Over the years, many a young, Midwestern or Southern romantic has been attracted to the Big Apple by the wistful lyricism of Vernon Duke's famous ode to NYC, "Autumn in New York," which promises "the thrill of first-nighting," only to arrive in Gotham to find that there are virtually no first nights in autumn. At least in terms of Broadway, that is. During the past decade, you could drive a Mack truck between the Broadway premieres of a typical fall.
The Broadway schedule this coming autumn, however, looks to be a packed one and is falling into place with startling alacrity. Some shows had been expected for some time, including the musicals Seussical, which opens at the Richard Rodgers Nov. 9, Jane Eyre, which will make the Brooks Atkinson its home come Dec. 3, and Little Women, due to bow at the Ambassador on Nov. 7. More recently, the London Trevor Nunn-Susan Stroman production of Oklahoma!, once thought dead to the U.S., was revived, and announced for a Broadway opening in the fall (probably at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, where Jesus Christ Superstar will close Sept. 3). Next, Manhattan Theater Club found a hit in Charles Busch's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife and quickly crowned it Broadway-worthy, sending it to the Barrymore for a Nov. 2 curtain.
Then, rather suddenly, a new production of Gore Vidal's The Best Man was put together, featuring Spalding Gray, Charles Durning and Chris Noth, and rushed into the Virginia Theatre for a Sept. 21 debut. Out west came news that The Full Monty, the new Terrence McNally-David Yazbek musical based on the movie of the same name, was a hit. To Broadway it was speeded, for an Oct. 26 opener. In Washington D.C., there was yet another success, Neil Simon's The Dinner Party. Before you could say Emanuel Azenberg, an NYC engagement was announced for October.
Add to this mix a limited run of Jane Wagner's 1985 hit The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, starring Lily Tomlin, starting on Nov. 11; the possibility that August Wilson's King Hedley II, due at the Mark Taper Forum Sept. 2-Oct. 22, might go directly to Broadway; a promised September production of Judgment at Nuremberg from the National Actors Theatre; and talk of David Auburn's Proof, a hit at MTC, transferring to the Great White Way, and you've got a mighty crowded autumn. Vernon Duke, no longer made a liar by time and change, would be relieved.
Auburn's play seems to have stirred up a skirmish of sorts between NYC's two leading nonprofit theatres, the Roundabout Theatre Company and Manhattan Theatre Club. The battleground: Broadway. The spoils: Mary-Louise Parker. Parker is the rather indispensable star of Proof, without whom the show might not achieve a Broadway transfer. But Parker told Playbill On-Line in mid-June that she would be starring in the Roundabout's production of Desire Under the Elms come fall, no doubt giving the folks at MTC fits. On June 30, however, the New York Times reported that Parker had left the Roundabout project and that Desire has been dropped altogether from the schedule. The sudden exit would seem to indicate that the actress was sticking with Proof. Time will tell. To make room for all these coming shows, some attractions have to close and, indeed, there are quite a few shutterings this weekend, including Footloose, Dame Edna and A Moon for the Misbegotten. Reportedly, the latter may travel to London next winter. Regarding Footloose, its star Jeremy Kushnier won't be out of work for long. He will headline the new musical The Rhythm Club, which will debut at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, in August, before stopping in Chicago en route to a Feb. 15, 2001, Broadway opening.
Meanwhile, its not a Broadway production, but it sort of sounds like one, or like a show that might get to New York eventually. The Paper Mill Playhouse revealed that Chita Rivera would play Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, beginning Sept. 6, nearly fifty years after the actress made her legit debut. The musical marks Rivera's first major New York-area role since Kiss of the Spider Woman brought her roaring back into the spotlight.
--By Robert Simonson