BROADWAY SPRING PREVIEW 2012: What's the Buzz? Eva Peron, a Rockin' Messiah, Wit and Newsies on the Horizon

Special Features   BROADWAY SPRING PREVIEW 2012: What's the Buzz? Eva Peron, a Rockin' Messiah, Wit and Newsies on the Horizon
 
In the winter and spring months ahead, Broadway will see plays by Margaret Edson, Athol Fugard, David Auburn, Arthur Miller and others commingling with the musicals Newsies, Jesus Christ Superstar, Ghost, Rebecca and Nice Work If You Can Get It. Playbill offers you the spring 2012 lineup at a glance.

Matthew Broderick, Rosemary Harris, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ricky Martin, Cynthia Nixon and James Earl Jones
Matthew Broderick, Rosemary Harris, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ricky Martin, Cynthia Nixon and James Earl Jones

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Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice will get to relive their salad days this spring, as new productions of their first two hits, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita are reborn on Broadway, opening within a couple weeks of each other.

Neither production was made in America. The JCS hails from Canada, the Evita from England. The former, a Stratford Shakespeare Festival staging by Des McAnuff, became a hot property the moment it received the simultaneous seal of approval from both the critical corps and the songwriters. Soon, the revival, praised for its slick, disciplined theatricality, was imported for a late fall run at the La Jolla Playhouse, where McAnuff has a long history. Following the Playhouse run, Superstar will open on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre March 22.

This Evita — the first Broadway revival of the 1976 musical about Argentine first lady Eva Peron — did not take as fast a track to New York. It began in London's West End in 2006, where it made a star out of Elena Roger, who is an Argentine herself. To play rebel-narrator Che, director Michael Grandage cast (for Broadway) a face more familiar to American audiences — singer Ricky Martin. Michael Cerveris, as Juan Peron, completes the list of leading players. The production will open at the Marquis Theatre on April 5.

James Corden in One Man, Two Guvnors.
photo by Johan Persson

The planes heading westward from London are packed with Broadway-bound shows this season. Also from England is the National Theatre production of One Man, Two Guvnors, a rare opportunity for Broadway audiences to see a comedy by 18th-century Italian master Carlo Goldini. The fiendishly complicated plot, adapted by Richard Bean (the play is typically called The Servant of Two Masters), centers on Francis Henshall (played by popular British television star James Corden, also of The History Boys), who takes on jobs as lackey to two parties in order to meet his insatiable appetite for food. Trouble is, one of his bosses is out to kill the other one. The comedy will open at the Music Box on April 18. Ghost is a musical based on an American property — the 1990 supernatural love story that starred Patrick Swayze, Whoopi Goldberg and Demi Moore — but it was England that gave the show its premiere. The script was assembled by a cross-Atlantic crew that included original screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin, who adapted his original screenplay, composer Dave Stewart (half of The Eurythmics) and prolific American pop songwriter Glen Ballard ("Man in the Mirror," "You Oughta Know"). It opens at the Lunt-Fontanne on April 23.

Another Anglo-American mash-up is End of the Rainbow, a new play by Britisher Peter Quilter about the final months of legendary entertainer Judy Garland. English actress Tracie Bennett (acclaimed for this assignment) plays the troubled Garland as she prepares for her latest comeback. Joining her is her new young fiance (Tom Pelphrey) and adoring accompanist (Michael Cumpsty). For the Garland-obsessed (I think there are a few theatregoers out there who meet that description), the show will feature several of the singer's most memorable songs. Opening is April 2 at the Belasco.

Rebecca star Sierra Boggess

Upcoming shows that didn't begin in England, but feel as if they might have, include the farce Don't Dress for Dinner and the musical Rebecca. The former is French playwright Marc Camoletti's sequel to madcap 1960s sex romp Boeing-Boeing, which was a surprise success on Broadway in 2008. The Roundabout Theatre Company, spying an opportunity, is reviving Don't Dress, which follows the further farcical adventures of Robert and Bernard, the central figures in Boeing. The plot? Two friends, two affairs, two people named Suzy — like that. John Tillinger, who recently directed the comedy in Chicago, will direct. It will open April 27 at the American Airlines Theatre. The original London mounting of Don't Dress ran for seven years.

