A Walking Tour of Opening Nights on Broadway, 2008-09

Special Features   A Walking Tour of Opening Nights on Broadway, 2008-09 Want a reminder of every show that opened on Broadway in the Tony season that just finished? We've got it.
West Side Story stars Josefina Scaglione and Matt Cavenaugh
West Side Story stars Josefina Scaglione and Matt Cavenaugh Photo by Joan Marcus

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Broadway proved itself amazingly resilient in the face of an international recession, bringing Times Square a bumper crop of 43 plays and musicals, the most since the 1982-83 season. Here is a recap of the season's opening nights.

June 26, 2008 - Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, the family-friendly theatrical, acrobatic and musical adventure that evokes the exotica of untamed places with acrobats, jugglers, aerialists and contortionists, is the first production of the season.

July 17, 2008 - [title of show] — the musical that tells the story of its own creation — opens at the Lyceum Theatre. Originally seen Off-Broadway in 2006, the entire original cast — including co-creators Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell as well as co-stars Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff — make the leap to the Broadway stage.

September 18, 2008 - Nearly two decades of writing, workshops and rewriting come to a climax with the opening of Jill Santoriello's musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities. James Barbour plays drunken lawyer Sydney Carton who is redeemed by the love of a good woman in the musical set in London and Paris during the French Revolution. September 25, 2008 - Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe and Tony and Olivier Award winner Richard Griffiths are featured in a revival of the Tony-winning 1974 drama Equus. Peter Shaffer's play tells the story of a psychiatrist (Griffiths) who becomes absorbed in the strange case of a young man (Radcliffe) who blinds a stableful of horses.

October 2, 2008 - Kristin Scott Thomas and Peter Sarsgaard star in a revival of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull. Thomas recreates her performance as Arkadina that won her an Olivier Award when the show originated at the Royal Court Theatre in London. Saarsgard plays Trigorin.

October 5, 2008 - Jason Robert Brown's musical, 13, features a 13-member cast of actual teens. The musical tells the story of a boy facing his 13th birthday in a new town.

October 7, 2008 - In the first Broadway revival of Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons, three-time Tony Award winner Frank Langella plays the 16th century statesman Sir Thomas More, who stood up to King Henry VIII in his conflicts with the church.

October 14, 2008 - Opening night for To Be or Not To Be, Nick Whitby's adaptation of the Ernst Lubitsch film comedy about a Polish acting troupe that tries to escape the Nazis during World War II with nothing but their acting ability to help them. Casey Nicholaw directs a cast including Jan Maxwell and David Rasche for the Manhattan Theatre Club. It's the first show to open at the newly rechristened Friedman Theatre (formerly, the Biltmore).

October 16, 2008 - John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Patrick Wilson and Katie Holmes star in a revival of Arthur Miller's 1947 drama All My Sons, the story of an aircraft parts manufacturer who carries a terrible wartime secret.

October 23, 2008 - Two decades after its Tony Award-nominated bow, Speed-the-Plow returns to Broadway starring Jeremy Piven, Elisabeth Moss and Raúl Esparza. David Mamet's comedy shows two Hollywood sharks whose movie pitch is interrupted by a pretty temp worker.

Haydn Gwynne in Billy Elliot.
photo by David Scheinmann

November 13, 2008 - Billy Elliot, the hit London musical based on the 2000 film about a working class boy who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer, makes its Broadway debut. Billy Elliot has music by Elton John and book and lyrics by Lee Hall, who wrote the film. The demanding part of Billy is rotated among three young actors on a nightly basis. The cast also features London star Haydn Gwynne as the dance teacher, with Gregory Jbara and Carole Shelley as members of Billy's family. November 17, 2008 - Cedric the Entertainer, John Leguizamo and Haley Joel Osment are featured in a Broadway revival of American Buffalo, which, along with Speed-the-Plow, means that Broadway hosts two David Mamet classics simultaneously.

November 20, 2008 - The battling Gordon clan of Harrison Texas tries to decide whether to sell the family mansion to developers in Horton Foote's comedy-drama Dividing the Estate, starring Elizabeth Ashley, Hallie Foote, Penny Fuller and Gerald McRaney.

