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Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Stage Addiction: 2007 Fall Theatre Preview

Finally, the theatre world (like the rest of the world) returns to work this week, as the new season officially gets underway. Nineteen high-profile shows will be premiering on Broadway this fall; as pundits already know, autumn is the 100-meter-dash for newly-opening shows. The questions: what will be good? What will be terrible? Which productions can make a quick run at the box office before the deadly drought after Christmas? And which few have the stamina and staying power to make it through to next spring? Here's our thoughts:


Mauritius (MTC/Biltmore Theatre, previews September 13)
Director: Doug Hughes; Playwright: Theresa Rebeck; Cast: Bobby Cannavale, Alison Pill, F. Murray Abraham, Dylan Baker, Katie Finneran
Playwright Rebeck (Omnium Gatherum, Bad Dates) is long overdue for her Broadway breakthrough; with this drama about two half-sisters who inherit a rare stamp collection -- and its top-notch cast -- we expect her to be an early Tony contender for Best Play.

The Ritz (Roundabout/Studio 54, previews September 14)
Director: Joe Mantello; Playwright: Terrence McNally; Cast: Rosie Perez, Kevin Chamberlin, Brooks Ashmanskas
This early farce by the author of Some Men, about a heterosexual man hiding out from his homicidal brother-in-law who inadvertently finds himself in a gay bathhouse, gets cleaned up for Broadway. Well, not entirely...porn star Ryan Idol has a bit part. Don't expect much, and you probably won't be disappointed (by anything but the weak script).

Pygmalion (Roundabout/American Airlines Theatre, previews September 21)
Director: David Grindley; Playwright: George Bernard Shaw; Cast: Claire Danes, Jefferson Mays, Boyd Gaines, Jay O. Sanders
My Fair Lady, minus the tunes: Shaw's street urchin transforms into an English lady with a stage debut by film starlet Danes (Stardust) Thankfully, she'll have Tony winner Mays (I Am My Own Wife) to do the heavy lifting.


August: Osage County (Imperial Theatre, previews October 30)
Director: Anna D. Shapiro; Playwright: Tracy Letts; Cast: Deanna Dunagan, Dennis Letts, Amy Morton, Sally Murphy, Jeff Perry
The hot-as-fire transfer from Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company centers on a rural Oklahoma family who return home when their father goes missing. But the real story? Big-time Broadway debuts from Shapiro, Pulitzer finalist Letts, and a cast of actors mostly unknown in New York. Can it sell on reputation alone? And is it really the second coming of Eugene O'Neill?

A Bronx Tale (Walter Kerr Theatre, previews October 4)
Director: Jerry Zaks; Written by and starring: Chazz Palminteri
The monologue-turned-movie is now a theatre piece again. And the limited run starring the Oscar-nominated actor/author (Bullets Over Broadway), detailing his tough NYC childhood, will be moderately successful in its limited run (before A Catered Affair takes over the theatre).

Cyrano de Bergerac (Richard Rodgers Theatre, previews October 12)
Director: David Leveaux; Playwright: Anthony Burgess; Cast: Kevin Kline, Jennifer Garner, Daniel Sunjata
The oft-revived tale of love and sublimated prose has the oddest cast of the season: mugging superstar Kline (A Fish Called Wanda), TV actress Garner (Alias) and long-lost Broadway star Sunjata (Rescue Me). Someone wake me when it's over...that is, if you can get a ticket to this exercise in star-humping.

The Farnsworth Invention (Music Box Theatre, previews October 15)
Director: Des McAnuff; Playwright: Aaron Sorkin; Cast: Hank Azaria, Jimmi Simpson
The most interesting collaboration of the year is McAnuff, following up his mega-hit Jersey Boys, and TV wunderkind Sorkin, returning to Broadway for the first time since A Few Good Men. What's the topic? Sorkin's favorite: television.

Rock 'N' Roll (Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, previews October 19)
Director: Trevor Nunn; Playwright: Tom Stoppard; Cast: Brian Cox, Sinead Cusack, Rufus Sewell
How do you follow-up the 9-hour, Tony-winning trilogy The Coast of Utopia? If you're Stoppard, you switch gears with a sweeping look at the connection between rock music and revolution in 1960's Prague. A huge hit and awards magnet in London...can it do the same in America?

The Seafarer (Booth Theatre, previews October 30)
Director/Playwright: Conor McPherson; Cast: Ciarán Hinds, Conleth Hill, David Morse, Richie Coster, Jim Norton
The transfer of the National Theatre's production of McPherson's chilling new play about the sea, Dublin, and the power of myth. McPherson (The Weir, The Lonesome West) plays well on Broadway; the cast, although not star-heavy, is incredibly talented. But with the glut of straight plays this fall, it's conceivable that this one might get lost in the shuffle.