Rebecca, meanwhile, is based on the Daphne du Maurier romantic thriller and camp classic best known to the public through the 1940 Hitchcock film. The adaptation that will bring Manderley to Broadway has (deep breath) an original book and lyrics by Michael Kunze, music by Sylvester Levay, an English book adaptation by Christopher Hampton and English lyrics by Hampton and Kunze. Two directors, Michael Blakemore and Francesca Zambello, are needed to stage the work of so many writers. The cast will include the Little Mermaid herself, Sierra Boggess, as the lead character — that's "the second Mrs. de Winter," not Rebecca (she's dead — no spoiler there unless you've been living in a cave for the last 75 years). Previews begin March 27 at the Broadhurst.

A scene from Newsies at Paper Mill Playhouse
photo by T. Charles Erickson

Speaking of the Little Mermaid, Disney has its hottest prospect in years in Newsies, the new stage adaptation of the failed 1992 movie musical from the studio. The show, about an 1899 strike by a bunch of scrappy New York newsboys, was well received when it opened at the Paper Mill Playhouse last summer. So, beginning March 14, the Nederlander Theatre will be teeming with compact actors in vests, knickers and tweed caps. The creative team includes composer Alan Menken, lyricist Jack Feldman and bookwriter Harvey Fierstein.

Though, unlike some other explicitly named shows this season, it doesn't call itself The Gershwins' Nice Work If You Can Get It, the new musical comedy Nice Work If You Can Get It is indeed packed with classic tunes by George and Ira Gershwin. The new-fashioned libretto by Joe DiPietro — about a bootlegger named Billie Bendix (the usually sweet-as-pie Kelli O'Hara) and the wealthy playboy (the usually un-playboyish Matthew Broderick) — is suggested by yet another Gershwin musical, Oh, Kay! It will open April 24 at the Imperial Theatre, under the direction of 2011 Tony winner Kathleen Marshall.

Steve Kazee in Once.
photo by Joan Marcus

One last musical addition to the season is Once, the gentle, sentimental new adaptation of the cult film about two ordinary people who fall in love while composing songs together. The show, directed by John Tiffany, announced its Broadway intentions before the Off-Broadway run at New York Theater Workshop had even opened. It will open at the Jacobs Theatre on March 18.

The straight plays arriving this winter and spring do not lack for marquee names. The Broadway bow of Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize-winning Wit, opening Jan. 26 at Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, will feature Cynthia Nixon as a poetry professor facing cancer. John Lithgow will next take the Friedman, playing the title newspaperman in David Auburn's The Columnist, opening April 25. Philip Seymour Hoffman heads the cast of Mike Nichols' staging of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, opening at the Barrymore in March. And Rosemary Harris adorns the Roundabout Theatre Company's Broadway premiere of Athol Fugard's The Road to Mecca (it's now in previews at the American Airlines Theatre). Director Michael Wilson's new interpretation of Gore Vidal's political drama The Best Man has more than enough star insurance. The cast includes James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, Candice Bergen, Eric McCormack, John Larroquette and Michael McKean. Opening is April 1 at the Schoenfeld.

Kevin Daniels will portray Magic Johnson in Magic/Bird.

Also aiming for a Broadway home in the new year is Magic/Bird, a basketball-themed play from Eric Simonson, the author of last season's football-themed work Lombardi. The lead characters are, yes, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Opening is March 21 at a theatre to be named, according to the producers. And Pulitzer-winning dramatist Bruce Norris is expected to finally get a Broadway production when his drama Clybourne Park, an examination of race and class informed by Lorraine Hansberry's groundbreaking A Raisin in the Sun, parks itself at a theatre to be named, though the engagement has yet to be officially announced.

Additionally, Peter and the Starcatcher, the imaginative 12-actor stage adaptation of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson's prequel to the tale of Peter Pan, which was seen Off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop last spring, will crow on Broadway in spring 2012. Disney Theatrical Productions commissioned the work, which is not billed as a musical, but features a handful of songs by Wayne Barker. Tony Award nominee Stephen Hoggett (American Idiot, Black Watch, Once) created the movement for the frisky production. Its NYTW cast is expected to make the move to a theatre yet to be announced. Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, The Addams Family) penned the script; Tony nominee Alex Timbers and Tony winner Roger Rees co-directed.

There is also word that producer Bob Boyett is seeking a Broadway house for Ann, the one-woman biographcal play about the late former governor of Texas, Ann Richards. Holland Taylor  of TV's "Two and a Half Men" and other stage and screen projects, wrote it and stars. (It's currently at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.)

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