This Is the Secret to Seeing Some of the World's Best Theater Before It Hits Broadway

If your travels take you to a city with a major theater, you might catch a show before it plays in New York City. For true theater geeks, the bragging rights are beyond.

Original "Doc Brown" Christopher Lloyd (C) poses onstage at the West End production of "Back To The Future: The Musical" at The Adelphi Theatre on July 13, 2022 in London, England.
Photo: David M. Benett/Getty Images

Most Broadway shows don't start on Broadway. With productions costing millions, producers often want to see how a show plays in front of an audience before taking that final step. At any given moment, regional theaters all over the country, smaller off-Broadway non-profits, as well as theaters in Canada and England, are running productions that could be Broadway's next big thing.

Shows coming to Broadway next season include "Almost Famous," which ran last fall at the Old Globe theater in San Diego, a frequent incubator for Broadway productions, and "& Juliet," which was a big hit in London. And one of the most anticipated shows, "Kimberly Akimbo," started out off-Broadway in New York at the non-profit Atlantic Theater Company.

Avid theater lovers search these productions out, intent on seeing how a show progresses and happy to have the bragging rights that come with seeing something before everyone else. Here's a guide to some of the shows running in the next year that could end up on Broadway.

"Mr. Holland's Opus"

Exterior of the Ogunquit Playhouse
Courtesy of Ogunquit Playhouse

Ogunquit Playhouse, Ogunquit, Maine
Aug. 13-Sept. 10

The beloved 1995 musical about the enduring power of music is being adapted as a musical by Tony-winning actor BD Wong ("M. Butterfly") and composer Wayne Barker. No future plans have been announced, but the movie has a strong cult following. Who could forget Richard Dreyfuss' heart-wrenching, Oscar-nominated performance as a high school music teacher?

Info: Tickets, $47-$96; 207-646-5511,

"Sing Street"

The Huntington Calderwood Pavilion, Boston
Aug. 26-Oct. 2

How to impress a girl? Invite her to star in your band's music video — first step, start a band. That's the sweet coming-of-age story behind this musical, based on the 2016 indie film. Set in Dublin in the early '80s, the show ran off-Broadway in 2019, but Broadway plans were postponed by the pandemic. Producers are giving the show another shot, though no official Broadway plans have been announced.

Info: Tickets, $25-$175; 617-266-0800,

"The Notebook"

Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Sept. 6-Oct. 16

Singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson has created songs for this musical, based on the hugely bestselling Nicholas Sparks novel (get a sneak peak, her recording of the haunting song "If This Is Love" is on YouTube). Written by master of the tearjerker Bekah Brunstetter ("This Is Us"), the show is an ode to enduring love, telling the story of an elderly couple as they look back on their lives. Broadway seems likely.

Info: Tickets, $41-$125, 312-595-5600,

"The Book Thief"

Octagon Theatre, Bolton, England
Sept. 17-Oct. 15

Best-selling novelist Jodi Picoult is getting into musicals in a big way. Her show "Between the Lines" is running off-Broadway through Oct. 2 and could very well move to Broadway. Meanwhile, she's working on an adaptation of Markus Zusak's gripping novel "The Book Thief." It's the story, Picoult explains in a promotional video, of an orphaned girl, a foster child in a German home where a Jew is hiding during World War II. By interacting with this man, says Picoult, "she learns how words have the power to hurt and to heal." No plans for a Broadway transfer have been announced, but considering the popularity of the book (16 million copies sold), it's pretty likely.

Info: Tickets start at about $18; 01204 520661 (option 2),

"Life of Pi"

American Repertory Theatre, Boston
Dec. 4-Jan. 29, 2023

When his ship sinks, a 16-year-old moving with his family from India is stranded on a lifeboat with several animals, including a Bengal tiger. Inspired by the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, the show won five Olivier Awards in London (their Tonys), including best new play. It's a story of endurance and hope and the puppetry is supposed to be breathtaking. Nothing official for Broadway, but it's a pretty sure bet.

Info: Tickets on sale Oct. 6, starting at $25; 617-547-8300;

"The Harder They Come"

The Public Theater, New York City
Winter 2023

This theater is responsible for giving birth to some of Broadway's biggest hits ("Hamilton," "A Chorus Line") so new musicals often make the jump. This one, by the Public's writer-in-residence Suzan-Lori Parks, is inspired by the 1972 film and tells the story of a young Jamaican singer as he struggles to make it in the music business. It features the music of Jimmy Cliff.

Info: Tickets not yet on sale; 212-967-7555,

"Back to the Future"

Cast member Olly Dobson (5R) performs at the curtain call during the opening night performance of "Back To The Future: The Musical" at The Adelphi Theatre on September 13, 2021 in London, England.
David M. Benett/Getty Images for McFly Productions Ltd

Through Feb. 12, 2023
Adelphi Theatre, London

Yes, the time-traveling DeLorean flies in this musical that's been running in London since September 2021. Based on the hit 1985 film starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, the musical romp revives the initially clueless Marty McFly who's as confused as ever when he travels back in time and meets his high school–aged parents. The show has announced a Broadway transfer in 2023, but no details yet. Stay tuned.

Info: Tickets from about $23; 44 020 7087-7754,

"A Transparent Musical"

Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles
May 20-June 25, 2023

The team behind the Golden Globe–winning TV series — Joey Soloway is doing the book and Faith Soloway the music — is working on the premiere of this musical. Fans of the show, about the journey of the Pfefferman family and the patriarch's transition into Maura, are promised many of their favorite characters will appear. "I've been hearing the Pfeffermans singing to me since first working on 'Transparent'," says Faith Soloway, "so getting to see this musical through is a dream come true." It's early going for this show, but a Broadway move could happen.

Info: Tickets not yet on sale; 213-628-2772,

"Water for Elephants"

Alliance Theatre, Atlanta
Summer, 2023

For anyone who's ever dreamed of running off to join the circus, this musical will be a joy. Based on Sara Gruen's best seller, the show deals with a couple's love for each other and for Rosie, the elephant. Hard to imagine the show won't have a life beyond Atlanta.

Info: Single tickets go on sale this fall, 2022; 404-733-4600,

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