover of her son Andre who died from AIDS 25 years earlier. Cal is now married to a younger man and has a six-year-old son. The interaction of these four characters makes up the 80 minutes of the play and should make for an absorbing drama.
Denzel Washington in A Raisin in the Sun
Previews March 8, Opens April 3
Denzel Washington won a Tony in 2010 for his performance in August Wilson’s Fences. This spring he returns to Broadway in another iconic role by a legendary African-American playwright. Following in the footsteps of Sydney Poitier, Washington takes on Walter Lee Younger, the ambitious and frustrated husband and father seeking to improve his family’s status despite racism, in Lorraine Hansberry’s beloved 1959 classic. You will recognize other cast members from their roles on screen as well. Those who know Diahann Carroll best for her musical talents and her glamorous role on Dynasty will see her in a new light as Lena, the down-to-earth matriarch of the Younger family. Sophie Okonedo (nominated for an Oscar for her role in Hotel Rwanda) and Tony winner Anika Noni Rose (Caroline or Change), who appeared in the movie adaptation of Dreamgirls, also star.
Zach Braff in Bullets Over Broadway
Previews March 11, Opens April 10
Here’s a little-known fact about Zach Braff: the Scrubs star made his film debut in Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery. Now he’ll be making his Broadway debut in a musical version of Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway. Allen himself is writing the book. Braff will be in good hands. In addition to Allen, he’ll be surrounded by Broadway vets. Vincent Pastore from The Sopranos plays Nick the Gangster and previously appeared in Chicago and the play Lamppost Reunion. Other cast members include Marin Mazzie (Ragtime, Kiss Me, Kate, Passion), Brooks Ashmanakas (Promises, Promises), and Lenny Wolpe (The Drowsy Chaperone). Five-time Tony winner Susan Stroman (The Producers, Oklahoma!) will direct and choreograph.
James Franco, Chris O’Dowd and Leighton Meester in Of Mice and Men
Previews March 19, Opens April 16
This revival of John Steinbeck’s classic tale of friendship during the great Depression is shaping up to be one of the starriest productions this spring, with all three headliners making their Broadway debuts. The multitalented James Franco will be switching from directing, writing and starring in films to playing George, an amiable drifter seeking work as a ranch-hand. His main problem is his best friend Lenny (Chris O’Dowd of Bridesmaids), whose incredible strength and mental slowness often gets them into trouble. The unlikely pair seems to be settling in to their new positions until the foreman’s flirtatious wife (Leighton Meester of Gossip Girl) causes a dangerous confrontation with Lenny. Tony winner Anna D. Shapiro (August: Osage County) directs, so there should be dramatic fireworks a plenty.
Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Previews March 29, Opens April 22
Can you picture Barney the womanizer from How I Met Your Mother as a German, transgender wanna-be rock star? Well, that’s the challenge for Neil Patrick Harris, who takes on the title role in the cult musical which played Off-Broadway in 1998. Fans of NPH will be seeing a different side of the former Doogie Howser, MD star. Tony winner Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening, American Idiot, Thoroughly Modern Millie) directs and Emmy nominee Spencer Liff (So You Think You Can Dance) will choreograph.
Michael C. Hall, Toni Collette, and Marisa Tomei in The Realistic Joneses
Previews March 13, Opens April 6
Emmy winner Toni Collette (Hostages), Golden Globe winner Michael C. Hall (Dexter), and Oscar winner Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinnie) join Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and actor Tracy Letts (August: Osage County) as two suburban couples who have identical homes and the same last name. As their relationships intertwine, they must choose between idyllic fantasies and imperfect realities. The comedy-drama by Will Eno comes to town after a critically acclaimed production at Yale Repertory Theater.
Michelle Williams and Alan Cumming in Cabaret
Previews March 21, Opens April 24
Oscar nominee Michelle Williams showed off her musical talents as the bubbly but troubled Marilyn Monroe in the acclaimed film My Week with Marilyn. Next she’ll strut her stuff as another magnetic performer when she plays the fun-loving, yet ultimately tragic Sally Bowles in Cabaret. Joining her in this Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival is Good Wife star Alan Cumming, who recreates his Tony-winning performance as the lascivious Emcee from Roundabout’s long-running 1998 production. Once again, Studio 54 will be transformed into the sleazy and seductive Kit Kat Klub in pre-WWII Berlin as audiences find out life is a cabaret again.