About Russia—one of the first openings of the winter-spring Broadway season is actually a continuation of one of last autumn's grandest premieres, Tom Stoppard's trilogy about some rebellious, discontented 19th century Russians, The Coast of Utopia. Parts One and Two—titled Voyage and Shipwreck, respectively—received praise galore from the critics, who applauded the rich narrative tapestry, swim of ideas and unexpected depths of emotionality. The final chapter, called Salvage, is set to open Feb. 15 and is longingly anticipated. Then, on Feb. 24, the greatest show in town begins: all three plays will be performed on a single day in the first of nine Saturday marathon presentations.
Stoppard's extravaganza is one of several coming Broadway attractions that were first glimpsed in London. Frost/Nixon, a sensation at the Donmar Warehouse which has since transferred to the West End, will open on Broadway on April 22. The title communicates the Peter Morgan play's pressure-cooker subject: the highly charged series of one-on-one television encounters between disgraced ex-President Richard M. Nixon and talk show host David Frost. Michael Sheen (Frost) and Frank Langella (Nixon) will repeat their UK work and advance word is that Langella is giving one of those benchmark career performances.
Producers Bob Boyett and Bill Haber will follow up their bell-ringer of last season, The History Boys, with another Boy—the National Theatre production of Helen Edmundson’s play Coram Boy in April. Adapted from a novel by Jamila Gavin, it tells a story of two orphans at the Coram Hospital for Deserted Children in 18th-century England: Toby, saved from an African slave ship, and Aaron, the abandoned son of the heir to a great estate.
In case Coram Boy doesn't take, Boyett and Haber have another drama in the running: A revival of R.C. Sherriff's 1929 World War I drama Journey's End starring Hugh Dancy, Boyd Gaines, Jefferson Mays and Stark Sands, to open on Broadway Feb. 22. The nearly forgotten play was a hit in London when David Grindley staged a 75th anniversary production in early 2004. Grindley will also do the honors on Broadway.
|photo by Simon Annand|
A London transfer that Boyett and Haber have nothing to do with is the acclaimed production of A Moon for the Misbegotten starring Kevin Spacey, which will open at the Brooks Atkinson on April 9. The staging was a rare high point in Spacey's rocky tenure as the artistic director of the Old Vic, and no doubt the film star wants to show off the goods to his countrymen. The play will be a test of Spacey's box office appeal, since it's only been six years or so since O'Neill's Moon rose on Broadway, and eight years since he sold out houses in The Iceman Cometh. Not written by a Brit, but directed by one, will be one of the more unusual and potentially moving pieces on Broadway this spring, the stage adaptation of novelist Joan Didion's best-selling memoir of the death of her husband John Gregory Dunne and its psychic aftermath, The Year of Magical Thinking. Didion herself is writing the stagework. Vanessa Redgrave is playing Didion on stage, and playwright David Hare is directing the production. A better artistic pedigree will not be found on Broadway this spring. Opening at the Booth Theatre is March 29.
Two natives of Ireland—playwright Brian Friel and director Garry Hynes—team up for a Biltmore Theatre revival of Translations, with which Manhattan Theatre Club hopes to dispel the memory of the last Biltmore resident, Losing Louie. MTC has a history with the show; it produced the American premiere back in 1981. This staging is a co-production with the McCarter Theatre. The last time Friel was on Broadway—the Ralph Fiennes production of The Faith Healer—critics were appreciative. Perhaps those warm memories will carry over until Jan. 25, the opening night.
All-American revivals are also in the offing. Playwright Eric Bogosian will get his first Broadway credit with the Longacre Theatre staging of Talk Radio, opening Feb. 25. Bogosian himself will not play Barry, the propulsive drama's vicious radio commentator, as he did when the play premiered at the Public Theater 20 years ago. But he'll be well succeeded by Liev Schreiber, one of the New York stage's most magnetic performers. Robert Falls directs.
Another Yankee stage great, Brian Dennehy, will headline a new production of the classic historical chestnut by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, Inherit the Wind. He'll be Matthew Harrison Brady (based on William Jennings Bryan) opposite Christopher Plummer's Henry Drummond (based on Clarence Darrow) in the dramatization of the Scopes Monkey Trial. It will open at the Lyceum on April 12.
A rare new play by an American author, Terrence McNally's Deuce, will feature the return to the stage of Angela Lansbury after an absence of two decades. She will play opposite another stage legend whose attendance has been more regular, Marian Seldes. Michael Blakemore will guide them in this tale about two retired tennis players. Opening is May 6 at the Music Box.
|photo by Joan Marcus|
Musically, the coming months are pretty spare. An undoubted highlight, however, will be Curtains, the first John Kander and Freb Ebb musical to appear on Broadway since Ebb's death. The project, which the two writers worked on for years, was a smash hit at Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theatre last season. A backstage murder mystery set in 1959's Boston, the show provides David Hyde-Pierce with a choice role as a stagestruck detective and features Broadway stalwarts Debra Monk, Karen Ziemba and Edward Hibbert. The Al Hirschfeld Theatre will host the March 22 opening. Legally Blonde, another new Broadway musical, is penned by the lesser-known married songwriting team of Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin. The libretto is by Heather Hach. Tony-winning choreographer Jerry Mitchell makes his debut as a director-choreographer with this stage adaptation of the Reese Witherspoon film about a determined ditz who takes on Harvard. Laura Bell Bundy, a supporting player in Hairspray, gets star billing this time around. A San Francisco tryout will precede an April 29 bow at the Palace.
The former kings of the Broadway megamusical, Les Misérables and Miss Saigon creators Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, will try to make a comeback with their The Pirate Queen, which opens on Broadway at the Hilton Theatre on April 5. The show, an epic musical adventure about the legendary Irish chieftain Grace O'Malley, had a Chicago tryout, directed by Frank Galati. The producers invited Broadway veterans Richard Maltby, Jr. and Graciela Daniele to respectively work with the writing team on book and lyrics, and oversee musical staging.
Legendary Tony Award-winning director Harold Prince will return to Broadway with the Manhattan Theatre Club world premiere of the musical, LoveMusik, starring Tony Award winners Donna Murphy and Michael Cerveris as composer Kurt Weill and his love, wife and muse, Lotte Lenya. Opening night is May 3.
Finally, Harvey Schmidt, Tom Jones and N. Richard Nash's musical 110 in the Shade will bring four-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald back to the Broadway stage. She'll play Great Plains spinster-in-the-making Lizzie, whose life and passions are stirred by a visit from "rainmaker" Starbuck. Lonny Price directs the production, which opens at Studio 54 on May 9.
McDonald's visit is an appropriate addition to a season that will have seen a turn from many of the major 21st century Broadway stars. Nathan Lane headlined in Butley, Kristin Chenoweth inspired a revival of the musical The Apple Tree, Christine Ebersole enthralled in Grey Gardens, and, in the coming months, Brian Dennehy will star in Inherit the Wind, Liev Schreiber tops Talk Radio, and Donna Murphy appears in LoveMusik.
The Tony categories for Leading Actor and Actress will be impressive indeed.
(Robert Simonson is Playbill.com's senior correspondent. He can be reached at email@example.com.)