A Preview of the Fall Broadway Season

Special Features   A Preview of the Fall Broadway Season
 
The autumn Broadway line-up is largely set and, though September looks like a good time to have a peaceful and undisturbed picnic in Shubert Alley, the action picks up considerably in October.
Mary-Louise Parker and Craig Lucas team up for Reckless.
Mary-Louise Parker and Craig Lucas team up for Reckless. Photo by Andrew Eccles

Playbill On-Line has put together the following guide to the coming attractions.

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Manhattan Theatre Club found its best success at the Biltmore in 2003-04 with a revival of Donald Margulies' Sight Unseen. The nonprofit is back in the revival business, via a co-production with the equally venerable Second Stage, for Craig Lucas' Reckless, the first Broadway show of the fall. The play has always been one of the favorites in the Lucas canon, though it's never had a Broadway berth. And the talent suits the project well, as director Mark Brokaw (The Dying Gaul) and Mary-Louise Parker (Prelude to a Kiss) have shown themselves at home with Lucas' work. Fellow cast members Debra Monk and Rosie Perez can't hurt matters. Opening is Oct. 14.

The fall's first musical, Brooklyn, follows, opening Oct. 21 at the Plymouth. This original piece is a fairly unknown quantity—a rarity in an autumn populated by solo star turns and established titles. Composers Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson are making their Broadway debut and the cast being headed by up-and-comer and former Wicked witch standby Eden Espinosa.

The Roundabout Theatre Company's initial fall offering, Twelve Angry Men, furnishes audiences with a well-known story and a dozen seasoned actors with steady employment. The collection of veteran thesps may prove to be the chief pleasure of the production. Among the hired help: Boyd Gaines, Philip Bosco, Mark Blum, Larry Bryggman, James Rebhorn and Tom Aldredge. Opening is Oct. 28. The first solo show of a fall crowded with them is Laugh Whore, an apt desciption of its star, comedian and actor Mario Cantone. Joe Mantello directs the former Assassins star. The evening, opening on Oct. 24, will apparently see the shrill-voiced funnyman sing a song or two. The following month will see two more comedian-actors hit the boards. Whoopi Goldberg will recreate the self-titled 1984 show that launched her career at the Lyceum, and Billy Crystal will regale audiences will tales about his family and life in 700 Sundays. The shows open on Nov. 17 and Dec. 5, respectively. Coming in between, on Nov. 21, is the latest visit from Dame Edna, Back With a Vengeance, which may very well trump all the competition.

There is one more one-person show on the fall schedule, but it's closer to a play than the self-celebration of a talent. With The Good Body, playwright-performer Eve Ensler will try to do for the rest of the female anatomy what The Vagina Monologues did for, well, one part of that anatomy. Ensler makes her Broadway debut on Nov. 15.

The first major new play of the season will be August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean, which has a gem of a cast: Phylicia Rashad, Delroy Lindo, Ruben Santiago-Hudson and LisaGay Hamilton, among others. Wilson plays are known for the acting fireworks. This one should have sparks to spare. Gem is the ninth play in Wilson's 10-play cycle chronicling the African American experience through each decade of the 1900s. Set in Pittsburgh in 1904, it becomes the first play chronologically in Wilson’s collection. Opening is Nov. 11.

Closely following Gem is the most famous work of another Pulitzer Prize-winner, Marsha Norman. But the attraction of the first-ever Broadway revival of 'night, Mother, on Nov. 14, is not its author, but its star, Edie Falco. The "Sopranos" star proved an attraction in Frankie and Johnny a couple seasons back. Producers doubtless expect the same result this time around, even though the vehicle is a far darker one than Terrence McNally's blue collar love story. Brenda Blethyn co-stars. Michael Mayer directs.

Enjoying a virtual corner on the snob market this autumn will be Michael Frayn's Democracy, the British dramatist's first since Copenhagen, the snob hit of 2000. The play is about West German politics during the Cold War, and director Michael Blakemore has done what he did with Copenhagen—hire a first-rate American cast for the U.S. premiere. James Naughton and Richard Thomas will have the lead roles. Supporting are Lee Wilkof, Michael Cumpsty and Robert Prosky. Opening is Nov. 18. Another possible British import for the fall is Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman (though the debut may occur in spring).

The oldest play being revived this fall is undoubtably Sheridan's 1775 comedy The Rivals, which will get its first major New York production in long memory at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theatre. It will begin performances Nov. 26 and open Dec. 16. Mark Lamos directs. No casting has been announced.

A rush of musicals will arrive, rather appopriately, with the holiday season—two old, one new, and one borrowed, so to speak. The latter is Good Vibrations, which finds its score in the sunny catalogue of the '60s pop group The Beach Boys. A loose-limbed plot charts the travails of a group of friends who take a road trip to (where else?) California. First time Broadway director John Caraffa guides a cast of unknowns in hopes of matching the success of other so-called "jukebox musicals," such as Mamma Mia! and Movin' Out. Previews begin Dec. 9.

Along with Brooklyn, Little Women is the only fall musical with a completely original score. The Allan Knee-Jason Howland-Mindi Dickstein show is drawn from the Louisa May Alcott classic. The show will likely draw attention primarily because it provides Sutton Foster with her first post-Millie starring role, though the well-known American title doesn't hurt, either. Susan H. Schulman directs her first Broadway work since The Sound of Music. Previews begin Dec. 2.

Stephen Sondheim and the Roundabout, who paired memorably last spring with Assassins, do so again in November for Pacific Overtures, the 1976 musical about the cultural and economic opening of Japan. Amon Miyamoto will direct a cast headed by B. D. Wong at Studio 54, beginning Nov. 12.

Finally, there's the revival of Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein's 1984 La Cage aux Folles, the last hit for both writers (though Fierstein has since returned in glory as an actor, in Hairspray). Producers once hoped to make it a star vehicle. In the end, however, they cast it with stage stalwarts Daniel Davis and Gary Beach—an end which will no doubt please critics, who have always been fans of the two actors, but which means that the show and the production will largely have to sell itself. It may well happen. The original production ran for four years and its leads, George Hearn and Gene Barry, were much like Beach and Davis—well respected in the community, but hardly stars. Then again, the Broadway of 1984 was not as dependent on stars as is today's street.

Surprise entries are always a possibility this fall. But, in the meantime, the above should keep the theatre community and its audiences busy.

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