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Jukebox and Popcorn Musicals Fuel the Season

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It's summertime and the livin' ain't easy. Unless you've got a summer-stock job in a cool mountain resort area, you're probably sweating in the city. Now's the time to start planning for the fall and looking ahead to the 2005-06 Broadway season. We're giving our forecast for the Main Stem a little early this year to give you a head start on casting opportunities. The major trends are musicals based either on movies or the song catalogues of pop groups and composers of the past.

The season has already officially begun and a few shows have come and gone—two ending their limited runs (Manhattan Theatre Club's "After the Night and the Music," Hal Holbrook's return engagement of "Mark Twain Tonight!"), one ending prematurely ("The Blonde in the Thunderbird"), and two extending ("Primo," Roundabout Theatre Company's "The Constant Wife"). One musical closed out of town ("Mambo Kings") and another is opening on Aug. 14 ("Lennon," having pushed its opening back from Aug. 4).

The rest of the season is detailed below with casting information where available. (Note: Casting directors request that all contact be made only by mail. Do not phone or visit their offices unless specifically instructed to do so.)

New Musicals

Joseph Brooks has won an Oscar and a Grammy for the song "You Light Up My Life." Whether or not he adds a Tony for In My Life remains to be seen. The composer-lyricist is also writing and directing this musical romance about a musician with Tourette's syndrome and a journalist with obsessive-compulsive disorder. They "meet cute in a grocery store," according to the press release. Previews begin Sept. 27 with an Oct. 20 opening at the Music Box. Dave Clemmons Casting (265 West 30th St., NYC 10001) held Equity principal auditions on May 23.

Last season there were dueling "Little Women," with two versions of Louisa May Alcott's classic racing to reach Broadway first. One did win while the other languished. This season there were two variations on the story of "The Little Princess," the Frances Hodgson Burnett book that became a Shirley Temple film starring America's favorite moppet as the plucky little thing forced to work in a Victorian school after her soldier father is presumed killed. One version, using the same title as the book, tells the story in a straightforward manner, while the other puts a modern spin on the action. The second show, Princesses, appears to have won the race, with a Seattle tryout starring Brent Barrett, Jenny Fellner, and Donna English playing Aug. 17–28, followed by a Broadway opening tentatively set for this October. David Zippel ("City of Angels") is providing the lyrics and directing. Cheri and Bill Steinkellner wrote the book and Matthew Wilder composed the music. Tara Rubin Casting (311 West 43rd St., 5th floor, NYC 10036) held Equity principal auditions Jan. 26.

The jukebox just keeps on playing. The latest pop group of the past to have its catalogue raided for Broadway is Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Unlike "Mamma Mia!," "All Shook Up," and "Good Vibrations," Jersey Boys will tell the story of the group while using its songs. John Lloyd Young will play Valli, with Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard, and J. Robert Spencer as the Seasons. Des McAnuff repeats his staging duties from the La Jolla Playhouse, where "Jersey Boys" broke the record for longest-running production. The previous holder of that honor was McAnuff's staging of "The Who's Tommy," which also transferred to Broadway. Composer Bob Gaudio, lyricist Bob Crewe, and book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice collaborated with McAnuff to create the show. Previews begin at the Virginia Theatre on Oct. 3 for a Nov. 6 opening. Tara Rubin Casting (address above) held Equity principal auditions March 14 and a chorus call on March 16.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's last venture on Broadway was "Bombay Dreams" (which was billed as "Andrew Lloyd Webber's production," although Lloyd Webber was not among the actual New York producers); the show had a relatively short run and closed at a loss. Perhaps his return as a composer will fare better, since it's a return to familiar territory: romantic thrillers. The Woman in White, like "The Phantom of the Opera," involves a mysterious title figure and frustrated love. The musical, based on Wilkie Collins' novel, is enjoying a hit run in London and starts previews Oct. 28 prior to a Nov. 17 opening at the Marquis Theatre. David Zippel wrote the lyrics (while taking a break from "Princesses") and playwright Charlotte Jones ("Humble Boy") contributed the book. Jim Carnahan (231 West 39th St., Suite 1200, NYC 10018) held Equity principal auditions Feb. 18 and an Equity chorus call July 14.

After "Mambo Kings" mamboed into obscurity, the producer of The Color Purple snatched up its intended home, the Broadway Theatre. Now the musical version of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize–winning novel is set to open there on Dec. 1 (previews commence Oct. 25). Another Pulitzer winner, Marsha Norman, is writing the book. She won a Tony for her adaptation of another beloved classic, "The Secret Garden." The songs are by the team of Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray. Word of mouth is good after a regional production at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre last year and a recent workshop production in New York. Bernard Telsey Casting (145 West 28th St., 12th floor, NYC 10001) held an Equity principal audition on Feb. 8 and a chorus call on May 13.

