THE WEEK AHEAD, March 17-23: Once Opens; End of the Rainbow and Magic/Bird Begin on Broadway

Inside Track   THE WEEK AHEAD, March 17-23: Once Opens; End of the Rainbow and Magic/Bird Begin on Broadway's weekly planner reminds you that a Guy and a Girl meet cute in an Irish pub that serves as multiple locations — and they make beautiful music together — in Once… the Broadway Bears head into hibernation… Skies aren't blue for Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow… and Magic Johnson and Larry Bird play hoops on the Main Stem. The luck of the Irish is on your side in this St. Patty's Day edition of THE WEEK AHEAD!
Cristin Milioti in Once.
Cristin Milioti in Once. Photo by Joan Marcus


Saturday, March 17 
GO→ John Cullum, Judith Ivey and Bobby Steggert celebrate St. Patrick's Day with special performances at the Gingold Theatrical Group's Golden Shamrock Gala. The evening will honor playwright Terrence McNally and actor Brian Murray. The evening also promises a traditional Irish dinner of corned beef and cabbage, lamb stew and vegetarian Shepherd's pie. (6 PM, The Players Club, 16 Gramercy Park S., btwn. Irving and Park Ave. Info/tickets.) 

Sunday, March 18
OPENING→ Once, a jewel of a new musical based on the 2006 Oscar-winning film of the same name, opens on Broadway after a successful run at Off-Broadway's New York Theatre Workshop. The company of 13 actor-musicians, led by Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, perform the infectious folk-rock score by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. (If you like Mumford & Sons or The Civil Wars, this show is for you!) A pre-show jam session and onstage bar create the perfect atmosphere for the Dublin-set love story between a lonely Irish busker and a feisty Czech immigrant. (Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 W. 45th St., btwn. Broadway & 8th Ave. Click here for Playbill Club discount tickets.) 

LAST CHANCE→ Patina Miller plays her last night as the nightclub-singer-turned-nun, Deloris Van Cartier, in the Broadway musical Sister Act. Miller, whose turn as Deloris earned her Olivier and Tony nominations, will be succeeded on March 27 by television star Raven-Symoné. (Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway at 53rd St. Click here for Playbill Club discount tickets.) 

LAST CHANCE→ After 15 years, the Broadway Bears will finally hibernate. The annual Broadway Bears/Equity Fights AIDS fundraiser, featuring cuddly teddy bears dressed as famous Broadway characters, began in 1998 and has since raised close to $2 million. The grand finale auction will feature characters from such productions as Evita, Follies, Grey Gardens, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Li'l Abner, Porgy and Bess, Sister Act, Sunset Boulevard and War Horse. Bryan Batt ("Mad Men") will host the auction. (8 PM, at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, 237 W. 42nd St., btwn. 7th & 8th Aves. Info/tickets.) 

Tracie Bennett in End of the Rainbow.
photo by Carol Rosegg

Monday, March 19
PREVIEWS→ The tumultuous last year of Judy Garland's life makes up the story at the center of Peter Quilter's play with music, End of the Rainbow, now on Broadway. British actress Tracie Bennett, who received rave reviews and an Olivier nomination during the play's London debut in 2010, plays Garland in 1968, a year that the troubled icon had hoped would be dedicated to her career comeback. Her chronic substance abuse would prove otherwise. (Belasco Theatre, 111 W. 44th St., btwn. Broadway & 8th Ave. Officially opens April 2. Click here for Playbill Club discount tickets.) 

Tuesday, March 20
PREVIEWS→ Amy Herzog's 4000 Miles received rave reviews when it debuted last year as a part of Lincoln Center Theater's developmental program LCT3. The show now moves up to the big leagues — Lincoln Center's Off-Broadway Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater — for a second showing. The original cast, including Tony winner Mary Louise Wilson and Gabriel Ebert, reprise their roles as a 91-year-old old spitfire named Vera and her 21-year-old grandson, Leo, respectively. When Leo's friend dies suddenly, he takes solace in an unlikely place — the not-so-welcoming arms of the feisty, communism-loving Vera. (Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, 150 W. 65th St., at Columbus Ave. Officially opening April 2. Info/tickets.) 

Wednesday, March 21
PREVIEWS→ The dynamic love/hate relationship between basketball icons Larry Bird and Earvin "Magic" Johnson receives the theatrical treatment courtesy of Lombardi scribe Eric Simonson. Kevin Daniels and Tug Coker fill the very big shoes (literally and figuratively) of the titular roles in Magic/Bird, which chronicles the Hall of Famers' relationship and rivalry from college to the majors. Directed by Thomas Kail (Lombardi, In The Heights). (Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St., bet. Broadway & 8th Ave. Officially opening April 11. Click here for Playbill Club discount previews tickets.) 

Thursday, March 22
OPENING→ Des McAnuff's critically lauded Stratford Shakespeare Festival production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Jesus Christ Superstar makes the leap to Broadway. This bolder, grittier version of the famous rock opera features famous JCS tunes like "I Don't Know How to Love Him," "What's the Buzz" and the title song. (Neil Simon Theatre, 250 West 52nd St., btwn. Broadway & 8th Ave. Click here for Playbill Club discount tickets.) 

Friday, March 23
GO→ Grammy-winning soul singer Bettye Lavette — who famously sang Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" with Jon Bon Jovi at Obama's inaugural celebration — returns to the Café Carlyle with a show that promises gospel, blues, soul and funk in a way that only Lavette can swing it. (Through March 24, The Café Carlyle, 35 E. 76th St., at Madison Ave. Info/tickets.) 

Blake Ross is the editor of Playbill magazine. Follow her on Twitter @PlaybillBlake.

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