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A Russian Theater Invasion

This season, New York stages will welcome award-winning plays such as The Cherry Orchard and Letter to a Man

In June, playwright Stephen Karam took home a Tony Award for his Pulitzer Prize–nominated original play The Humans. This fall, however, when his work lands back on the Broadway stage, it’ll take the form of a more familiar story. Karam has adapted Anton Chekhov’s 1904 classic The Cherry Orchard for a Roundabout Theater Company production starring Diane Lane as Madame Ranevskaya, a faded aristocrat whose once-proud family (and valuable land) is facing ruin. And he isn’t the only one looking to Russian works this Broadway season. 

Come October, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812—an adaptation of a section of War & Peace—starring Josh Groban and Denée Benton will land at the Imperial Theater. The musical follows a love triangle during the 19th-century French invasion of Russia and features traditional Russian music blended with more modern sounds as well as lyrics lifted directly from Leo Tolstoy’s 1869 novel. 

Meanwhile, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Mikhail Baryshnikov will appear in a dramatic role as the Ukrainian-born Vaslav Nijinsky in Letter to a Man, director Robert Wilson’s staged production of the famed danseur’s diaries, beginning with the onset of his schizophrenia. The show, scored with songs by Henry Mancini and Tom Waits, among others, is performed in both English and Russian. 

Cate Blanchett makes her Broadway debut alongside Richard Roxburgh, bringing the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of The Present—adapted from Chekhov’s first play, Platonov, by Blanchett’s husband Andrew Upton—to the Barrymore Theatre for a limited run in December. The play, a look at two childhood friends reunited later (and much more damaged) in life, was a hit in Australia, where one review noted the “parties, pills, guns… and bottle after bottle of vodka.”

Image: Courtesy of the Everett Collection