A Walking Tour of Broadway's Fall Shows

A Walking Tour of Broadway's Fall Shows The fall 2005 Broadway schedule is largely set, with established names such as Nathan Lane, Patti LuPone and Andrew Lloyd Webber—as well as Broadway newcomers Joseph Brooks, Rick Najera and Gary Griffin—planning to take a bow. Here's Playbill.com's walking tour of the coming attractions.

From Top: Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, The Odd Couple, The Color Purple, Jersey Boys and Woman in White
From Top: Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, The Odd Couple, The Color Purple, Jersey Boys and Woman in White

How can you not like a season that begins with a sighting of A Naked Girl on the Appian Way? Or a season that starts with a new play by one of America's most important playwrights? Appian Way is the latest by Take Me Out author Richard Greenberg, who will have a banner 2005-06 season (three plays on the New York stage, three world premieres overall nationwide). The Roundabout Theatre Company, in a rare move, has placed the new work on its main stage at the American Airlines Theatre, where it will begin Sept. 9. The tale of two siblings who return home from vacation only to wreak havoc on their parents will also mark the stage return of Jill Clayburgh, who will pay a second call on Broadway in the spring with Barefoot in the Park.

At its Studio 54 location, the Roundabout will offer classic fare in the form of O'Neill's A Touch of the Poet, beginning Nov. 11. Doug Hughes, taking a break from all the freshly born plays he's recently brought to life, will direct Gabriel Byrne, last seen in Gotham in another O'Neill masterwork, A Moon for the Misbegotten.

Meanwhile, Roundabout's brother in Broadway nonprofitdom, Manhattan Theatre Club, has chosen to greet autumn at the Biltmore with a comedy, namely Alan Ayckbourn's story of three couples, three kitchens and three successive Christmas eves, Absurd Person Singular. The cast includes Mireille Enos, Clea Lewis, Sam Robards, Alan Ruck, Deborah Rush and Paxton Whitehead. Previews begin Sept. 22.

The last of the big three nonprofits, Lincoln Center Theater, having no vacant Broadway house of its own (The Light in the Piazza has happily proven too popular at the Vivian Beaumont) has rented out the Booth Theatre. There it will offer theatregoers a day at the beach (albeit a beach frequented by man-size lizards) in the form of a new revival of Edward Albee's Seascape. Old Albee hand George Grizzard will star alongside Elizabeth Marvel, the Off-Broadway daredevil (Hedda Gabler) who's been praised in most everything she's done lately.

Amphibious actors will hardly be the oddest thing about the fall Broadway season. In fact, unusual offerings will be far from, well, unusual. Little is known about In My Life, the first new musical of the autumn. The composer, a newcomer to Times Square, is Joseph Brooks, a film tunesmith best known for creating the song "You Light Up My Life." The show concerns a musician with Tourette's syndrome and a Village Voice journalist with obsessive compulsive disorder who meet cute (how could they not with those jobs and ailments?) and fall in love. Brooks also directs, making this one very much his baby. Previews begin Sept. 30. Another recent surprise addition to the line-up is Latinologues, a collection of monologues about the Latino experience in America, which is directed by none other than Cheech Marin (as in "..and Chong"). The production — created and written by Rick Najera—comes to Broadway after touring the country the past few years. The Helen Hayes has it beginning Sept. 13.

Equally unexpected is a second New York visit by Souvenir, the solo show starring Judy Kaye. The show debuted at the York Theatre Company's Off Broadway digs last season without barely raising a ripple on the New York theatre waters. It then went to the Berkshire Theatre Festival Aug. 17-Sept. 3. Despite an absence of apparent public demand, it is now back—and on Broadway, no less. The show, which opens at the Lyceum Nov. 10 (after previews from Oct. 27), has Kaye playing Florence Foster Jenkins, an eccentric society woman who made a name of sorts for herself as an infamously bad singer.

The box office fortunes of the above three are an open question. That is not the case of The Odd Couple. The highly touted reunion of popular stagemates Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick has been the undoing of many a wallet. Millions of dollars of tickets are already sold, all based on the good time folks remember having at The Producers. Joe Mantello directs this ready-made hit, which also features an enviable supporting cast of Brad Garrett, Lee Wilkof, Peter Frechette, Rob Bartlett, Jessica Stone and Olivia d'Abo. Ticketholders will begin lording their attendance over the heads of their friends after Oct. 4.

Chita Rivera, an entertainment icon, will be proffering herself as audience catnip in a dramatic-musical-dance-whatnot telling of her story, Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life. The show, which has been in the works for years and will arrive at the Schoenfeld on Nov. 23, has a book by Terrence McNally and direction by Graciela Daniele, as well as a sizable supporting cast. Chita will talk, Chita will dance, Chita will recall musical landmarks created by Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, Bob Fosse, Gower Champion and Michael Kidd. Anyone who has seen the septuagenarian hoofer recently knows she's as live a wire as anyone out there—not unlike, say, Elaine Stritch, whose At Liberty is now the gold standard for this sort of production.

The rest of the fall will be filled with musicals. First up is the radical new revival of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, in which director John Doyle will have all the actors double as musicians. The creative recipe was a success in London, and—now that the knotty union issues have finally been settled—the producers are hoping history will repeat itself at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre come Oct. 3. However the show is received, fans of Patti LuPone (who plays Mrs. Lovett) will just be happy to see their idol back in a Broadway musical for the first time in many years (even if she will be lugging a tuba).

Beginning the same day, at the Virginia Theatre, is Jersey Boys, the first brave "jukebox musical" to follow in the wake of the ill-starred Good Vibrations and Lennon. The Des McAnuff-directed show, which was a big success at the La Jolla Playhouse, is about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons and their rise to fame. The score, of course, uses the falsetto-inflected catalogue of that singing group.

On Oct. 28, Broadway will see the return of Andrew Lloyd Webber, onetime Broadway omnipresence whose dominance has waned in the 21st century. His The Woman in White, still playing in London, is based on the Victorian novel by Wilkie Collins. Trevor Nunn, Webber's trusted director on many other projects, pilots the tale of betrayal, greed, romance and a mysterious figure with a chilling secret.

Finally, The Color Purple, the musicalization of Alice Walker's novel, takes its place at the Broadway Theatre on Nov. 1. The show, about life and self-realization among African-Americans in the South in the early decades of the last century, is written by pop songwriters Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray, and bookwriter Marsha Norman (her first Broadway musical since the ill fated The Red Shoes). It will be the Broadway debut of Chicago wunderkind Gary Griffin, and will star LaChanze in her first major Broadway assignment since being discovered way back in 1990 in Once on This Island.

For more information on these and future shows, visit Playbill.com's Schedule of Upcoming Broadway Shows.