On the heels of the American Repertory Theater’s announcement that their world premiere of the Sara Bareilles-scored musical Waitress will be opening on Broadway in the spring, it feels like a great time to celebrate Boston theater in all of its delicious fertility. Fertility, in this case, that is qualified by the mighty New York transfer.
Earlier this year, Off-Broadway’s Second Stage Theatre announced that two Boston-born plays would make their New York debuts as part of its upcoming 2015-16 season: Invisible Thread, which had its world premiere at the American Repertory Theater last February under the title Witness Uganda, and Smart People, which premiered at the Huntington Theatre Company last spring. For all those in Boston that create and consume theater, this announcement served as a thrilling reminder that the work being done here isn’t only good, but relevant and sought-after.
Inspired by a true story, Invisible Thread is a thrilling new musical by Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews about a young man from New York whose life is forever changed after he volunteers as an aid worker in Uganda. As it was in Cambridge, the Second Stage production will be directed by—you guessed it—red-hot director and ART artistic director Diane Paulus. Paulus has been attached to the project for several years, and it appears that the show is being retooled a bit for its New York production.
Of course, no examination of this topic would be complete without noting the American Repertory Theater’s recent track record: In just 3 years, 5 ART productions have opened on Broadway: The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (10 Tony nominations; 2 wins), Pippin (10 Tony nominations; 4 wins), The Glass Menagerie (7 Tony nominations; 1 win), All The Way (2 Tony nominations; 2 wins), and—most recently—Finding Neverland, which was panned nearly unanimously by critics but has raked in over $1 million per week since opening this past spring. It is worth noting that Paulus has directed 3 of these productions.
About this time last year—on or around opening night in Cambridge—it was announced that Neverland would indeed make the flight to Broadway. Just last week, the same announcement was made about Waitress. A Broadway transfer, of course, was always part of the plan.
Opening at Second Stage Theatre in New York early next year is Smart People, Lydia R Diamond’s hilarious and fascinating story of four Harvard intellectuals as they take on racial prejudice in their own social and academic circles. This won’t be the first time a Diamond play has gone from the Huntington to New York: Stick Fly was a big hit in Boston and opened the following year on Broadway with a new director (Tony-winner Kenny Leon) and a star producer (Alicia Keys). With negative reviews, the show failed to find an audience and closed after only 93 performances.
Like Stick Fly, Smart People was received well when it played the Huntington last year, with Boston Globe critic Don Aucoin writing that he felt like it could be Diamond’s “potential ticket back” to Broadway; off-Broadway, as it turns out, but he wasn’t entirely wrong.
After Waitress, it looks like we won’t have to wait too long before the next New York-bound show premieres in Boston: Look to the Huntington’s long-awaited world premiere of A Confederacy of Dunces, starring Nick Offerman from TV’s Parks and Recreation. According to Michael Riedel of the New York Post, Offerman’s contract has an option for Broadway following a November opening at the Huntington. If all goes well, Broadway could get Dunces as early as this spring.