Young Frankenstein (Hilton Theatre, previews October 11)
Director: Susan Stroman; Authors: Mel Brooks, Thomas Meehan; Cast: Roger Bart, Sutton Foster, Megan Mullally and Shuler Hensley
Can lightning strike Mel Brooks twice? This musical, based on his own film, is already a box-office smash. Whether it deserves its must-have ticket status is another question altogether...especially with those out-of-town reviews.


Cymbeline (Lincoln Center/Vivian Beaumont Theatre, previews November 1)
Director: Mark Lamos; Playwright: William Shakespeare; Cast: Jonathan Cake, Michael Cerveris, John Cullum, Martha Plimpton and Phylicia Rashad
The pros: Lamos is an inspired genius, the cast is divine, and the writer's pretty dang good. The cons: There have already been two major revivals of this play in New York in the last 18 months...and it's hardly the Bard's best work.

Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas (St. James Theatre, previews November 1)
Director: Jack O'Brien; Writers: Timothy Mason and Mel Marvin; Cast: Peter Paige
It's back! Did you miss it last year? Smart call.

The Homecoming (Cort Theatre, previews November 23)
Director: Daniel Sullivan; Playwright: Harold Pinter; Cast: Ian McShane, Raúl Esparza, Michael McKean, Eve Best
Pinter's play centering around an estranged brother's return to his family isn't exactly an easy sell; I'm not sure that even Esparza's legions of fans will be able to save it from quick obscurity. That is, unless it's brilliant and Brantley loses his mind over it, which is possible.

Is He Dead? (Lyceum Theatre, previews November 8)
Director: Michael Blakemore; Playwright: Mark Twain; Cast: Norbert Leo Butz, Marylouise Burke, Jenn Gambatese, Byron Jennings, Michael McGrath, John McMartin, David Pittu
David Ives' adaptation of Twain's comedy, originally penned in 1898, is about the art world. But what's really happening here is the return of Tony winner Butz (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) to Broadway, facing his first test as a headliner. Can he pull in audiences? I'm not sure, but I love the depth of his supporting cast (including the peerless trio of Jennings, McMartin and Pittu).

The Little Mermaid (Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, previews November 3)
Director: Francesca Zambello; Authors: Alan Menken, Howard Ashman; Cast: Sierra Boggess, Sherie René Scott, Tituss Burgess, Tyler Maynard
The beloved 1989 animated film gets the Broadway treatment. But don't bet the farm just yet; the out-of-town tryout happening now in Denver got some scathing reviews. Insiders say opera director Zambello (Lucia di Lammermoor) doesn't understand musical theatre OR the story. And despite solid support from veterans Scott, Burgess and Maynard, leading lady Boggess is supposedly in way over her head. Our guess? Less Lion King, more Tarzan-like disaster.

Lone Star Love (Belasco Theatre, previews November 1)
Director: Randy Skinner; Authors: John L. Haber, Jack Herrick; Cast: Randy Quaid, Robert Cuccioli, Dee Hoty, Lauren Kennedy
It's a musical Merry Wives of Windsor set in the Wild West, with music by the Red Clay Ramblers. Its Off-Broadway incarnation received Outer Critics and Lortel nominations...but is it finally ready for the big time? (One thing in its favor; with only 2 new musicals beginning before it, it's perfectly positioned to be the surprise Christmas treat everyone wants tickets for.)


November (Barrymore Theatre, previews December 20)
Director: Joe Mantello; Playwright: David Mamet; Cast: Nathan Lane, Laurie Metcalf
Although it sounds like a mess (the press notes describe it as "set just days before a major presidential election, NOVEMBER involves civil marriages, gambling casinos, lesbians, American Indians, presidential libraries, questionable pardons and campaign contributions"), it's still got the most intimidating partnership on Broadway: Mamet and Lane. Don't bet against it.

Come Back, Little Sheba (MTC/Biltmore Theatre, previews January 3)
Director: Michael Pressman; Playwright: William Inge; Cast: S. Epatha Merkerson
After a well-respected run in L.A., Tony nominee Merkerson (Law and Order) heads to Broadway for the first time in 17 years as part of a married couple whose lives are unsettled by a young boarder.

Sunday in the Park with George (Roundabout/Studio 54, previews January 18)
Director: Sam Buntrock; Authors: James Lapine, Stephen Sondheim; Cast: Daniel Evans, Jenna Russell
London's Menier Chocolate Factory revival of perhaps the greatest Sondheim musical is already the talk of the town. It won every major theatrical award London has to offer. Expect it to be the first must-see event of 2008.

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