And Next Year's Tony Goes To...

News   And Next Year's Tony Goes To... Okay, so we're nearly 365 days away from the next Tony Awards. That doesn't mean we can't speculate as to what shows will be in hottest contention for the big prizes next year. And granted, most seasons the Broadway calendar in June doesn't exactly look like the calendar eleven months later, but we can get a sense of what shows are definitely slated to reach the Great White Way, as well as what their most Awards-ish features might be.

Okay, so we're nearly 365 days away from the next Tony Awards. That doesn't mean we can't speculate as to what shows will be in hottest contention for the big prizes next year. And granted, most seasons the Broadway calendar in June doesn't exactly look like the calendar eleven months later, but we can get a sense of what shows are definitely slated to reach the Great White Way, as well as what their most Awards-ish features might be.

On the new musical front, the front-runner so far seems to be Mamma Mia!, a London smash that's been getting encouraging reviews stateside and in Toronto as well. A pastiche of ABBA songs set to a story of a woman and the three possible fathers of her daughter, Mamma's going into the refurbished Winter Garden, previous home of multiple Tony winner Cats.

Big things are also anticipated from The Sweet Smell of Success, the John Guare-Marvin Hamlisch-Craig Carnelia musical, with Nicholas Hytner directing and Brian d'Arcy James and John Lithgow starring, respectively, as a soulless newspaper columnist and a weaselly press agent. Industry buzz for the score has been strong, and a winter Chicago try-out should lead directly to a spring slot on Broadway.

Another expected new tuner is Thoroughly Modern Millie (yes, it's a new musical, not a revival; the original was a movie), staged by Michael Mayer. The show was supposed to arrive this past season, but out-of-town casting turnovers and technical problems, and a bunch of full Broadway theatres, kept it away. Insiders counted the show out until it started getting surprisingly good reviews and positive audience reaction at its La Jolla Playhouse tryout.

2001-02 might also see three other musicals that nearly made it to Broadway this past year: The Rhythm Club,The Visit and 3hree [sic]. A new tuner by Chad Beguelin and Matthew Sklar about dance clubs during the late Weimar era in Germany, The Rhythm Club received decent-to-very-good reviews at its Signature Theatre debut in DC. Kander and Ebb's The Visit, based on Friedrich Durrenmatt's satirical play, tried for two years to get to Broadway, with Angela Lansbury slated for the lead. She eventually begged off owing to her husband's illness, and the show looked like a goner until Chicago's Goodman Theatre showed interest. Now Chita Rivera and John McMartin will star in a Windy City mounting this fall, and if that goes well, Broadway would likely follow shortly afterward. 3hree, a trio of one-act musicals (one of which is directed by Harold Prince), received much acclaim at its Prince Theatre debut in Philadelphia, and plans are afoot for a New York run. The biggest question mark so far is Thou Shalt Not, an adaptation of Zola's "Therese Raquin" with a score by Harry Connick, Jr. Lincoln Center Theatre is producing, with Producers goddess Susan Stroman directing and choreographing.

Other musical wild cards might include The Witches of Eastwick, a new Wildhorn, and Lloyd Webber's The Beautiful Game

On the musical revival front, the Roundabout is giving Stephen Sondheim's Assassins its first shot on Broadway. In its original run, the show, about various presidential murderers and would-be killers, was seen as too dark and non-commercial to make the leap from Playwrights Horizons to Broadway in its initial run. Now that it's something of a minor classic, perhaps the time is ripe for Joe Mantello's new staging. Another Sondheim show (and one of his most popular) is also slated for a revival: Into the Woods. A revised version of the fairy tale tuner will try out in L.A. Before reaching Broadway in the spring.

Finally, perhaps the granddaddy of all Broadway musicals, Oklahoma!, will at last reach America. Trevor Nunn's acclaimed revival has been endlessly postponed through years of red tape and scheduling difficulties, but it now looks like a sure thing for the Gershwin in early spring. Baz Luhrmann's staging of La Boheme is also eyeing Broadway the spring. (And why not? If Broadway has room for Rent, it should have room for its source material, no?)

On the new play front, very little has been announced at this point. The Kathleen Turner solo, Tallulah, may still arrive, and Jon Robin Baitz's Ten Unknowns, which scored an Off-Broadway hit for Lincoln Center Theater, is looking to move and keep its cast-members, including Donald Sutherland, Julianna Margulies and Justin Kirk. There are only two semi-sure things at this point. One, a hit on the touring circuit is If You Ever Leave Me...I'm Going With You, a two-hander for longtime marrieds Joe Bologna and Renee Taylor. The evening of reminiscences and sketch excerpts, arrives at Broadway's Cort Theatre in July. (The August 6 opening date coincides with the couple's 36th anniversary.) The second expected arrival is of Neil Simon's latest, 45 Seconds from Broadway, set in a diner based on the "Polish Tea Room" eatery in the theatre district. Jerry Zaks directs.

Play revivals due include Huntington Theatre Company's acclaimed Hedda Gabler, starring Kate Burton; A Thousand Clowns, with Tom Selleck as a likeable but undependable free spirit; Liam Neeson in The Crucible, and either a star-powered Streetcar Named Desire and Long Day's Journey Into Night or both.

So that's what Broadway 2002 looks like — as of early June 2001. Will By Jeeves sweep in and win everything? Only time will tell...

— By David Lefkowitz