November 23, 2008 - Irving Berlin's holiday film White Christmas comes to Broadway in an adaptation directed by Walter Bobbie. Steven Bogardus and Jeffrey Denman star as a pair of army buddies who try to help their former commanding officer who has fallen on hard times. The score includes songs from the Bing Crosby film, augmented with other tunes, familiar and unfamiliar, from the Irving Berlin songbook.

December 3, 2008 - Liza Minnelli returns to Broadway for the first time in nearly a decade in her concert show Liza's At The Palace…!, paying tribute to her godmother, designer and performer Kay Thompson.

December 7, 2008 - It's a blizzard on Broadway tonight with the opening of a limited-run transfer of the long-running Off-Broadway clowning theatrical special, Slava's Snowshow, starring Slava Polunin.

December 14, 2008 - Dreamworks Pictures makes its first foray into Broadway producing with a stage adaptation of its popular animated film Shrek, starring Brian d'Arcy James as the green ogre of the title, Sutton Foster as the princess he saves, and Daniel Breaker as his donkey sidekick. The show has a score by Jeanine Tesori and Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire.

December 18, 2008 - Roundabout Theatre Company revives Rodgers and Hart's 1940 musical Pal Joey, with Stockard Channing, Martha Plimpton and, in the title role, Matthew Risch. The story of a scheming charmer in the world of 1940s Chicago nightclubs, the show has a new book by Richard Greenberg.

January 15, 2009 - Soul of Shaolin, an extravaganza of music and marital arts, is imported from Shanghai by the Chinese government.

January 22, 2009 - Lily Rabe and Mercedes Ruehl play mother and daughter whose summer vacation is thrown into turmoil by the arrival of a handsome young man in the premiere of The American Plan. David Grindley direct the drama by Richard Greenberg. It's Greenberg's second Broadway opening in a little over a month.

January 25, 2009 - Mary-Louise Parker and Michael Cerveris star in a new production of Henrik Ibsen's classic Hedda Gabler for Roundabout Theatre Company.

February 5, 2009 - Comedian Will Ferrell marks the end of the Bush administration with a sold-out show in which he impersonates and satirizes the 43rd president, You're Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush.

February 19, 2009 - Will Chase and Malcolm Gets star as pals who grow up together, from ages 6 to 35 in the original musical The Story of My Life. The show marks the Broadway debut of the writing team of Neil Bartram (music and lyrics) and Brian Hill (book).

March 1, 2009 - Des McAnuff stages an innovative revival of Guys and Dolls that uses animated projections and introduces author Damon Runyon as a character. The classic "musical fable of Broadway" stars Craig Bierko as Sky Masterson, Oliver Platt as Nathan Detroit, Kate Jennings Grant as Sarah Brown and Lauren Graham as Miss Adelaide.

Colin Hanks, Jane Fonda, Samantha Mathis and Zach Grenier in 33 Variations.

March 8, 2009 - After an absence of more than 40 years, actress Jane Fonda returns to Broadway in 33 Variations, Moisés Kaufman's drama about a music historian who sets out to uncover the roots of Beethoven's obsession with a seemingly trivial waltz. March 15, 2009 - Four-time Tony winner Angela Lansbury and two-time Tony winner Christine Ebersole return to Broadway in a revival of Noël Coward's "improbable comedy" Blithe Spirit, about a novelist (Rupert Everett) who uses a eccentric medium (Lansbury) to conjure up the ghost of his late first wife (Ebersole), with dire consequences for his second wife (Jayne Atkinson).

March 19, 2009 - Revival of the classic musical West Side Story, directed by its 90-year-old librettist, Arthur Laurents. Matt Cavenaugh and Josefina Scaglione play Tony and Maria in the Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Laurents stages the scenes of Puerto Rican street gang members in Spanish, with a translation by Tony-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda of In the Heights.

March 22, 2009 - New York debut of Yasmina Reza's London hit, God of Carnage, in which Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden play the increasingly belligerent parents of two boys involved in a playground fight.

