Happy spring, everybody! No, there wasn’t a full shutdown but all of New York seemed back in that slog of the darkest days of 2020, only without all the hope and courage! But most days now, the sun is shining, the virus is receding, and at least for the moment, not only are those neon lights bright on Broadway, but there is indeed also that famous magic in the air. A Strange LoopCredit Marc J. Franklin By far, the most exciting thing happening on Broadway right now is Michael R. Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning A Strange Loop (Lyceum Theatre, previews April 6), directed by Stephen Brackett. From the homage to Sondheim’s Company in its opening strains through every hilarious and heartbreaking, human moment charting the main character’s search for self, amidst obstacles external and internal, this “big, Black and queer-ass American” musical offers mainstream’s most moving, satisfying and intelligent original work in years. Nowhere near as guaranteed a good time, but another show I wouldn’t miss for my life is the first ever Broadway revival of Funny Girl (August Wilson Theatre, opens April 24), directed by Michael Mayer. Let’s be honest, no one considered this script for the Pulitzer and producers have understandably hesitated to revive it without the original production’s supernova, young Barbra Streisand. Fanny Brice for the new generation is American Crime Story: Impeachment and Booksmart star Beanie Feldstein. Her sharp work in those two projects proved she can act and get laughs. She was featured in the Bette Midler Hello, Dolly! and studied musical theatre at the lauded University of Michigan program. But this is the ultimate high-wire act of star turns. All eyes on Beanie! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v_-66mjefEuU The other upcoming musical revival I’m excited about is City Center Encores’ concert staging of the Sondheim/Lapine classic, Into the Woods, traipsing the boards for a strictly limited two weeks, May 4-15. Direction by Encores! artistic director Lear deBessonet is no doubt intriguing, but the cast is the draw with Sara Bareilles as the Baker’s Wife, Christian Borle as the Baker, Ashley Park as Cinderella, and Generation X’s grandest Broadway star, Heather Headley, as the Witch. Less of a revival and more of a return, 2019’s Beetlejuice (Marquis Theatre, opens April 8) gets a second chance at gory glory, once again directed by Alex Timbers. The great news is uber funny man Alex Brightman is back to haunt the house again. Billy Crystal has adapted his 1992 movie, Mr. Saturday Night, into a musical with a score by Jason Robert Brown and Amanda Green (Nederlander Theatre, opens April 27), directed by John Rando. Crystal recreates his Buddy Young, Jr. opposite original film foil David Paymer and Broadway mega talents Randy Graff and Shoshana Bean. New musical Paradise Square (Ethel Barrymore Theatre, opens April 3) depicts the lives of a group of saloon goers, from multiple races, in the cultural crossroads of Civil War era New York City. As far as straight plays go, I’m most looking forward to the latest from August: Osage County scribe Tracy Letts, The Minutes (Studio 54, opens April 17 through July 10), directed by Anna D. Shapiro. If Letts’s take on a small-town city council is anywhere near as skewering and invigorating as his previous works, we’re all in for a treat. The stellar cast includes Letts, Blair Brown, K. Todd Freeman, Jessie Mueller, Austin Pendleton and, coincidentally, the women who gave us such moving Julie Jordans in the last two revivals of Carousel, Sally Murphy. Another great playwright who’s been prolific on Broadway in the last 20 years, Martin McDonagh returns with Hangmen (John Golden Theatre, opens April 21 through June 18), directed by Matthew Dunster. A new Broadway play from a new Broadway playwright arrives with Selina Fillinger’s POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive (Shubert Theatre, opens May 9 through August 14), directed by Susan Stroman. The starry ensemble cast of Lilli Cooper, Lea DeLaria, Rachel Dratch, Julianne Hough, Suzy Nakamura, Julie White, and Vanessa Williams make this White House comedy seem like a potentially good time. Not exactly a revival per se, the Broadway debut of Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning How I Learned to Drive (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, opens April 19 through May 29), directed by Mark Brokaw, comes 25 years after its Off-Broadway premiere. Thrillingly