2000-01 SEASON PREVIEW: The Broadway Musicals

News   2000-01 SEASON PREVIEW: The Broadway Musicals The 2000-01 Broadway musical season looked particularly strong a couple months ago. Since then, things have fallen off a bit. Little Women, set for the fall, was canceled, as was the hoped-for Susan Stroman Trevor Nunn revival of Oklahoma!. Most recently, the new Kander and Ebb show, The Visit, dealt a fatal blow by the exit of star Angela Lansbury, abandoned hope of reaching New York this season. Still, at least a few new musicals are sure things and a few other possibilities may come through.

The 2000-01 Broadway musical season looked particularly strong a couple months ago. Since then, things have fallen off a bit. Little Women, set for the fall, was canceled, as was the hoped-for Susan Stroman Trevor Nunn revival of Oklahoma!. Most recently, the new Kander and Ebb show, The Visit, dealt a fatal blow by the exit of star Angela Lansbury, abandoned hope of reaching New York this season. Still, at least a few new musicals are sure things and a few other possibilities may come through.

The Full Monty: This David Yazbek-Terrence McNally adaptation of the popular 1997 British movie is the first new musical of the season. It's momentum is strong, following good reviews and box office records at San Diego's Old Globe this past summer. McNally and the film are known quantities, but Yazbek will be making his big league debut. The cast features no major stars, but several solid theatre talents including Jason Danieley, Patrick Wilson, Annie Golden, Emily Skinner and Andre De Shields. Jack O'Brien directs. The show begins previews at the O'Neill Theatre Sept. 26 for an Oct. 26 opening.

Seussical: The fate of this Lynn Ahrens-Stephen Flaherty adaptation of the stories of Theodore S. Geisel is anybody's guess. At one time, people talked of it as the one sure thing of the season. Now, if you gather two theatre professionals in a room, you'll get three opinions, from the most sunny forecast to the gloomiest decrees. The recent sudden change of costume designer, from Catherine Zuber to Williams Ivey Long, didn't bode well, but the Frank Galati-directed tuner is still on track to begin previews at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Oct. 15, for a Nov. 9 opening. For now, it's running in Boston, with Kevin Chamberlin, Michele Pawk and David Shiner. Kathleen Marshall choreographs.

The Rocky Horror Show: For the season's freak attraction, look no further than producer Jordan Roth's revival of this cult Richard O'Brien musical (better known as a cult movie). Christopher Ashley will direct. The cast, the product of a very public search, includes Dick Cavett, Lea DeLaria, Joan Jett, Jarrod Emick, Raul Esparza, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Alice Ripley and Tom Hewitt. (Put that bunch on a deserted island and see who survives.) Famed restaurant designer David Rockwell gets his first shot at a Broadway set. Previews begin at Circle in the Square Oct. 20. Opening is Nov. 15.

Jane Eyre: This John Caird-Paul Gordon effort has been popping up around Canada and the U.S. for several years now, working toward an ever-promised and now finally realized Broadway bow. The show has gone through a lot of changes in that time, transforming from a weighty megamusical to a more intimate chamber affair. Playing novelist Charlotte Bronte's immortal Jane and Rochester are Marla Schaffel and James Barbour. Caird also directs, with Scott Schwartz. Previews begin Nov. 7 for a Dec. 3 opening at the Brooks Atkinson Theater. • Bells Are Ringing: This show almost joined The Visit and Little Women as one of the season's early drop-outs when CA's Pasadena Playhouse canceled its pre-Broadway run. But producer Mitchell Maxwell quickly booked the show into Boston. Faith Prince won the starring role (originated by Judy Holliday) in this Betty Comden-Adolph Green-Jule Styne musical, netting, perhaps, her best gig since winning a Tony for Guys and Dolls nearly a decade ago. Tina Landau, known for far more experimental work (Floyd Collins, Space), is the director, Jeff Calhoun the choreographer. The show is expected to alight on Broadway in March 2001. No house has been announced.

Follies: Treat Williams, Jean Smart, Dan Butler, Karen Ziemba, Judith Ivey, Betty Garrett, Polly Bergen. And that's just the beginning. The speculation surrounding this first-ever Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman's 1971 masterpiece has reached a near maddening pitch, with every actor owning a Social Security number being linked to the production. And the show doesn't even begin rehearsals until February. If they are seeing as many people as the gossips say, director Matthew Warchus' and choreographer Kathleen Marshall's heads much be spinning by now. So, what do we know for sure about this Roundabout Theatre Company production? Aside from Warchus and Marshall, not much. Previews are tentatively scheduled for Mar. 6, 2001, and the Belasco is the likely haunt.

The Producers: You can't have a Broadway season without a Susan Stroman show, and if there's going to be one this go-around, it'll probably be Mel Brooks' stage adaptation of his film, The Producers. This project had been languishing in development for years, but earlier this year shifted into high gear when Stroman took the helm (the show has been connected to her late husband, Mike Ockrent) and Nathan Lane signed to play the Zero Mostel role of an unscrupulous theatrical producer. Matthew Broderick is his co-star. If all goes well, it will move into the St. James Theater in early 2001.

The Rhythm Club: Jeremy Kushnier stars in this Chad Beguelin-Matthew Sklar show about three young people living, dancing and playing jazz in Hamburg, Germany, as World War II nears. After a run in Chicago, the musical is due to begin preview Jan. 26, 2001, for a Feb. 15 Broadway opening at a Jujamcyn Theatre to be announced.

Thoroughly Modern Millie: Another big maybe for 2000-01 is this stage version of the 1967 film musical comedy directed by George Roy Hill, which will premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse this October. New songs have been written by Jeanine Tesori, with lyrics by Dick Scanlan; Scanlan and Richard Morris wrote the book. Michael Mayer directs, and Erin Dilly (stepping in for Kristin Chenoweth, who opted for a TV series) is Millie. Also in the cast are Tonya Pinkins and Marc Kudisch.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: Big River gave Broadway Huckleberry Finn. Now here comes Huck's pal, Tom Sawyer. Country songwriter Don Schlitz wrote the music and playwright Ken Ludwig penned the book. Scott Ellis directs and David Marques is choreographer. Tom Sawyer will have its premiere at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, CT, in February. The show will then, it is hoped, jump down to Broadway in the spring.

-- By Robert Simonson