March 24, 2009 - Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen star in Michael Jacobs' play, Impressionism, about photojournalist and gallery owner who discover each other. Also featured: Marsha Mason and André De Shields.

March 26, 2009 - Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon are king and queen on increasingly unsteady thrones in a rare revival of Eugene Ionesco's black comedy Exit the King, directed by Neil Armfield. Also featured: Lauren Ambrose and Andrea Martin.

March 29, 2009 - Tovah Feldshuh plays a gentile who hides a group of Jews from the Nazis during World War II in a transfer of the Off-Broadway hit, Irena's Vow.

March 31, 2009 - The "American tribal love-rock musical" Hair returns to Broadway in Diane Paulus' production, which originated at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park in summer 2008. Gavin Creel and Will Swenson are featured in the James Rado/Gerome Ragni/Galt MacDermot musical.

April 2, 2009 - Playwright Neil LaBute makes his Broadway debut with a transfer of his Off-Broadway hit, Reasons to Be Pretty, examining people's obsession with physical beauty. Terry Kinney directs a cast that includes Marin Ireland, Steven Pasquale, Piper Perabo and Thomas Sadoski.

April 7, 2009 - Constantine Maroulis, Amy Spanger and James Carpinello are featured in the musical Rock of Ages with a score of 1980s hits by rock groups Journey, Bon Jovi, Styx, Pat Benatar and others. The original story follows two fans who come to Los Angeles to pursue their dreams of pop stardom.

April 15, 2009 - Alice Ripley plays a suburban woman battling mental illness in Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's musical, Next to Normal, which enjoyed runs Off-Broadway and in Washington DC. J. Robert Spencer, Aaron Tveit and Jennifer Damiano play her family.

April 16, 2009 - A wanderer arrives at a Pittsburgh boarding house in 1911 in the first Broadway revival of August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come And Gone. Tony winner Bartlett Sher directs a cast that includes Ernie Hudson, Chad L. Coleman and Aunjanue Ellis, for Lincoln Center Theater.

April 19, 2009 - Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter play battling queens of Scotland and England in the U.S. premiere of the hit London revival of Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart.

April 23, 2009 - It takes three performances to see all of Alan Ayckbourn's triptych The Norman Conquests, which comes to Broadway's Circle in the Square from a hit revival at London's Old Vic. Directed by Matthew Warchus, the cast includes Amelia Bullmore, Jessica Hynes, Stephen Mangan, Amanda Root Paul Ritter and Ben Miles.

Jessica Hynes and Ben Miles in The Norman Conquests.
photo by Richard Termine

April 26, 2009 - Matthew Broderick leads the cast of The Philanthropist, Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Christopher Hampton's comedy centering on a clueless professor. April 27, 2009 - Two-time Tony winner Brian Dennehy recreates his Goodman Theatre performance in a revival of Eugene O'Neill's New England family drama, Desire Under the Elms. Robert Falls directs the trimmed, 100-minute production, which also features Carla Gugino and Pablo Schreiber.

April 29, 2009 - Tony winner David Hyde Pierce portrays a playwright who finds fresh inspiration in a pretty young secretary in Manhattan Theatre Club's revival of Samson Raphaelson's 1934 comedy Accent on Youth.

April 30, 2009 - Country star Dolly Parton makes her Broadway debut as composer of the score to 9 to 5: The Musical, an adaptation of the film in which she once co-starred. Screenwriter Patricia Resnick wrote the libretto to the show about female office workers' conflict with their male chauvinist boss. Allison Janney, Stephanie J. Block and Megan Hilty star with Marc Kudisch.

April 30, 2009 - Theatre fans had to wait — appropriately — for the final production of the season, Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Samuel Beckett's existential classic Waiting for Godot, starring Nathan Lane, Bill Irwin, John Goodman and John Glover.

Robert Viagas is production editor of Playbill, host of Playbill Radio, and author or editor of 11 theatre books including the annual "Playbill Broadway Yearbook" and the new "I'm the Greatest Star!"

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