(The following run-down is not meant to be comprehensive, so, please, gentle publicists and agents: place those receivers back in their cradles.)
A new revival of Fiddler on the Roof arrives at the Minskoff on Jan. 23, the first new commercial Broadway production of the year. David Leveaux, who had a magic touch with the recent Nine, is the director, and, with the casting of Alfred Molina and Randy Graff as Tevye and Golde, it appears the musical classic may possess a more youthful verve than is usually the case. Kathleen Marshall, who scored a qualified hit with Wonderful Town, will return in the summer to try her hand on The Pajama Game, another show which hasn't seen Broadway in a long while. New musicals include Bombay Dreams, the A.R. Rahman Bollywood-themed musical discovered and backed in London by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The Broadway mounting, with an assist by Producers librettist Thomas Meehan, should prove a big gamble for the producers. Also due is Sly Fox, a revival of Larry Gelbart's 1976 comic riff on Jonson's Volpone. The cast, rich with talent, should help curry interest. Supporting star Richard Dreyfuss are such able talents as Eric Stoltz, Bob Dishy, Rene Auberjonois, Peter Scolari and Bronson Pinchot. A much smaller affair, cast-wise, is Match, the Broadway debut of playwright Stephen Belber (Tape), starring Frank Langella and Ray Liotta. And what's spring without a British import? The praised London revival of Tom Stoppard's Jumpers will arrive in April.
THE BIG THREE:
As usual, New York's three Broadway-Off-Broadway nonprofit monoliths—Lincoln Center Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club and the Roundabout Theatre Company—will provide theatregoers with ample fare. LCT will try to make it two for two in the Shakespeare department, following the lauded Henry IV with an equally ambitious King Lear starring Christopher Plummer. Stephen Sondheim will provide summer excitement as actor (and now author) Nathan Lane and director Susan Stroman present their reworked version of the obscure The Frogs. On their smaller, Newhouse stage, A.R. Gurney's new drama, Big Bill, which played the Williamstown Theatre Festival this past summer, will have its New York debut. MTC hopes to have better luck on its new Broadway stage, the Biltmore Theatre, with Drowning Crow, than it did with the star-crossed The Violet Hour. Crow will be the biggest production to date for playwright-actor Regina Taylor. The contemporary African-American take on The Seagull stars Alfre Woodard. Following it into the Biltmore will be a star-laden (Liev Schreiber, Laura Linney) revival of Donald Margulies' breakthrough play Sight Unseen. In its Off-Broadway City Center spaces, MTC will premiere Sarah, Sarah by Daniel Goldfarb, the first significant offering by that playwright since he first attracted attention for Adam Baum and the Jew Movie some years back. Also in the wings is the world premiere of Between Us, a new play by Joe Hortua, to be directed by Christopher Ashley.
The Roundabout is banking big on Sondheim in 2004, staging two of the master's most (hitherto) uncommercial works. Joe Mantello will direct the Broadway premiere of 1991's Assassins, casting as the killers a clutch of dependable stage performers, including Denis O'Hare and Neil Patrick Harris. Amon Miyamoto will pilot Pacific Overtures in the fall. Both shows have books by John Weidman. Roundabout has also scheduled a Ken Ludwig-revamped version of Hecht and MacArthur's classic comedy Twentieth Century. Film stars Alec Baldwin and Anne Heche will play the story's warring director and diva. The summer will bring a revival of Arthur Miller's After the Fall, a play that has never pleased critics, but may under the guidance of Michael Mayer, who succeeded grandly with Miller's A View from the Bridge. Later still is the Scott Elliott revival of The Threepenny Opera. The company will inaugurate its new Off-Broadway space (the former American Place Theatre) with Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel.
Inevitably, Off-Broadway will provide a wide and varied menu of entertainment. Playwrights Horizons starts out 2004 with new plays by two big names: Craig Lucas, who proffers Small Tragedy; and Jon Robin Baitz, unveiling Chinese Friends. Second Stage gives us Charles L. Mee's latest rumination on love, Wintertime, and, perhaps, a commercial go at Lucas' perennial favorite Reckless, with Mary-Louise Parker in the lead.
The Atlantic Theater Company begins the year with Sea of Tranquility by Howard Korder, who's been absent from the New York scene for a time. After that, comes a double bill of Ionesco's The Bald Soprano and The Lesson, two absurdist classics rarely given the pro treatment in Gotham. Directing is Carl Forsman, straying from his Keen Company base. Primary Stages enters a new phase in its long existence, opening its virgin space, the niftily titled 59E59 (it's on 59th Street, kids) with Terrence McNally's The Stendahl Syndrome. McNally has been spending his time lately in libretto land. This is his first new play in New York since the fateful debut of Corpus Christi in 1998.
The New York Shakespeare Festival continues its rather successful season with Biro by Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine and Well, the latest by Lisa Kron. The Vineyard Theatre welcomes back one of its favorite sons, playwright Nicky Silver, with the upcoming world premiere of Beautiful Child. Terry Kinney, fresh to Silver's work, which is typically helmed in New York by David Warren, is the director. At New York Theatre Workshop, playwright Paul Rudnick and director Christopher Ashley team again for Valhalla. And The New Group, which seems to have regained its footing recently with Avenue Q and Aunt Dan and Lemon, brings to life Betty Shamieh's Arab American drama Roar.
Of course, England has heaps of theatre on tap in the first half of 2004, but it is perhaps two fall projects that most dominate the minds of theatregoers and theatre-watchers. Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical, The Woman in White, one that actually seems to stand a good chance at wide success, will bow in London's West End in September 2004. And the upcoming stage musical Mary Poppins — a joint production of Disney Theatricals and Cameron Mackintosh — will have its world premiere at the Bristol Hippodrome next fall beginning Sept. 15.