2020 Broadway spring season preview of plays: Which will be remembered by the Tony Awards?

As we are now about halfway through the Broadway season, and there are currently 12 productions of plays (six new, four revivals, and two older works making their Broadway debuts) set to open this spring. Could we be seeing any of them contend at this year’s Tony Awards? Below, we recap the plot of each play as well as the awards history of its author, cast, creative types, the opening, and (where applicable) closing dates.

“My Name is Lucy Barton” (opens January 15; closes February 29)
In this stage adaptation of Elizabeth Strout’s 2016 novel of the same name, the story follows the title character, who, unsteady after an operation, awakens to find her mother sitting at the foot of her bed. She hasn’t seen her in years, and her visit brings Lucy back to her desperate rural childhood and her escape to New York. As she begins to find herself as a writer, she is still gripped by the urgent complexities of family life.

Adapted for the stage by Rona Munro, this production presented by Manhattan Theatre Club is coming in following a run in 2018 at the Bridge Theatre in London. It stars four-time Tony nominee Laura Linney, and is helmed by two-time Tony nominated director Richard Eyre (“Skylight,” 1997; “The Crucible,” 2002).

“A Soldier’s Play” (opens January 21; closes March 15)
In the Broadway premiere of Charles Fuller’s 1981 stage play, the story is set in 1944. A black Sergeant is murdered on a Louisiana Army base, and one tenacious investigator must race against his white leadership to unravel the crime before they unravel him.

Despite having never been produced on Broadway before, the play received a film adaptation under the title of “A Soldier’s Story” in 1984 directed by Norman Jewison, which earned three Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture). This production presented by Roundabout Theatre Company stars two-time Golden Globe nominee Blair Underwood (“L.A. Law,” 1991; ”In Treatment,” 2009), three-time Tony nominee David Alan Grier (“The First,” 1982; “Race,” 2010; “Porgy & Bess,” 2012), Nnamdi Asomugha, Jerry O’Connell, McKinley Belcher III, Rob Demery, Jared Grimes, Billy Eugene Jones, Nate Mann, Warner Miller, J. Alphonse Nicholson, Lee Aaron Rosen, and is directed by Tony winner Kenny Leon (“A Raisin in the Sun,” 2014).

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“Grand Horizons” (opens January 23; closes March 1)
In this new play by Bess Wohl, the story follows Nancy and Bill, who have been happily married for 50 years. But there’s one thing nobody could have anticipated: Nancy wants out. As their adult sons Brian and Ben descend on the Grand Horizons senior living community, the walls of the family as they know it come crumbling down. 

The production presented by Second Stage Theater stars Tony winner Jane Alexander (“The Great White Hope,” 1969), Emmy winner James Cromwell (“American Horror Story: Asylum,” 2013), Drama Desk winner Michael Urie (Off-Broadway’s “Buyer & Cellar”), Ben McKenzie, Tony nominee Ashley Park (“Mean Girls,” 2018), Tony winner Priscilla Lopez (“A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine,” 1980), Maulik Pancholy, and is directed by Tony nominee Leigh Silverman (“Violet,” 2014).

“The Minutes” (opens March 15; closes June 14)
In this new play by Tony & Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts (“August: Osage County,” 2008), the story takes a look at the inner-workings of a city council meeting in the small town of Big Cherry—and the hypocrisy, greed, and ambition that follow. This powerful, resonant, and funny portrayal of democracy in action proves that everything you know can change—it’s just a matter of minutes. After all, the smallest towns keep the biggest secrets.

The production stars Tracy Letts (who is also a Tony-winning actor for the 2013 revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”), Tony winner Jessie Mueller (“Beautiful,” 2014), Tony winner Blair Brown (“Copenhagen,” 2000), Golden Globe nominee Armie Hammer (“Call Me By Your Name,” 2017), Tony nominated director Austin Pendleton (“The Little Foxes,” 1981), Ian Barford (“Linda Vista,” 2019), Sally Murphy (“Carousel,” 1994), Cliff Chamberlain (“Superior Donuts,” 2009), two-time Tony nominee K. Todd Freeman (“The Song of Jacob Zulu,” 1993; “Airline Highway,” 2015), Danny McCarthy (“To Kill a Mockingbird,” 2018), Jeff Still (“Thérèse Raquin,” 2015), and is directed by Tony winner Anna D. Shapiro (“August: Osage County”).

