Everything you need to know about 'Life of Pi' on Broadway

Go on an adventure to this new play based on the celebrated novel.

Joe Dziemianowicz
Joe Dziemianowicz

The spring lineup on Broadway features multiple eagerly anticipated shows that were hits in London and have now traveled to New York. One of them, Life of Pi, is an epic spectacle about a teenager fighting for his life while adrift in a tiny boat in the Pacific Ocean, based on the bestselling book and Oscar-winning film.

The production plays at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre following an acclaimed run in the West End. London Theatre’s four-star review hailed the show as inspiring, “transporting joy of magnificent theatrical storytelling.” So get on board. Before seeing the play for yourself, learn more about the show's performance information, history, characters, and more.

What is Life of Pi about?

Life of Pi is an adventure tale of endurance and hope set against seemingly impossible odds. As in the bestselling novel the play is based on, the story focuses on survivors of a cargo ship that goes down while bound for Canada from India.

Five survivors huddle together in a crowded lifeboat: 16-year-old Pi Patel, a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger. They battle time, elements, and each other to stay alive. Who will make it? And how?

Where is Life of Pi playing?

Life of Pi is at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, located at 236 W. 45th St. between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. Built by the Shubert Organization in 1917, the venue opened as the Plymouth Theatre in 1918.

Three decades later, the Shuberts renamed the building in 2005 to honor Gerald Schoenfeld, the late chairman of the Shubert Organization. Recent plays and musicals at the Schoenfeld include Take Me Out, Come From Away, The Humans, and American Psycho.

How long is Life of Pi?

Life of Pi runs just over 2 hours with no intermission. This is within the average range for a Broadway play; they typically run anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours.

What days is Life of Pi playing?

Life of Pi plays Tuesday through Sunday, with two performances on Wednesdays and Saturdays and no performances on Mondays. The production begins performances on March 9 in advance of the official opening on March 30.

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When did Life of Pi premiere?

The Life of Pi play debuted in the U.K. in June 2019, but the show's history truly begins in the early 2000s, when its source material was published. Learn more about the history of Life of Pi below.

  • 2001: Yann Martel publishes the Life of Pi novel. Though more than five publishing houses rejected the book at first, Life of Pi went on to receive critical acclaim and multiple awards.
  • 2012: Life of Pi receives a film adaptation, directed by Ang Lee. The film also receives acclaim and wins four Oscars out of 11 nominations.
  • 2019: Life of Pi premieres at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England.
  • 2021: The play transfers to the Wyndham's Theatre in London’s West End in November. The award-winning production concluded its run in January 2023 after winning five Olivier Awards.
  • 2022: The North American pre-Broadway premiere takes place at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, running from December 2022 to January 2023.
  • 2023: Life of Pi premieres on Broadway in March.

Who wrote Life of Pi?

British actress and author Lolita Chakrabarti adapted Life of Pi from Yann Martel’s beloved 2001 novel. Chakrabarti’s writing credits include the play Red Velvet, about the 19th century Black American actor Ira Aldridge. Her stage performances include a 2017 U.K. production of Hamlet directed by Kenneth Branagh, in which she played Gertrude opposite Tom Hiddleston in the title role.

Canadian author Martel has written multiple other short stories and novels, including The High Mountains of Portugal, Beatrice and Virgil, and Self, but Life of Pi remains his most famous book.

Life of Pi characters

Pi and the tiger are the sole characters on stage for most of the play, but others are mentioned too. Learn more about all the characters in Life of Pi below.

  • Pi: The teenage son of zookeepers in India is the sole human survivor when a cargo ship goes down in the Pacific Ocean. Adrift in a lifeboat, his journey of survival is both physical and spiritual.
  • The Bengal tiger: The big cat brought to life through puppet wizardry in the lifeboat goes from being a ferocious predator to Pi’s unlikely companion over 227 days at sea. The tiger's name is Richard Parker.
  • The animals: Three other animals — an orangutan, hyena, and zebra — are also shipwrecked with Pi and Richard at the start of the show.
  • Other minor characters include Pi’s family members, a survival guide author, a transport investigator, and a consulate official.

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What awards has Life of Pi won?

The Life of Pi show has been honored with several awards since its 2019 debut, and the book and film are prize winners too. Here are all the awards Life of Pi's various versions have won.

  • Olivier Awards: The West End production of the play won five Laurence Olivier Awards, including Best New Play, Best Director, Best Actor (for Hiran Abeysekera as Pi), and Best Supporting Actor (for the seven puppeteers playing the tiger).
  • UK Theatre Awards: The Sheffield production won four of these honors, including Best New Play and Best Director.
  • WhatsOnStage Awards: The Sheffield production of Life of Pi won the prize for Best New Play.
  • Academy Awards: The Life of Pi film received 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. The movie won four, including Best Director for Ang Lee.
  • Golden Globe Awards: The movie won the Golden Globe for Best Original Score. Life of Pi received two additional nominations, for Best Picture and Best Director.
  • Other awards: The Life of Pi book won multiple awards, including the Booker Prize for fiction, the Boeke Prize, and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.

Major productions of Life of Pi

Life of Pi has had a few major productions since its 2019 debut. Here are the key productions of the play to date.

  • 2019 world premiere: Life of Pi debuted in June 2019 at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England.
  • 2021 London premiere: Life of Pi premiered two years later in London’s West End. The hit production earned multiple Olivier Awards, including Best New Play. The run concluded on January 15, 2023.
  • 2022 pre-Broadway premiere: The North American premiere at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts ran from December 2022 to January 2023, ahead of the show's Broadway debut.
  • 2023 Broadway premiere: Life of Pi makes its Broadway debut on March 9 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Max Webster, who helmed all the previous productions, returns to direct.

Onscreen adaptations of Life of Pi

A filmed production of the Life of Pi stage play hasn’t been made. However, a big-screen adaptation of Yann Martel’s book was released in 2012, winning Oscar and Golden Globe Awards.

Life of Pi - London Theatre

Fun facts about Life of Pi

Learn more about moniker mix-ups, theatrical magic, and more details about Life of Pi below.

  • The predatory Bengal tiger gets the name of Richard Parker because of a clerical paperwork error within the story. Martel borrowed that name, however, from a character in an Edgar Allen Poe novel.
  • The seven actors who played Richard Parker in the West End production shared the supporting actor Olivier Award, marking the first time multiple actors won the prize for playing a single role.
  • Life-size and life-like puppets of a giraffe, zebra, tiger, goat, and other beasts are designed by Finn Caldwell and Nick Barnes. The pair previously designed puppetry in the Broadway revival of Angels in America.
  • Tony-winning set designer Tim Hatley is the brains behind the visual world of Life of Pi. Hatley designed the Broadway sets for Private Lives, Spamalot, and the upcoming Back to the Future: The Musical, another London transplant.

How to get Life of Pi tickets

Life of Pi is a thematically rich and eye-popping play packed with “hallucinatory beauty,” as London Theatre raved. Don’t miss your chance to see this adventurous show on Broadway.

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