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Broadway's Class of 2006-2007

Date: Nov 10, 2006


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"Everything the traffic will allow"—the open-ended definition of live entertainment offered by Irving Berlin's song "There's No Business Like Show Business"—might be an apt description of Broadway's eclectic 2006-2007 season, in which familiar talents and properties fall in line with a crowd of first-timers, transfers and premieres.

At the head of the line are a pair of big revivals—Broadway juggernauts restaged so faithfully that we might think of them as merely having been away on vacation. In early October, the singular sensation A Chorus Line opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, helmed by Bob Avian, a close collaborator with the late director/creator Michael Bennett in the show's original 1975-1990 run. In November the phenomenon Les Misèrables, whose 16-year Broadway run only ended in 2003, returned for a limited engagement (through April) at the Broadhurst Theatre in John Caird and Trevor Nunn's original production, with a new cast including Alexander Gemignani and Daphne Rubin-Vega. The other favorite making a hasty return to the Main Stem is Grease!, which director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall will helm for a spring opening; a celebrity-studded revival ran on Broadway as recently as 1998, while the new revival will be cast through an NBC reality show, You're the One That We Want.

Many Happy Returns

Les Miserables
The remount of Les Miz marks another return: that of British impresario Cameron Mackintosh, who dominated 1980s Broadway with such long-running hits as Cats, Phantom and Miss Saigon. Mackintosh is also represented this season by Mary Poppins, a new adaptation of the Disney film based on the P.L. Travers character, which he is coproducing with Disney at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

Les Miz creators Boublil and Schonberg bring a new musical, The Pirate Queen, to the Hilton Theatre in April; a swashbuckler based on the life of legendary Irish chieftain Grace O'Malley, it's produced by Moya Doherty and John McColgan (Riverdance). Another seasoned team, Kander and Ebb, arrives with a new show, Curtains, despite Ebb's death in 2004. David Hyde Pierce and Debra Monk star in this backstage murder mystery.

Not all this season's musical revivals are blockbuster re-creations. After bringing his unique Sweeney Todd to Broadway last season, director John Doyle applies his musicians-as-actors style to the Sondheim/Furth classic Company, which opened at the Barrymore Theatre in late November. The same month saw a limited-engagement revival of Bock & Harnick's The Apple Tree at Studio 54; this three-part musical about women through the ages, starrs Kristin Chenoweth and runs through March. Then the spring showers come to the same venue with a revival of 110 in the Shade, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's downhome adaptation of The Rainmaker, starring Audra McDonald and running May through July.

Most Broadway tuners are adapted from other media. Exemplifying the newest twist on that trend—to mine popular films for material (The Color Purple, The Wedding Singer)—is Legally Blonde, a new musical based on the Reese Witherspoon vehicle, bowing in March at the Palace.

Starry Nights

On the straight-play front, stars of stage and screen are the headliners. There's Nathan Lane in the title role of Simon Gray's rueful comedy Butley, in a limited run through January at the Booth Theatre. Liev Schreiber takes the mic for a revival of Eric Bogosian's Talk Radio at the Longacre Theatre in February, while Brian Dennehy and Christopher Plummer will have the floor in a limited-engagement revival of the always-topical Inherit the Wind at the Lyceum Theatre in March.

It's not just star power but sheer cast size, and the nine-hour running time, that makes the U.S. premiere of Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theatre one of the season's biggest events. Among a distinguished cast of 42 are Billy Crudup, Jennifer Ehle, Brian O'Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Amy Irving and Martha Plimpton. The show's three parts run in rep through March.

Also in the literate vein, Vanessa Redgrave solos in The Year of Magical Thinking, based on Joan Didion's book, at the Booth Theatre in March. Julianne Moore spends The Vertical Hour, a new drama by David Hare, directed by Sam Mendes, at the Music Box. After its close in April, the same venue will host Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes as former tennis pros in Terrence McNally's new Deuce. Lansbury's star power was enough to lift McNally's modest two-hander from its previously announced Off-Broadway run at Primary Stages.

And two of the season's transfers from Off-Broadway are powered by don't-miss star turns: Christine Ebersole as an odd fashion victim in the musical Grey Gardens at the Walter Kerr, and Julie White as a cutthroat agent in the satire The Little Dog Laughed at the Cort Theatre. The final entrant in the uptown-transfer sweepstakes, Spring Awakening, juxtaposes a Victorian-era setting and a rock score by Duncan Sheik.

Another frequent importer of Broadway shows, London, is represented by two transfers this season: The acclaimed revival of O'Neill's Moon for the Misbegotten, starring honorary Brit Kevin Spacey, runs at the Brooks Atkinson starting in April. And the longrunning West End revival of Journey's End, about Brits in the trenches of WWI, transfers to the Belasco in February.

Rounding out the season are a revival and an unconventional bio-play from an estimable not-for-profit with a Broadway berth. The Manhattan Theatre Club will bring Garry Hynes' staging of Translations to the Biltmore in March (MTC premiered it here in 1981). And in May, MTC will present LoveMusik, a play with music about the intertwined lives of composer Kurt Weill and singer/actress Lotte Lenya, to star Michael Cerveris and Donna Murphy under director Harold Prince.

It ain' t till it's over, of course, so we'll keep an eye out for announcements, closings and other updates. For now, ladies and gentleman, this is Broadway's class of 2006-2007: old, new, borrowed, and blue.

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