Winer is chief theater critic and arts columnist for Newsday, which she joined in 1987.
I'm playing a game of Martian House Guest with myself again. That is, if a friendly creature from another planet were to plop its fluffy (I prefer fluffy . . . listen, it's my game) self into my brain for the first three weeks of April, what generalizations would the visitor draw from the theater I'll be watching, processing and reviewing on Broadway?
In case you have been elsewhere in the cosmos during previous mad dashes to the April cutoff for official Broadway seasons, this is what I mean.
Broadway producers, fearful that Tony nominators are incapable of remembering any show or performance that happened any time since the last season officially began April 25 of last year, stack piles of the biggest stuff right before the finish line. This year, that line is curtain time of April 23. Fifteen plays and musicals are pulling themselves together to open -- that is, if we count the two full plays of "Wolf Hall: Parts 1 & 2" separately. And except for "Skylight," the revival of David Hare's 1995 drama that opens April 2, all will be squashed between April 7 and 23.
But let's go back to the outer-space guest in my head. Aside from wondering what kind of crazy people cram so much hope, talent and money into such a tiny space-time continuum, a keen observer may well other surprising questions.
Do Earthlings worship the '50s movie musicals of director Vincent Minnelli -- particularly those starring Leslie Caron? In fact, for reasons unknown, Broadway will open a radically revised version of Minnelli's 1958 "Gigi" on April 8. Then, four nights later, we get a new adaptation of the late director's 1951 Caron vehicle, "An American in Paris." Coincidence? You decide.
Below please find our spring-madness catalog -- seven new musicals, five new plays, two musical revivals and a single play revival. My friend the Martian was confused when "The Heart of Robin Hood" abruptly backed out of the lineup, but encouraged that "The Visit," the long-wandering musical by John Kander and the late Fred Ebb, will finally land on Broadway as a late entry.
SKYLIGHT (opens April 2, Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45th St.) David Hare's intense encounter between former lovers, which starred Michael Gambon and Lia Williams on Broadway in 1996, brings Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy from a sold-out run in London directed by Stephen Daldry ("The Audience") .
HAND TO GOD (opens April 7, Booth Theatre, 222 W. 45th St.) A young member of the Christian Puppet Ministry finds that his hand puppet is really the devil in this surreal and irreverent spoof by Robert Askins, transferring from an Off-Broadway hit.
GIGI (opens April 8, Simon Theatre, 250 W. 52nd St.) The musical best known for its movie flopped briefly in 1973. But Heidi Thomas has re-adapted Alan Jay Lerner's book to speak more to 21st century sensibilities while keeping his lyrics and Frederick Loewe's music intact. Vanessa Hudgens ("High School Musical") stars as the turn-of-last-century Parisian who is groomed to be a courtesan.
WOLF HALL: PARTS 1 & 2(opens April 9, Winter Garden Theatre, 1634 Broadway) This two-part historical epic, a transfer from a smash London engagement, is adapted from Hilary Mantel's award-winning novels about Henry VIII and his court.
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (opens April 12, Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway) Christopher Wheeldon, the former New York City Ballet dancer and choreographer, leaps to Broadway with this adaptation by Craig Lucas ("Prelude to a Kiss") of the movie about a young American on the town in Paris after World War II. Robert Fairchild leaps from the New York City Ballet to the stage in the role created by Gene Kelly.
IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU (opens April 14, Atkinson Theatre, 256 W. 47th St.) David Hyde Pierce, director? Why not? He makes his Broadway directing debut in this new musical (book/lyrics by Brian Hargrove, music by Barbara Anselmi) about two families, different backgrounds and, uh-oh, a wedding. Tyne Daly, Sierra Boggess and David Burtka are at the party.
FINDING NEVERLAND (opens April 15, Lunt-Fontanne, 205 W. 46th St.) Now that we know how Elphaba became the Wicked Witch of the West, shouldn't we know how Peter became Pan? Matthew Morrison, who was wonderful on Broadway in "South Pacific" before anyone had heard of "Glee," returns to the stage, along with Kelsey Grammer and Carolee Carmello in this adaptation of the Johnny Depp movie about how J.M. Barrie found the lost boys.
THE KING AND I (opens April 16, Lincoln Center Theater) Kelli O'Hara, director Bartlett Sher and much of the creative team of Lincoln Center's monumental revival of "South Pacific" are back with another Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. Japanese movie star Ken Watanabe is the King of Siam.
FUN HOME (opens April 19, Circle in the Square Theatre, 1633 Broadway) This coming-of-age musical, adapted from Alison Bechdel's graphic novel, was a huge award-winning hit at the Public Theater in 2013. Now Broadway gets its chance to enjoy the dazzling and touching show, with music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by Lisa Kron and direction by Sam Gold.
LIVING ON LOVE (opens April 20, Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St.) Opera diva Renée Fleming plays -- what else? -- an opera diva in Joe DiPietro's comedy about long marriages and tangled love lives. The romp, directed by Kathleen Marshall and based on a Garson Kanin play, had its premiere at the Williamstown Theatre Festival last summer.
DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (opens April 21, Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway) Russian history sweeps to the stage in Michael Weller's adaptation this epic love story. Des McAnuff ("Jersey Boys") directs, with music by Lucy Simon.
SOMETHING ROTTEN (opens April 22, St. James Theatre, 246 W. 44th St.) Two Renaissance brothers figure out how to compete with Shakespeare by creating the first musical. Casey Nicholaw ("The Book of Mormon," "Aladdin") directs and choreographs. Brian D'Arcy James plays Nick Bottom and Christian Borle is The Bard.
AIRLINE HIGHWAY (opens April 23, Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St.) Joe Mantello ("Wicked") directs the New York premiere of Lisa D'Amour's play about the denizens of an infamous fading motel in New Orleans. This is an import from Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre.
THE VISIT (opens April 23, Lyceum Theatre, 149 W. 45th St.) Chita Rivera and Roger Rees star in the musical that John Kander, the late Fred Ebb and author Terrence McNally adapted nearly 15 years ago from Friedrich Dürrenmatt's 1956 revenge satire about the limits of greed -- if there are limits -- in a small town. This is, finally, the show's Broadway premiere.
The Tony nominations are announced April 28. The awards telecast is June 7 on CBS.