BROADWAY FALL PREVIEW: David Mamet (Twice), Edward Albee, Annie, Jessica Chastain, Cyrano, Patti LuPone
By Robert Simonson
The coming months on Broadway will offer a new play by David Mamet, Chita Rivera in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, an essential social drama by Henrik Ibsen, two Christmas-themed musicals, plus Katie Holmes, Charlie Chaplin, Patti LuPone, Tracy Letts, Henry Winkler, Theresa Rebeck, Kathie Lee Gifford and more. Here's a walking tour of Broadway's fall attractions.
Broadway theatregoers looking to catch up on their classics, both straight and musical, are in luck this fall. Times Square will be serving up titles that even readers of "Theater for Dummies" will recognize, including David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edmond Rostand's Cyrano De Bergerac, and the Tony Award-winning musicals Annie and The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Of those attractions, it's an easy guess as to who'll be strutting around with the most Broadway bravado this autumn: Al Pacino, who will headline the second Broadway revival of Glengarry Glen Ross in a decade. Pacino famously played hotshot salesman Ricky Roma in the film version of Mamet's brutal drama of cutthroat capitalism. This time out, he'll be the down-on-his-luck Shelly Levene. Daniel Sullivan will direct at the Schoenfeld, beginning Oct. 16.
The only stars that come within shouting distance of Pacino's level of fame are featured in the other Mamet play scheduled to bow this fall. The Anarchist, beginning Nov. 13 at the Lyceum Theatre, will be directed by the writer himself. At this point, no one should be surprised by the unlikely subjects Mamet chooses for his latter-day plays. Still, a women's prison drama doesn't hit Broadway every day. Patti LuPone will play Cathy, a longtime inmate with ties to a violent political organization, who pleads for parole from the warden, played by elusive film star Debra Winger.
Albee could have easily netted himself a couple of big names to enact this latest revival of his signature work, Virginia Woolf. Instead, he opted to OK, intact, the recent Steppenwolf Theatre Company revival of the play, directed by Pam MacKinnon, and starring Chicago actress Amy Morton and actor/playwright Tracy Letts as the warring Martha and George. Morton appeared to acclaim in Letts' play August: Osage County a few seasons back. Carrie Coon and Madison Dirks complete the cast. First preview at the Booth is Sept. 27. The Broadway revival opens exactly 50 years after its Broadway debut. Happy anniversary, George and Martha!
By definition, a production of Cyrano needs a swashbuckling, spotlight-eating central player. (The last Broadway outing was a Kevin Kline vehicle.) For the job, the Roundabout Theatre Company has reeled in noted English showboat Douglas Hodge. American audiences know Hodge mainly from his attention-getting, Tony-winning turn as flamboyant Albin in La Cage aux Folles. Jamie Lloyd, former associate artistic director of Donmar Warehouse, directs. The American Airlines engagement begins on Sept. 14.
The last Broadway production of the Henry James-inspired drama The Heiress made a star out of Cherry Jones. (Well, a Broadway star, anyway. She was already a big name Off-Broadway.) The busy film actress Jessica Chastain ("The Tree of Life," "The Help") doesn't need a turn as the unhappily single Catherine Sloper to make her name, but director Moises Kaufman has lured her nonetheless. To give the story of Olde New York a proper drawing room flavor, Dan Stevens, the hero of TV's "Downton Abbey," will play suitor Morris Townsend. David Strathairn and Judith Ivey complete the cast. Previews begin Oct. 7 at the Walter Kerr.
Lincoln Center Theater continues its love affair with Clifford Odets, reviving his Golden Boy at the Belasco Nov. 8. As with the company's previous Awake and Sing!, Bartlett Sher will direct. Meanwhile, fellow nonprofit Manhattan Theatre Club hoists the Ibsen flag. Redoubtable stage performer, and four-time Tony winner, Boyd Gaines has been earning his bread and butter lately through distinguished supporting performances, such as those in Gypsy and The Columnist. He returns to star billing in a revival Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, playing a principled doctor whose discovery about the local water supply inconveniences the economic hopes of the town fathers. Richard Thomas will play his brother, the burg's unscrupulous mayor. Previews begin at the Samuel J. Friedman Sept. 4. Following up Enemy at the Friedman, beginning Dec. 11, will be an MTC engagement of The Other Place, Sharr White's play about a successful neurologist whose life comes unhinged, which was originally staged by Off-Broadway's MCC Theater. Laurie Metcalf stars, and Joe Mantello directs.
