Top 10 reasons to see 'Death of a Salesman' on Broadway
Discover why you can't miss this revival of one of the greatest American plays ever written.
Death of a Salesman is coming back to life. Arthur Miller's Pulitzer-winning and most celebrated play returns to Broadway this fall for the sixth time. Its number of revivals is a testament to the show's staying power, and if you've missed the previous productions, you won't want to let this one pass you by.
The salesman of the play's title is Willy Loman, a 63-year-old man who lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Linda, and two sons, Biff and Happy. All his life, Willy has been consumed with the idea of the American dream and making something major of himself through his career. But now, toward the end of his life, he has to come to terms with the fact that his past memories and future hopes were delusions, and that he's fallen short of true happiness.
This revival features Tony Award winner Wendell Pierce and Tony nominee Sharon D Clarke as Willy and Linda, reprising roles they earned acclaim for in London back in 2019. Now that they're bringing their talents to Broadway, learn why attention must be paid to this award-winning Death of a Salesman revival, which gives new, timely depth to a time-honored show.
The show got rave reviews in London.
All the previous Death of a Salesman productions originated here in New York. But this one comes from across the pond with an established record of success. Pierce and Clarke first took on the Loman mantle in 2019 at the Young Vic theatre in London, earning a five-star review from London Theatre: "This ferociously powerful production is a thrilling rediscovery of a very familiar play."
The show did the same later that year, when it transferred to the Piccadilly Theatre in London's West End: "This is a play of epic stature, and it receives a production to match it in every regard... the production and the actors actually scale up impressively to achieve new heights of emotional connection." Death of a Salesman received equally glowing reviews from other British publications, so it's safe to say the Broadway production is poised for greatness.
This Death of a Salesman features an all-Black cast.
In fact, it is the first Broadway production of the show to do so. The show is set in 1940s Brooklyn, a pre-Civil Rights Movement time and place in which it would have been especially difficult for a Black worker like Willy to prosper. A New York Times review of the London premiere notes this: "While he has absorbed and abides by the mythology and rules of the American dream of self-advancement, there’s a part of Willy that worries the odds are fatally stacked against him." The casting of the Lomans as Black sharpens Miller's critique of the American dream, pointing to how it was and is not equally in reach for people of all races.
The London Theatre review of the 2019 premiere also reads: "[This casting] attests to the power of performance and gives some stunning black actors access to roles that have been historically denied to them."
The formidable Broadway cast includes The Wire, Suits, and Malcolm X star Wendell Pierce as Willy Loman; Tony nominee and three-time Olivier Award winner Sharon D Clarke as Linda Loman; Tony winner André De Shields as Ben; Drama Desk Award winner McKinley Belcher III as Happy Loman; and Atlanta star Khris Davis as Biff Loman. The complete cast has yet to be announced, so these aren't even all the fantastic Black actors you'll see on stage in this production.
The leads are making triumphant returns to Broadway.
Neither Pierce nor Clarke are strangers to the Broadway stage. Pierce first performed on Broadway in 1985's The Boys of Winter and followed it up by playing three small roles in 1988's Serious Money. He's since produced two Broadway plays, one of which (2012 Best Play winner Clybourne Park) won him a Tony Award, but he hasn't performed on Broadway again until now. Death of a Salesman marks a return for Pierce nearly 35 years in the making, so you won't want to miss seeing him live. With such a busy screen career, too, who knows when you'll have another chance?
Clarke, on the other hand, just made her Broadway debut last season (though her career in British film, TV, and theatre spans decades). History is repeating itself: After winning an Olivier Award for her performance as Caroline in Caroline, or Change in London, she transferred with the production to Broadway in fall 2021 and got a Tony nomination in the spring. Now, after winning another Olivier Award for her performance as Linda in Death of a Salesman in London, she's transferring with the production to Broadway in fall 2022. The jury's out on the Tony nomination until spring 2023, so we'll have to wait and see if Clarke does it two years in a row.
Pierce and Clarke are the latest of many celebrities to star in Death of a Salesman.
