Darren Criss to Return to Broadway as a Robot in Love

The actor will star in “Maybe Happy Ending,” an original musical set in a future Seoul. It will begin previews in September.

A man in a red velvet blazer is wearing black gloves and holding a microphone.
Darren Criss will play a helperbot who strikes up a relationship at a retirement home for obsolete humanoid devices.Credit…Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

Michael Paulson

Darren Criss, who parlayed a breakout role on “Glee” into a multifaceted career in television, theater and music, will return to Broadway this fall in a new musical that is nominally about robots but is also about life, love and loss.

The show, “Maybe Happy Ending,” is a rarity for Broadway: a fully original musical — not adapted from a pre-existing story or song catalog. Criss will star alongside Helen J Shen and two other actors in the musical, which is set in Seoul in the late 21st century and is about two outmoded helperbots who meet at a robot retirement home and forge a relationship while grappling with their own obsolescence.

The musical, by Will Aronson and Hue Park, had an initial Korean-language production in Seoul in 2016, and an English-language production in Atlanta, at the Alliance Theater, in 2020, where Jesse Green, a New York Times chief theater critic, called it “a charming, Broadway-ready new musical about robots in love.”

The Broadway production, announced Tuesday, will be directed by Michael Arden, who also directed the Atlanta production, and who last year won a Tony Award for directing a revival of “Parade.” “Maybe Happy Ending” is scheduled to begin previews Sept. 18 and to open Oct. 17 at the Belasco Theater.

“It’s a strange, futuristic look at love, with a beautiful score that feels quite classic,” Arden said in a telephone interview. “When I first read it I found it absolutely devastating and heartbreaking and beautiful — it was one of the most human stories I’d come across, even though our leads aren’t human.”

Criss, an Emmy winner for “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” last appeared on Broadway in a 2022 revival of “American Buffalo”; he had previously starred in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”

“Maybe Happy Ending” will be the first Broadway show for Shen, who is currently in “The Lonely Few” at Off Broadway’s MCC Theater. Criss and Shen will play the robots; the cast will also include Dez Duron, a onetime contestant on “The Voice.”

“Maybe Happy Ending” is being capitalized for $18.25 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The musical’s lead producers are Jeffrey Richards and Hunter Arnold, who on Friday announced that they are also among the producers of a new Off Broadway play, “N/A,” starring Holland Taylor and Ana Villafañe. That play, written by Mario Correa and directed by Diane Paulus, is to begin previews June 11 and to open June 23 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. The play, described in a news release as inspired by real people and events, is about tensions between the first female speaker of the House and the youngest woman elected to Congress; the characters have parallels to Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Harry Byrne

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