“Hangmen” (opens March 19; closes July 18)
In this new play by four-time Tony nominee & Oscar winner Martin McDonagh, Harry is Britain’s (second) most famous executioner. In his small pub in the northern English town of Oldham, he is something of a local celebrity and the cub reporters and pub regulars are dying to hear his reaction to the news that hanging has been abolished, while his old assistant Syd and the mysterious Mooney lurk with very different motives for their visit.

This production originated in London’s West End where it won two 2016 Olivier Awards (including Best New Play). The cast includes Owen Campbell, SAG winner Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey,” 2013), Richard Hollis, Olivier nominee John Hodgkinson (“The Ferryman,” 2018), Gaby French, Olivier nominee Mark Addy (“Collaborators,” 2012), BAFTA Scotland Award winner Ewen Bremner (“T2 Trainspotting,” 2017), Tony nominee Tracie Bennett (“End of the Rainbow,” 2012), Olivier Bursary winner John Horton (“A Touch of the Poet,” 2005), and is directed by Matthew Dunster.

“The Lehman Trilogy” (opens March 26; closes June 28)
In the Broadway premiere of Stefano Massini’s 2013 stage play, the story weaves together nearly two centuries of family history. This epic theatrical event charts the humble beginnings, outrageous successes, and devastating failure of the financial institution that would ultimately bring the global economy to its knees.

The play made its English-language debut in 2018 at the Royal National Theatre in London, where it ended up receiving five Olivier nominations (including Best New Play). This production stars Tony nominee Simon Russell Beale (“Jumpers,” 2004), Tony nominee Adam Godley (“Anything Goes,” 2011), Tony nominee Ben Miles (“Wolf Hall,” 2015), and is directed by Oscar & Tony winner Sam Mendes.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (opens April 9; closes August 2)
In the fourth Broadway revival of Edward Albee’s 1962 drama, the story examines the complexities of the marriage of a middle-aged couple, Martha and George. Late one evening, after a university faculty party, they receive an unwitting younger couple, Nick and Honey, as guests, and draw them into their bitter and frustrated relationship.

The original production won five Tony Awards (including Best Play). The work received a film adaptation in 1966 directed by Mike Nichols, which earned 13 Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture). This production stars two-time Golden Globe nominee Rupert Everett (“My Best Friend’s Wedding,” 1998; “An Ideal Husband,” 2000), two-time Tony winner Laurie Metcalf (“A Doll’s House, Part Two,” 2017; “Three Tall Women,” 2018), Russell Tovey (“The History Boys,” 2006), Olivier winner Patsy Ferran (“Summer and Smoke,” 2019), and is directed by two-time Tony winner Joe Mantello (“Take Me Out,” 2003; “Assassins,” 2004).

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“Plaza Suite” (opens April 13; closes July 12)
In the first Broadway revival of Neil Simon’s 1968 comedy, hilarity abounds in this portrait of three couples successively occupying a suite at the Plaza. A suburban couple take the suite while their house is being painted and it turns out to be the one in which they honeymooned 23 (or was it 24?) years before and was yesterday the anniversary, or is it today? This wry tale of marriage in tatters is followed by the exploits of a Hollywood producer who, after three marriages, is looking for fresh fields. He calls a childhood sweetheart, now a suburban housewife, for a little sexual diversion. Over the years she has idolized him from afar and is now more than the match he bargained for. The last couple is a mother and father fighting about the best way to get their daughter out of the bathroom and down to the ballroom where guests await her or as Mother yells, “I want you to come out of that bathroom and get married!”

