Some Broadway stars hype themselves up with K-pop. Some opt for jazz. Jessica Chastain prefers the sound of nothing—a void before she’s thrust into the claustrophobic world of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. “That feels quite Nora to me,” she says, “to sit in silence.”
The Oscar winner may find that quiet is hard to come by in New York these days. For the first time since COVID-19 put live theater on an indefinite pause three years ago, venues from Broadway to Brooklyn are bursting with a pre-pandemic sort of life. There have been captivating, progressive reinventions of classics like Sweeney Todd and Death of a Salesman, and bold new productions like Kimberly Akimbo and Ain’t No Mo’. There have been downtown sensations—comedian Kate Berlant, turning the one-woman show on its ear—and Midtown miracle workers like Lea Michele, Funny Girl’s greatest star. There’s been a Cinderella who’s good (Phillipa Soo in Into the Woods) and a Cinderella who’s not so good (Linedy Genao in Bad Cinderella).
Ibsen’s masterpiece famously ends with the sound of a door slamming. But these 20 buzzy performers are open and ready to be back in business. “If you take the walls off a theater, you would think it’s a madhouse,” says Corey Hawkins, who smolders opposite Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in Topdog/Underdog. “You would think you’re looking into a psych ward. I mean, you are. But it’s all for the love of the craft.” —Hillary Busis