Producers are working on two high-profile additions to the busy 2023-24 Broadway season: Stereophonic, an ecstatically reviewed play with music about a fictional mid-1970s rock band creating an album; and The Great Gatsby via Paper Mill Playhouse, one of two Broadway-bound musicals based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Roaring ’20s novel.
John Johnson, Sue Wagner and Greg Nobile are in discussions to move Stereophonic to the John Golden Theatre, following a sold-out, two-and-a-half-month run at Playwrights Horizons off-Broadway, people familiar with the plans said.
David Adjmi’s rock ‘n’ roll drama is set in a recording studio designed by David Zinn, where a tension-filled band of three men and two women, intertwined romantically and otherwise, lay down tracks, working with two engineers. The actors as band members play instruments and sing.
Staged by Daniel Aukin with silences and cross-talk, the show is reminiscent of a cinéma vérité documentary: “these people, in these rock bands, they’re just people doing their laundry,” Adjmi said in an interview posted on the Playwrights Horizons website. “Art-making and big mythic beautiful music often come from people, like, taking a shower, eating eggs, driving around, going to the grocery store. It’s very quotidian.”
New York Times critic Jesse Green called Stereophonic simultaneously granular and operatic. “Granular because the songs (by Will Butler [of the band Arcade Fire]) are not decorations but are elemental to the plot…Operatic because what they wind up recording, however refracted through a commercial pop lens, inevitably expresses their heartache, betrayal and fury.”
The producers regard the show as a play with music rather than a musical. This season, 13 new musicals and nine new plays have opened or been announced. The Golden, with about 800 seats, is one of Broadway’s smaller venues and has been used for plays since the long-running musical Avenue Q closed in 2009.
Chunsoo Shin, a Seoul-based theater producer who enhanced (i.e. subsidized) The Great Gatsby at the Millburn, New Jersey-based Paper Mill, has secured the Broadway Theatre for a spring transfer, people familiar with that show said.
Tony Award nominees Jeremy Jordan (Newsies) and Eva Noblezada (Hadestown) — whom critic Roma Torre called “simply sensational” at Paper Mill — have expressed interest in reprising their roles on Broadway. (Jordan played Jay Gatsby and Noblezada was his married love interest Daisy Buchanan.)
The musical is directed by Marc Bruni (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical). Torre wrote that the score by Jason Howland and Nathan Tysen (who collaborated on 2022’s Paradise Square) is “engagingly tuneful, featuring an eclectic mix of rousing jazz-age numbers and soulful ballads.” The book is by Kait Kerrigan.
“But as impressive as the production looks and sounds, it falls short of successfully translating Fitzgerald’s deeply dark themes concerning America’s obsession with wealth and class onto the stage” Torre wrote. “With its downbeat message of misplaced dreams and moral corruption, the novel seems to defy adaptation.”
That challenge hasn’t stopped either Gatsby Broadway prospect. On May 25, Gatsby: An American Myth begins previews at Harvard’s American Repertory Theatre, directed by Rachel Chavkin (Hadestown) with a score by Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine) and Thomas Bartlett and a book by Pulitzer Prize winner Martyna Majok (Cost of Living).
The 1925 novel, which has sold about 30 million copies and been adapted for movies, plays and an opera, went into the public domain on Jan. 1, 2021. (No longer protected by intellectual property laws, it can be used without compensation or obtaining permission.) Shin, a force in South Korean musicals, previously produced Doctor Zhivago (2015) and Holler if Ya Hear Me (2014) on Broadway. Neither was commercially successful.
He hasn’t been coy about his Broadway ambitions for the show in the Korean press or on broadwaygatsby.com. Likewise, the website of Gatsby: An American Myth, gatsbybway.com, notes that the A.R.T. run is “pre-Broadway.” Producers Amanda Ghost, Len Blavatnik and Jordan Roth want to move their Gatsby to Broadway in the spring of 2025.
The Paper Mill Gatsby would be the 14th new musical to open in 2023-24. (Or 15th, if you count Gutenberg! The Musical!, which the Tony administration committee classified as a revival, even though it’s the first Broadway run.) It’s the busiest season for new musicals since at least 2000.
Breaking down the Broadway spring season, it will include two new musicals that premiered at the Public Theater (Hell’s Kitchen and Suffs); three new musicals directed by Michael Greif (Days of Wine and Roses, Hell’s Kitchen and The Notebook — co-directed by Schele Williams) and one Great Gatsby.