reuniting original stars Mary-Louise Parker and David Morse with their original director, this production promises a chance to revisit the landmark portrayal of sexual abuse from today’s perspective. I was lucky enough to catch the Public Theater’s 2019 revival of Ntozake Shange’s groundbreaking 1976 kaleidoscope, for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf. I am very encouraged that the new Broadway production (Booth Theatre, opens April 20 through August 14) will be directed and choreographed by that production’s inspired Camille A. Brown. In the realm of likely crowd-pleasing commercial play revivals, we are finally seeing the pandemic-delayed Plaza Suite (Hudson Theatre, through June 26), directed by John Benjamin Hickey. This classic Neil Simon comedy offers megastars Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick each three different characters and scenarios to bust us up, all set in - wait for it - a suite at the Plaza Hotel. Presumably less riotous, but possibly just as hard to get a ticket, Macbeth (Longacre Theatre, opens April 28 through July 10), directed by Sam Gold, is back again, this time with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga (Preacher, Loving). Something wicked this way comes. Broadway will also see a revival of Richard Greenberg’s 2003 Take Me Out (Hayes Theatre, opens April 4 through May 29), directed by Scott Ellis. The original production seemed very provocative pondering what would happen if a Major League Baseball star came out. Sadly, the story still seems likely to resonate. This time around, Jesse Williams and Jesse Tyler Ferguson top the team. For an Off-Broadway show, Shaina Taub’s new musical Suffs (Public Theater, through May 1), directed by Leigh Silverman, certainly features a lot of heavy-hitting talent. Another in the “we wish this show wouldn’t resonate to poignantly today,” Suffs portrays the crucial days of the women’s suffrage movement. With Jenn Collella, Aisha de Haas, Nikki M. James, Grace McLean, Jaygee Macapugay, Phillipa Soo, and Shaina Taub. For truly intimate entertainment there is no place more elegant than the venerable Café Carlyle, where you can catch: \tGlee diva Diana Agron appears there March 29-April 9 \tSex and the City’s screamingly funny queen Mario Cantone April 12-16 The coolest joint in town Joe’s Pub has a packed spring calendar featuring: \tSomebody Somewhere’s Bridget Everett in Bridget Everett and The Tender Moments March 27 - April 10 \tSpellbinding chanteuse Rizo in Rizo: In the Flesh May 18-20 “Broadway’s Living Room”, Feinstein’s/54 Below, in the storied basement of Studio 54, has something for everyone this season including: \tNPR’s All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro April 3-4 \tAcclaimed baritone Michael Kelly in new cabaret opera The Pleasing Recollection April 5-6 \tNonagenarian nonpareil Marilyn Maye in 94, Of Course There’s More! April 6-16 \tFilm and nightclub legend (and Streisand’s Funny Girl understudy!) Lainie Kazan May 5-7 \tTony winner Lillias White in Divine Sass, A Tribute to the Divine One – Sarah Vaughan May 26 - 28 \tOriginal Into the Woods gold standard Joanna Gleason in Out of the Eclipse May 30-31 The “worth the walk to 10th Avenue” Green Room 42 is a fun setting for nights on the town, especially to see their long-running hits: \tMiss Saigon and Hadestown Tony nominee Eva Nobleza Sundays at 7pm April 3, May 1, and May 29 \tPenny Dreadful and Hadestown hottie Reeve Carney Sundays at 9:30pm April 3, May 1, and May 29 “The Jazz Corner of the World,” Birdland crams a lot of highlights in with the blue notes: \tBroadway and pop culture maven Robbie Rozelle in The Inevitable Return April 4 \tA capella drag divas The Kinsey Sicks April 7 \tSoulful, folky, and fresh jazz artist Cyrille Aimée April 19-23 \tVelvet voiced legend Karen Akers in Among My Souvenirs April 25 \tJazz great Jane Monheit April 26-30 \tTony winner Debbie Gravitte (always a good time) in Debbie Gravitte Plus One: With Marc Shaiman May 9 \tJim Caruso’s Cast Party every Monday at 9:30pm \tThe Lineup with Susie Mosher every Tuesday at 8:30pm The new room in town, Chelsea Table & Stage, is worth checking out, especially for \tMarieann Meringolo in Between Yesterday and Tomorrow: The Songs of Alan & Marilyn Bergman April 24 \tCandy for the eyes and ears, The Boy Band Project April 10 & 24 Finally, if you swing by Club Cumming any Monday night at 8pm, Daniel Nolen and I promise a delightful diversion in our variety and game show, Cast Offs.