Broadway has its eye on the prize this season.
Five Pulitzer Prize-winning plays will open this fall, from Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” which won in 1949, to the 2018 winner “Cost of Living” by Martyna Majok. (The five plays about to open are joined by two Pulitzer winners already running, “Hamilton” and “A Strange Loop”).
“Joining the small fraternity of men who have done this play is a great honor,” says Wendell Pierce, who plays the iconic Willy Loman in a primarily black “Salesman" cast. “It’s humbling.” Calling the play “an American 'Hamlet,' ” the “Wire” actor says doing the part will be a “high-water mark in my career, and my life.”
“Salesman” is “a masterful piece of writing, complex and layered,” said Pierce in a phone interview. The Black cast amplifies the themes that are already there, he says, expanding on the macro and micro aggressions of institutional and cultural racism. “It adds to Willy’s disillusionment.”
Pierce says he hopes audiences will realize why this play is a classic, “that it speaks to our humanity across time, across place, across age, across race. There’s a common humanity that we all share.”
Other highlights of the fall season include the return of six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald in “Ohio State Murders,” the Broadway debut of 91-year-old playwright Adrienne Kennedy. It will be hectic at McDonald’s house — five days earlier, her husband Will Swenson, opens as the legendary singer in “A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical.” And after several delays due to COVID, the musical adaptation of “Some Like It Hot” starts previews in November.
Audiences making their way back to the theater will find COVID restrictions all but gone, with proof of vaccination no longer required and most shows simply suggesting that masks are worn. Exceptions include “Cost of Living,” which still requires masks, and “The Kite Runner,” already running, which requires masks at Wednesday matinees and Friday evenings. Rules are fluid, so check individual show websites for updates.
LEOPOLDSTADT (Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St., begins previews Sept. 14, opens Oct. 2; leopoldstadtplay.com) The prolific Tom Stoppard turns to his own history for a play about an extended family in the Jewish quarter of Vienna. Spanning 50 years before and after World War II, it features 38 actors including Caissie Levy (“Frozen”) and Brandon Uranowitz (“Burn This”).
COST OF LIVING (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St., begins previews Sept. 13, opens Oct. 3, manhattantheatreclub.com) Majok’s gripping drama examines the relationships of two disabled people and their caretakers. It’s all the more powerful because two actors are disabled: Gregg Mozgala has cerebral palsy and Katy Sullivan is a bilateral amputee.
1776 (American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42th St., begins previews Sept. 16, opens Oct. 6, roundabouttheatre.org) The 1969 musical about the two weeks leading to the creation of the Declaration of Independence gets a radical reworking with a cast identifying as female, trans or nonbinary. Co-director Jeffrey L. Page says by “looking at bodies historically occluded from the narrative … audiences will see an America that lives inside of them.”
DEATH OF A SALESMAN (Hudson Theatre, 144 W. 44 St., begins previews Sept. 17 opens Oct. 9; salesmanonbroadway.com) This fifth Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s searing exploration of denial and the American dream is being performed with a primarily Black cast. Joining Pierce are Sharon D Clarke — nominated for a Tony last year for “Caroline, or Change” — and André De Shields.
THE PIANO LESSON (Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 W. 47th St.; begins previews Sept. 19, opens Oct. 13; pianolessonplay.com) Samuel L. Jackson returns to Broadway in August Wilson’s Pulitzer winner about a brother and sister’s disagreement over what to do with an heirloom piano that is embellished with designs carved by an enslaved relative.
TOPDOG/UNDERDOG (John Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45th St., begins previews Sept. 27, opens Oct. 20; topdogunderdog.com) This 20th anniversary revival of Suzan-Lori Park’s Pulitzer winner concerns two African-American brothers who are obsessed with three-card monte as they confront — and try to overcome — their past.
WALKING WITH GHOSTS (Music Box Theatre, 239 W. 45th St., begins previews Oct. 18, opens Oct. 27, gabrielbyrneonbroadway.com) Tony nominee and Golden Globe winner Gabriel Byrne brings his memoir about life as an Irish immigrant to the stage for a 75-performance run. Byrne was last seen on Broadway in the 2016 revival of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”
TAKE ME OUT (Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45 St., opens Oct. 27; takemeoutbway.com) Richard Greenberg’s hit revival from last season about a baseball player who reveals he’s gay is going into extra innings. Jesse Williams and Tony winner Jesse Tyler Ferguson reprise their roles for a limited 14-week return run.
ALMOST FAMOUS (Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 W. 45th St., begins previews Oct. 3, opens Nov. 3; almostfamousthemusical.com) Inspired by Cameron Crowe’s autobiographical 2000 movie, the coming-of-age story follows a young music fan who gets an assignment from Rolling Stone magazine.
KIMBERLY AKIMBO (Booth Theatre, 222 W. 45 St., begins previews Oct. 12, opens Nov. 10; kimberlyakimbothemusical.com) With music by Long Island native Jeanine Tesori, the poignant, quirky show about a 16-year-old with an aging disorder moves to Broadway after being a hot ticket at the Atlantic Theater Company last season.
& JULIET (Stephen Sondheim Theatre, 124 W. 43rd St., begins previews Oct. 28, opens Nov. 17; andjulietbroadway.com) What if Juliet didn’t die? The new musical from David West Read attempts to answer the question with some help from the music of Max Martin.
KPOP (Circle in the Square, 235 W. 50th St., begins previews Oct. 13, opens Nov. 20; kpopbroadway.com) Luna, a big name in Korean music circles, stars in this behind-the-scenes look at a superstar group preparing for a major concert.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Nederlander Theatre, 208 W. 41 St.; begins previews Nov. 8, opens Nov. 21.) Jefferson Mays will leave “The Music Man” (he’s playing Mayor Shinn) to star in an adaptation of the Dickens classic. He’ll play more than 50 roles — including a potato.
AIN’T NO MO’ (Belasco Theatre, 111 W. 44th St., begins previews Nov. 3, opens Dec. 1; aintnomobway.com) Filmmaker Lee Daniels (“Precious”) says he was finally lured to produce on Broadway by Jordan E. Cooper’s comedy. The premise: The U.S. government offers Black Americans a one-way plane ticket to Africa.
A BEAUTIFUL NOISE: THE NEIL DIAMOND MUSICAL (Broadhurst Theatre, 235 W. 44th St., begins previews Nov. 2, opens Dec. 4; abeautifulnoisethemusical.com) Swenson stars as the legendary singer as he looks back on his life during therapy sessions. We’re promised all the greatest hits including “Sweet Caroline” and “America.”
OHIO STATE MURDERS (James Earl Jones Theatre, 138 W. 48th St., begins previews Nov. 11, opens Dec. 8; broadway.com) Kennedy's suspense-filled play focuses on a Black writer (McDonald) returning to her college for a talk about the violence in her work.
SOME LIKE IT HOT (Shubert Theatre, 225 W. 44th St., begins previews Nov. 1, opens Dec. 11; somelikeithotmusical.com) The classic Billy Wilder film starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe is now a musical, with songs from Marc Shaiman (“Hairspray”). Set during Prohibition, it’s about two male musicians who hide from the mob by donning drag in an all-girl band.
BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY (Hayes Theatre, 240 W. 44th St., begins previews Nov. 30, opens Dec. 19; 2st.com) Stephen Adly Guirgis won the 2015 Pulitzer for this play about a recent widower, a retired New York City police officer and his ex-con son living in a rent-controlled apartment.
THE COLLABORATION (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St., begins previews Nov. 29, opens Dec. 20; manhattantheatreclub.com) Two artists are on a collision course in Anthony McCarten’s play about a joint exhibition featuring the work of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.