Is Michael Greif Setting a Record by Directing 3 Shows This Season?

Jennifer Ashley Tepper Is answering your questions with Broadway Deep Dive!

By: Mar. 10, 2024
Is Michael Greif Setting a Record by Directing 3 Shows This Season?
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Do you have a burning Broadway question? Dying to know more about an obscure Broadway fact? Broadway historian and self-proclaimed theatre nerd Jennifer Ashley Tepper is here to help with her new series, Broadway Deep Dive. Every month, BroadwayWorld will be accepting questions from theatre fans like you. If you're lucky, your question might be selected as the topic of her next column!

Submit your Broadway question in the comments here!

This time, the reader question was: Is Michael Greif setting a record by directing three shows this season?

Directing three shows in one Broadway season is quite a feat. Between development, pre-production, rehearsals, tech, previews, opening, and the early days of a show’s run, directors have an immense amount of work to accomplish on one show—let alone three!

During the 2023-2024 Broadway season, Michael Greif has the distinction of directing three new productions: Days of Wine and Roses, The Notebook, and Hell’s Kitchen. Not only are all three shows premiering on Broadway this season, they are all new musicals—which come with their own unique directorial duties, somewhat distinct from the duties associated with revivals and plays.

Greif is renowned on Broadway and off-Broadway as the director of Rent (1996, Broadway), f-ing A (2003, Off-Broadway), Grey Gardens (2006, Broadway), Next to Normal (2009, Broadway), Angels in America (2010, Off-Broadway), The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide… (2011, Off-Broadway), Giant (2012, Off-Broadway), If/Then (2014, Broadway), Our Lady of Kibeho (2014, Off-Broadway), Dear Evan Hansen (2016, Broadway), and War Paint (2017, Broadway), among many other credits. He has received four Tony Award nominations for Best Direction of a Musical, and is particularly known for his directorial expertise in successfully shaping new, original musicals and inspiring distinguished performances from his actors.

Days of Wine and Roses first premiered off-Broadway at Atlantic Theater Company in 2023, where it garnered positive reviews and was sold out for the majority of its run. Greif had been developing the show, based on the 1962 film, for awhile before that, with composer-lyricist Adam Guettel (The Light in the Piazza, Floyd Collins) and book writer Craig Lucas (Prelude to a Kiss, The Light in the Piazza). In early 2024, Days of Wine and Roses began its Broadway run at Studio 54, led by its original stars, Kelli O’Hara and Brian d’Arcy James. The story follows a couple in the 1950s and 1960s and their dangerous relationship with alcohol, as their marriage becomes a roller coaster of ups and downs.

Is Michael Greif Setting a Record by Directing 3 Shows This Season?
Scene from Days of Wine and Roses

The highly anticipated stage adaptation of The Notebook is currently in previews on Broadway at the Schoenfeld. Directed by both Greif and Schele Williams (The Wiz), The Notebook has music and lyrics by pop singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson and book by Bekah Brunstetter (The Cake, This Is Us). Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, which became a popular 2004 film, The Notebook features three pairs of actors portraying central characters Noah and Allie at different points of their lives.

Greif’s final production that will open on Broadway during the 2023-2024 season is Hell’s Kitchen, a transfer from The Public Theater off-Broadway. Like The Notebook, Hell’s Kitchen is the Broadway debut of an immensely successful singer-songwriter—this time, Alicia Keys, who fictionalized her own upbringing for this galvanizing New York City-set musical. The coming-of-age story with music and lyrics by Keys in collaboration with others and book by Kristoffer Diaz (The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, Hercules) includes existing songs from Keys’ career, and will start previews soon at the Shubert. Greif has been attached as director since 2018, collaborating on shaping the piece.

One reason that these three musicals directed by Greif may have all scheduled openings on Broadway within four months is the backlog of shows due to the pandemic. The industry is still contending with a quantity of productions that stacked up on calendars due to various points in their development being delayed during the shutdown in 2020 and 2021.

There are directors who have been at the helm of three shows opening in one season before. During the 2014-2015 season, Scott Ellis directed You Can't Take It With You, The Elephant Man, and On The Twentieth Century. During the 1987-1988 season, Hal Prince directed Roza, Cabaret, and The Phantom of the Opera. George Abbott also directed three shows in one season. While it is an incredibly rare achievement to direct three productions on Broadway in one season, it has been done before.

That said, as far as research can tell us, no one has ever directed three new musicals opening in one season before. Michael Greif is the first person in Broadway history to have achieved that triumph. Since directing a new musical often (but not always) requires more in-depth developmental work and more involved levels of production work than directing a revival or a straight play, this is particularly notable. It’s technically possible for Greif’s three shows to be in competition with each other during award season. But at the end of the day, setting the record for directing three new Broadway musicals in one season is worthy of a trophy in itself.

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