PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 26-Aug. 1: Octoberfest

ICYMI   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 26-Aug. 1: Octoberfest The long-promised Bill Kenwright-produced Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring Ashley Judd was finally confirmed for a fall start on Broadway this week. The Music Box is its happy home; Oct. 9 the show's first performance. With that announcement, and a quick glance at the calendar, one suddenly realized that Broadway producers had slowly but surely put together one of the busiest autumns in memory.

In October alone, at least 10 new shows will begin performances—roughly one every three days.The hectic month begins Oct. 2 with the first preview of the William Nicholson drama Retreat from Moscow, the first new play of the season, which will be quickly followed, on Oct. 4, by the second new play of the season, William Gibson's Off-Broadway transfer Golda's Balcony. Composer Stephen Schwartz returns to Broadway after a long absence on Oct. 7 with his new Wicked. Two days later, the Tennessee Williams revival commences. The owner of last season's big Broadway play Take Me Out, Richard Greenberg, returns to the Street on Oct. 16 with the Manhattan Theatre Club production of The Violet Hour. The next day brings Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, the solo work starring Ellen Burstyn.

Taboo, the London import about Boy George's salad days in London's clubs, begin previews on Oct. 21, and comic Jackie Mason's latest effort Laughing Room Only, comes along a couple days later. As we approach Halloween, Never Gonna Dance, the Jerome Kern musical which reworks the Astaire-Rogers film "Swing Time," starts its run Oct. 27, followed quickly by the all-star mounting of Shakespeare's Henry IV at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont. Finally, the Roundabout Theatre Company's new rendition of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker hasn't named its exact dates, but an October beginning is a safe bet.

Among the artists involved in the artistically wealthy month: actors Eileen Atkins, Ned Beatty, Mario Cantone, Kristin Chenoweth, Billy Crudup, Richard Easton, Raul Esparza, Tovah Feldshuh, Ethan Hawke, Dana Ivey, Ashley Judd, Kevin Kline, Robert Sean Leonard, John Lithgow, Audra McDonald, Idina Menzel and Jason Patric; and directors Michael Greif, Joe Mantello, Jack O'Brien, Anthony Page, Christopher Renshaw and Dan Sullivan.

As for Broadway in July, there was only Big River and Avenue Q, and that turned out to be enough. Both won unanimous praise, and Avenue Q, the witty, irreverent show that creates a sort of "Sesame Street" for adult problems, looks to have gotten the season off to an exciting start the way Hairspray did one year ago. The Vineyard Theatre, the Off-Broadway company that hatched Avenue Q, will stick with what works—puppets—next season, when it unveils Paula Vogel's latest work The Long Christmas Ride Home. The production will feature creations by puppeteer Basil Twist.

Jeffrey Richards and James Fuld will produce a new production of Richard Adler and Jerry Ross' musical, The Pajama Game, to reach Broadway in the late spring or early summer of 2004. Kathleen Marshall will make her directorial debut with the show. Marshall will also choreograph. Meanwhile, Richards' current Broadway show, Matthew Barber's light romantic comedy, Enchanted April, will end its run at the Belasco Theatre Aug. 31. The Williamstown Theatre Festival has its first New York transfer from the current summer season, Berkshire Village Idiot—though, in this case, the Manhattan production probably existed on paper before the Berkshire one did. In early June, it was announced that the Michael Isaac Connor play would replace Frank D. Gilroy's The Lake in the Williamstown's schedule. Before the run began, a New York booking for late August at the Zipper Theatre was disclosed. The one-man show will also star Connor.

Finally, Tony Award nominee Antonio Banderas is scheduled to leave the Tony Award-winning revival of Nine on Oct. 5. This did not come as a big surprise. Banderas' wife Melanie Griffith was to end her stay in Chicago on Sept. 28. Griffith can use the extra week to pack her hubby's suitcase.