Bryan Cranston is still breaking bad even though Walter White, his meth-making antihero, is off the air. He played a half-blind career criminal in Cold Comes the Night, a small indie film that came out in January, and just this month made his Broadway debut as another character who defies convention: President Lyndon B. Johnson.
With his “heat-generating,” “jet-fueled performance,” Cranston is one of many (many) Hollywood stars stepping onto the Great White Way this year. But don’t let their shimmery glow distract from the already proven talent on stage this spring. We round up the big names making their Broadway debut and pair them with shows you should also be paying attention to.
All the Way
On stage now
Broadway debut Bryan Cranston as President Lyndon B. Johnson
In short: Cranston steps in as LBJ in his chaotic first year as president, from the Kennedy assassination to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He makes words like “filibuster” thrilling.
Pair it with The Cripple of Inishmaan. In his post-Potter days, Daniel Radcliffe has become a seasoned stage veteran, taking risks (Equus), learning to dance (How to Succeed in Business), and now tapping into the psyche of a handicapped Irishman with big dreams in this dark comedy. In previews Apr 12; runs Apr 20–July 20.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella
On stage now
Broadway debuts Carly Rae Jepsen as Cinderella; Fran Drescher as Madame, the wicked stepmother
In short: The Canadian pop star behind “Call Me Maybe” saw her own Cinderella dream come true when she stepped onto a Broadway stage in February, opposite Fran “The Nanny” Drescher. Seems like the glass slipper fits: Their runs have been extended through June 8. (I have now satisfied my pun quota for the day.)
Pair it with Aladdin. Let me count the ways this show will run for decades: 1) choreography by Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon), 2) iconic music by Alan Menken, 3) a genie (James Monroe Iglehart) who gets a standing ovation every time he performs “Friend Like Me,” 4) a magic carpet ride. It’s the biggest Disney musical since The Lion King. In previews now; opens Mar 20.
Bullets Over Broadway
In previews now; opens Apr 10
Broadway debut Zach Braff as naive playwright David Shayne
In short: Wherever you stand on the Woody Allen divide, don’t blame Scrubs alum Zach Braff, who brings his quirky-goofy charm to the musical adaptation of Allen’s gangster comedy. Susan Stroman (The Producers) directs.
Pair it with If/Then. Adele Dazeem! I mean, Idina Menzel! And Anthony Rapp, together again for the first time since Rent! Who cares what the show’s about?! (Bonus: If/Then is written by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kipp, who figured out a way to turn a story about bipolar disorder into hit rock-musical Next to Normal.) In previews now; opens Mar 30.
Of Mice and Men
In previews Mar 19; opens Apr 16
Broadway debuts James Franco as George; Chris O’Dowd as Lennie; Leighton Meester as Curley’s wife
In short: By now, wannabe Renaissance man James Franco has probably diagrammed the opening sentences of every chapter of John Steinbeck’s Depression-era novel to get into character. Meanwhile, O’Dowd is having a beer and watching Gossip Girl.
Pair it with A Raisin in the Sun. After his Tony-winning stint in Fences, Denzel Washington returns to Broadway (alongside fellow Tony winner Anika Noni Rose) in this stacked-cast revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s American classic. In previews now; opens Apr 3.
In previews Mar 21; opens Apr 24
Broadway debut Michelle Williams as Sally Bowles
In short: I hear “Michelle Williams in Cabaret,” I think “Renee Zellweger in Chicago.” Until now, Williams’s musical moments have been limited to a few Marilyn Monroe numbers and being mistaken for Michelle Williams in Destiny’s Child. But she’s surrounded by big talent in her Broadway debut, including (squee!) Alan Cumming, who returns to Studio 54 as the Master of Ceremonies, the role that won him all the awards.
Pair it with Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Neil Patrick Harris as a transexual East Berlin glam-rocker? Yes, please. In previews Mar 29; opens Apr 22.