The original production starring George C. Scott and Maureen Stapleton won the Tony for Best Direction of a Play for Mike Nichols. This production stars two-time Tony winner Matthew Broderick (“Brighton Beach Memoirs,” 1983; “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” 1995) opposite his real-life wife, Emmy winner Sarah Jessica Parker (“Sex and the City,” 2004), and is directed by Tony-winning actor John Benjamin Hickey (“The Normal Heart,” 2011).

“American Buffalo” (opens April 14; closes July 12)
In the third Broadway revival of David Mamet’s 1975 drama, the story is set in a Chicago junk shop, three small-time crooks plot to rob a man of his coin collection, the showpiece of which is a valuable “Buffalo nickel.” These high-minded grifters fancy themselves businessmen pursuing legitimate free enterprise. But the reality of the three – Donny, the oafish junk shop owner; Bobby, a young junkie Donny has taken under his wing; and “Teach,” a violently paranoid braggart – is that they are merely pawns caught up in their own game of last-chance, dead-end, empty pipe dreams.

The original production starring Robert Duvall only earned two Tony nominations in 1977, including Best Direction of a Play for Ulu Grosbard. This production stars Oscar winner Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri,” 2017), Emmy winner Darren Criss (“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” 2018), Tony winner Laurence Fishburne (“Two Trains Running,” 1992), and is directed by two-time Tony-winning producer Neil Pepe (“Spring Awakening,” 2007; “The Band’s Visit,” 2018).

“Birthday Candles” (opens April 21; closes June 21)
In this new play by Noah Haidle, Ernestine Ashworth spends her 17th birthday agonizing over her insignificance in the universe. Soon enough, it’s her 18th birthday. Even sooner, her 41st. Her 70th. Her 101st. Five generations, dozens of goldfish, an infinity of dreams, one cake baked over a century. What makes a lifetime…into a life?

The production presented by Roundabout Theatre Company stars Emmy winner Debra Messing (“Will & Grace,” 2003), two-time Emmy winner Andre Braugher (“Homicide: Life on the Street,” 1998; “Thief,” 2006), Enrico Colantoni, Crystal Finn, Susannah Flood (“The Cherry Orchard,” 2016), Christopher Livingston, and is directed by Vivienne Benesch.

“How I Learned to Drive” (previews begin April 22; opens June 7)
In the Broadway premiere of Paula Vogel’s 1997 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The story follows the strained, sexual relationship between Li’l Bit and her aunt’s husband, Uncle Peck, from her pre-adolescence through her teenage years into college and beyond. Using the metaphor of driving and the issues of pedophilia, incest, and misogyny, the play explores the ideas of control and manipulation.

This production presented by Manhattan Theatre Club reunites both stars of the original Off-Broadway production, Tony winner Mary-Louise Parker (“Proof,” 2001) and Tony nominee David Morse (“The Iceman Cometh,” 2018), as well as the Drama Desk Award-winning director, Mark Brokaw.

“Take Me Out” (opens April 23; closes June 14)
In the first Broadway revival of Richard Greenberg’s 2003 play, the story follows Darren Lemming, star center fielder for the Empires, who reveals he is gay and faces a barrage of long-held unspoken prejudices. Facing some hostile teammates and fraught friendships, Darren is forced to contend with the challenges of being a gay person of color within the confines of a classic American institution. As the Empires struggle to rally toward a championship season, the players and their fans begin to question tradition, their loyalties and the price of victory.

The original production won three Tony Awards (including Best Play). This production presented by Second Stage Theatre stars Jesse Williams, five-time Emmy nominee Jesse Tyler Ferguson (“Modern Family,” 2010-14), Patrick J. Adams, Michael Oberholtzer (“Hand to God,” 2015), Eduardo Ramos, Julian Cihi, Hiram Delgado, Brandon J. Dirden (“Jitney,” 2017), Carl Lundstedt, Ken Marks (“Airline Highway”), Tyler Lansing Weaks, and is directed by nine-time Tony nominee Scott Ellis.

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