The 2015-16 Broadway season is expected to go down in history. Not only was it the most successful season with the biggest gross and attendance, it was a perfect example of what it means to truly embrace diversity. The shows from the past season represented minorities of all beliefs, physical features, races and sexualities. This culminated at the 2016 Tony Awards, where all musical acting awards went to minorities and the biggest prizes were grabbed by shows with non-white casts—The Color Purple and Hamilton for the Best Revival and Best Musical, respectively.
It was a season of joy, celebration and acceptance that sent a strong political statement: we are better when we are united by art, not divided by walls. While the spring season is still far away and may be full of surprises, the fall season is settled in. The most diverse show of the season will be delivered by the cast members of Cats. A revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash hit about the life of cats, based on the poems by T.S. Elliot, still sparks arguments in the thespian community as to whether this show really needed a comeback. Nevertheless, Cats is a mammoth among the musicals, whose original run raised several generations of theatergoers and theater-makers.
Cats’ cast is led by British pop singer Leona Lewis, who takes on the iconic role of lonely cat Grizabella, famous for her hit tune “Memory.” Nevertheless, the announcement of Lewis’ October departure from the show was met with cheers from experienced theatergoers. One of the most anticipated productions of the season is Les Liaisons Dangereuses, an adaptation of the 1782 French novel about sex as a weapon of power, fear, humiliation and degradation. The current production of this erotic thriller is a transfer from London, where it enjoyed a triumphant sold-out run. The adaptation stars Tony Award winners Janet McTeer and Liev Schreiber.
The modern adaptations of Anton Chekhov’s The Present and The Cherry Orchard are a double treat to the audience. The Present is based on Chekhov’s posthumous play “Platonov,” which deals with the problems of unsolved relationships and their toxic consequences. Set in Russia during the 1990s, this production marks a Broadway debut of two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett, whose arrival at The Great White Way is much overdue and highly anticipated. Produced by the Roundabout Theater Company, The Cherry Orchard is Chekhov’s magnum opus. Revolving around an aristocratic family losing its estate, the production was adapted by 2016 Best Play winner and author of The Humans, Steven Karam.
The adaption stars Academy Award nominee Diane Lane in an iconic role of an aristocratic diva Lyubov Ranevskaya, along with the legendary Tony and Oscar winner Joel Grey. This fall, Russian literature prevails in both drama and musicals. The adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, titled Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, concentrates on a love triangle that the main character from Tolstoy’s epic work is involved in. After having a successful run off-Broadway, this production will welcome pop singer Josh Groban in his Broadway debut. Following a successful off-Broadway run, Dear Evan Hansen is scheduled to land on Broadway. A heartbreaking and bittersweet portrayal of a lonely teenager who gets involved in another family’s tragedy, the musical stars Pitch Perfect’s Ben Platt in the title role.
The show resonated with the audiences and critics, putting in on the path to become the next Broadway classic and dominate the award season. Broadway will never be Broadway without musical adaptations of cult movies. This fall, audiences will get the chance to see two such shows. Roundabout Theater Company’s production of Holiday Inn is an adaptation of the 1942 classical Hollywood movie of the same title, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. This new musical combines all the best that Golden Hollywood and Broadway have to offer—a memorable score, typical choreography and impressive scenery.
While Holiday Inn is a depiction of high-class chic life, A Bronx Tale is another movie-to-stage adaptation of this season, depicting a completely polarized lifestyle and social class status. Based on the 1993 Robert De Niro movie, A Bronx Tale is a true New York story about a young Italian teenager who decides to explore adult life. De Niro reprises his role as the director, marking his theatrical directing debut. This fall, Broadway will also welcome an a capella show, In Transit, which talks about the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the everyday interactions that shape our lives without us even realizing it.
Dealing with the issue of shaping our lives and views, it is hard to forget that Election Day is approaching and there has to be a show that at least vaguely references the current political chaos. The Front Page is a play that ridicules sensational journalism and stars Broadway veterans, including Nathan Lane, Jefferson Mays and John Goodman, making up a cast of 20. Although this production is a revival of the 1928 play, it focuses on the modern media and how its narrative power shapes the views and conversations that people have about current events.
There is a great catalogue of Broadway’s upcoming shows and many of them will have a strong message. There is a clear lack of racial and social representation in the media. The upcoming season provides more opportunities for women and minorities to play secondary roles. However, the level of inclusion, though progressive, is simply not enough. In the era of “Oscars So White,” it is important that Broadway does not sink back into the White Boys’ Club. Broadway should continue to pave the way for a new generation of stories that follow the example of Hamilton and depict the idea of what Hollywood and the world strives to be—diverse, tolerant and inclusive.