Can't get out to the theatre? PBS' "Great Performances" series, beginning its 26th year Sept. 30, will bring theatre to your TV several times during the fall.
In fact, the season opener Wednesday is a gala George Gershwin centennial concert taped at Carnegie Hall.
The season also includes Blanche DuBois singing her heart out in Andre Previn's new opera based on Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and the American TV premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats.
For the Gershwin fest, three-time Tony winner Audra McDonald (Carousel, Master Class, Ragtime) joins her Ragtime co-star Brian Stokes Mitchell to sing tunes from Porgy and Bess with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony. Also expect Gershwin's "An American In Paris" and the Second Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra.
Upcoming in this fall's "Great Performances" season:
*Nov. 2: The long-awaited film version of Cats, featuring Elaine Paige as Grizabella (singing "Memory") alongside Ken Page (the original Broadway Old Deuteronomy) and legendary John Mills as Gus.
Gillian Lynne, original choreographer, directed and choreographed the stage proceedings; David Mallet directed the picture (shot with Super 16mm film from 16 stage positions at the Adelphi Theatre in London). A "specially augmented" 76-piece orchestra was engaged for the production.
The home version of Cats will be made commercially available Oct. 27, via PolyGram Video.
Cats is followed by a repeat of the documentray Creating Ragtime.
*Dec. 2. Pavarotti and Friends, with the tenor surrounded by Jon Bon Jovi, Natalie Cole and others, in a benefit for Liberian children. It's directed by Spike Lee. The program replaces a birthday tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber, which has been bumped to the spring.
*Dec. 4. A repeat of Porgy and Bess: An American Voice, chronicling the history of the Gershwin folk opera from the African American perspective.
*Dec. 30. A Streetcar Named Desire, the world premiere opera production from the San Francisco Opera. American soprano Rene Fleming is Blanche opposite Rodney Gilfry as Stanley. It's been widely reported now that the famous "Stella!" howl is not sung. Composer Andre Previn and his collaborators said it would've gotten a laugh if sung, so it is reportedly bellowed over a tumultuous orchestration.
*Dec. 31. "Dance in America" presents Busby Berkeley: Going Through the Roof, a portrait of the Hollywod director-choreographer (Goldiggers series, 42nd Street and others).
Bill Grayson, spokesman for Thirteen/WNET's "Great Performances," says new programs about Rodgers and Hart and Noel Coward are expected in early 1999.
For the fall season, check local listings for time, date and channel.