See this Death of a Salesman revival, and you'll be seeing a story that lots of renowned actors have brought to life before. Dustin Hoffman and Philip Seymour Hoffman are among those who've carried Willy Loman's (literal and figurative) heavy baggage, and Andrew Garfield got his start on the Broadway stage as Biff. If you've seen any of their performances, go see this production to experience the new cast's fresh take. Read more about all the celebrities that have starred in Death of a Salesman through the years.
There's an award-winning director at the helm.
Miranda Cromwell directs Death of a Salesman on Broadway in fall 2022. Cromwell previously co-directed the London production with Marianne Elliott, and they jointly won the Olivier Award for Best Direction for their work. Cromwell also associate directed the Tony-winning Best Revival of Angels in America on Broadway in 2018, alongside Elliott as director.
Elliott was just represented on Broadway with Company in the 2021-22 season, which became the winningest musical of the season with five Tonys, including a directing award for Elliott herself. That award, her third, made her the only female director in history with three Tonys (she was previously the only female director with two, so she beat her own record) and the only female director to win Tonys for directing a play and a musical. Elliott isn't directing the play in New York, but she is producing it, and her award-winning influence is sure to still loom large.
This production is the latest of many recent Arthur Miller revivals.
Miller has been having a moment on Broadway lately. In 2019, at the same time Death of a Salesman was going up at the Young Vic, Miller's All My Sons had its latest Broadway revival starring Tracy Letts and Annette Bening. (Coincidentally, a star-studded All My Sons revival was also premiering at London's Old Vic, too.) And just a few years before, Saiorse Ronan starred in Miller's The Crucible. If you loved either or both of those productions, you can see Miller's work yet again, and if you missed either or both, see what the recent hype is about! Don't miss this chance to catch one of his most celebrated plays.
Death of a Salesman is a classic American play.
Arthur Miller's play is a cornerstone of American theatre history. Many critics and scholars call it not just his greatest work, but one of the best American plays of the entire 20th century, alongside shows like Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night and Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire. Maybe you've read one or multiple of these plays in high school, but now's your chance to see a landmark play in history brought to life in a fresh way.
The show has won tons of awards.
Since its premiere in 1949, the only thing that cements Death of a Salesman's greatness more than its critical legacy is its awards legacy. Death of a Salesman won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1949, as well as the Tony Award for Best Play and five other Tonys. Three of its four subsequent revivals (not counting the 2022 one) have won the Tony Award for Best Revival. Discover the complete history of Death of a Salesman on Broadway.
The 1984 production won three Drama Desks (two for performance and an Outstanding Revival award), and the 1999 production did the same, also winning three additional Tonys besides Best Revival. On the London side, the 2019 West End production got two Oliviers, for performance (Clarke) and directing (Cromwell and Elliott). Separately, Death of a Salesman was also the very first play to be chosen for the Book of the Month Club in the States.
Death of a Salesman is a New York story.
Certain elements of the show are tied to nearby New England states. Part of Death of a Salesman takes place in Boston, where Willy does business, and Miller wrote the play in a cabin at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut. However, Death of a Salesman is set primarily in 1940s Brooklyn, where the Lomans live. Since the play takes place in New York and focuses on a family's life in the city, what better place to see it than here?
Death of a Salesman critiques the American Dream.
Death of a Salesman was ahead of its time in that, when it premiered in 1949, America was entering a post-World War II economic boom. If anything, lots of people were celebrating the American Dream at that moment in history, but Miller was criticizing it. His play questions who is allowed to achieve success in America, even after years of work, and whether chasing monetary and career success truly makes a person happy. It doesn't make Willy happy; in fact, he looks back on his life and discovers that, now that he's failed to achieve his sole dream of making money, it's too late for him to find another one.
Not all audiences took kindly to that pessimistic criticism in the 40s and 50s — the 1950 film adaptation flopped at the box office, even though it, like the Broadway show, was a critical hit. But today, as more and more people are once again questioning the American Dream and redefining what success and justice looks like for people of all races, genders, and classes, the message of Death of a Salesman has become more relevant than ever.