Like White, playwright Craig Wright will be getting his Broadway debut this fall, following a great many Off-Broadway mountings. Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon, Kate Arrington and Edward Asner (not seen on Broadway in nearly a quarter century), will star in Wright's Grace, about a hopeful young couple who move to Florida with big plans to open a chain of Gospel-themed motels. Previews begin Sept. 13 at the Cort. Another first-timer is David West Read, whose The Performers will star Henry Winkler as an aging adult film star. Previews begin Oct. 23 at the Longacre. Enjoying her second Broadway production in as many seasons will be playwright Theresa Rebeck, whose Dead Accounts will feature Katie Holmes and Norbert Leo Butz as members of a family that receive a visit from their prodigal son. The Music Box Theatre is the place, starting Nov. 3. And briefly stopping by at the Richard Rodgers, Oct. 9-14, will be comic Lewis Black, delivering his latest rant against society in Running on Empty.
The fall musical season began early, in August, with Chaplin, a bio-tuner about the silent film genius. Rob McClure stars at the Little Tramp in the Warren Carlyle-directed show, which follows Chaplin from the slums of London to stardom in Hollywood. Playing some the women in Chaplin's life (and there were many) are Jenn Colella, Erin Mackey and Christiane Noll. Opening night is Sept. 10 at the Barrymore. Rebecca, a stage version of novelist Daphne du Maurier's soapy saga of Manderlay, will begin at the Broadhurst on Oct. 20. Another bio-musical, Scandalous, a show about Jazz Age evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, by Kathie Lee Gifford, David Friedman and David Pomeranz will feature tireless Carolee Carmello as the religious star. George Hearn plays two of the men in Aimee's life. The show's list of producers includes the church founded by controversial McPherson. It starts Oct. 13 at the Neil Simon Theatre.
Otherwise, the fall will be dominated by revivals of musicals that topped the awards lists in their day. First out of the gate is the timeless Depression-era fable Annie. The red-haired moppet has visited New York stages twice since her original, lengthy stay in the late '70s and early '80s, including a Broadway revival and a Madison Square Garden tour engagement. This time she's got a first-rate team behind her, including director James Lapine, who is taking a break from staging cerebral Sondheim musicals, and two-time Tony winner Katie Finneran, who will play villainous Miss Hannigan. Lilla Crawford is the orphan in question. Aussie star Anthony Warlow plays billionaire Republican Daddy Warbucks. Previews begin Oct. 3 at the Palace.
Beginning performances Oct. 19, at Studio 54, will be the first-ever Broadway revival of Rupert Holmes' multiple Tony-winning The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Directed by Scott Ellis, the "whodunnit musical," based on Charles Dickens' final, unfinished novel, does not lack for a cast: Chita Rivera, Jim Norton, Stephanie J. Block, Will Chase, Gregg Edelman, Jessie Mueller and Betsy Wolfe are among the willing suspects. It opens Nov. 13. Finally, holiday cheer will be furnished by two shows: A Christmas Story, The Musical! based on the Jean Shepherd stories and beloved 1983 film of the same title, which will play a limited holiday engagement beginning Nov. 5 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre (marking the Broadway debut of the hot young songwriting team Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, late of Dogfight); and the return of Elf The Musical, another celluloid-drawn yuletide yarn, running at the Hirschfeld from Nov. 9.
If you can't get into Jersey Boys this fall, how about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons On Broadway? After years of playing thousands of venues from San Francisco to Savannah to Sydney, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons will celebrate the their 50th anniversary at the Broadway Theatre Oct. 19-27.
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