Chita Rivera will stretch her legendary legs once more in Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life. More than a one-woman show, this musical biography will star Rivera and a cast of 10 and detail her life on stage from "West Side Story" to "Bye Bye Birdie" to her Tony-winning turns in "The Rink" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman." Terrence McNally, book writer of the latter two, is writing the script. Graciela Daniele directs and choreographs. After a world-premiere engagement at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre from Sept. 10–Oct. 23, the show will begin previews in November for a December opening at a Shubert theatre to be announced. Casting director Mark Simon (10 Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 1014, NYC 10020) held Equity principal auditions on March 13 and a chorus call on March 18.

Charles Dickens has long been a favorite source for musicals. So far we've had hits like "Oliver!," "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," and the Madison Square Garden "A Christmas Carol" and flops like "Pickwick" (on Broadway, at least—it was a hit in the West End) and "Copperfield." The latest tuner derived from your high-school reading list is A Tale of Two Cities, featuring book, music, and lyrics by newcomer Jill Santoriello. The two cities referred to in the title are 19th-century London and Paris. The show will play two cities, 21st-century Chicago (opening Feb. 9, 2006) and New York (opening on Broadway April 27). It just lost a director, David H. Bell, and is shopping around for his replacement. Hughes Moss Casting (484 West 43rd St., Suite 28R, NYC 10036) held Equity principal auditions May 26 and a chorus call May 20.

The Disney trademark continues to spread its elephantine influence over the Great White Way with Tarzan, the latest animated film to be translated to flesh and blood. Make that a lot of flesh, since the jungle lord will be adorned in the traditional loincloth. Veterans of "Aida" will be at the helm, with Bob Crowley directing and David Henry Hwang penning the book. Pop icon Phil Collins augments his score from the film. A theatre to be announced will be transformed into the African jungle, which Tarzan and his ape friends will fly through. Target opening: spring 2006. Bernard Telsey Casting (address above) held Equity principal auditions June 28 and a chorus call May 20. Other future potential Disney tuners include The Little Mermaid (in development) and Mary Poppins (now in London).

There have been too many jokes about vampire musicals getting stakes driven through their hearts. So let's skip them and just state that Lestat, derived from Anne Rice's novels of the suoernatural, hopes to surpass the short runs of "Dance of the Vampires" and "Dracula." Maybe contributions from director Robert Jess Roth and book writer Linda Woolverton (both of whom worked on "Beauty and the Beast"), composer Elton John ("Aida"), and lyricist Bernie Taupin can revive the "undead" genre. An out-of-town tryout in San Francisco is set for December of this year, with the coffin being lifted on Broadway in April 2006. Jay Binder Casting (321 West 44th St., Suite 606, NYC 10036) held Equity principal auditions on April 22.

"We will not listen to musical theatre songs at these EPAs" read the casting call for The Wedding Singer, the upcoming musical based on the 1998 Adam Sandler film. Only 1980s pop or rock songs were acceptable for this story of a lovelorn crooner who takes his frustrations out at the nuptials of others. Until he finds his own true love, that is. Laura Benanti has been announced to star along with Stephen Lynch and Jason Antoon. An out-of-town tryout in Seattle is scheduled for January 2006, with a spring opening. Bernard Telsey Casting (address above) held those show tune–free EPAs on April 14 and an Equity chorus call will be held Aug. 15 (see casting notice in this week's issue).

Two more musicals based on recent movies—Leap of Faith and Legally Blonde—have announced the spring of 2006 as their target opening date, but nothing more definite has been confirmed for either show.

Jerry Springer—The Opera, the raucous West End hit satirizing American culture through the titular talk show, has announced a Broadway production for this season, but no dates or Equity principal calls have been announced. Recent protests against the production in England and the more conservative climate in this country do not bode well for this controversial and (some would say) blasphemous show.

In the Pocket (formerly titled "Like Jazz") has announced plans for a Broadway run in the spring. The show is described by co-lyricist Alan Bergman as "not a book musical or a revue or a concert, but rather a new idiom." An earlier version played Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum last season. Bergman collaborated on the lyrics with his wife, Marilyn, to music by the late Cy Coleman. Larry Gelbart ("Sly Fox," "City of Angels") is the book author. Dirk Decloedt and Maurice Hines have signed on as director and choreographer, respectively. No casting or schedule information available.

Brady mom Florence Henderson has been announced as the star of The Broadway Follies, a vaudeville-style variety show directed by Jean Ann Ryan, best known as a producer of cruise ship entertainment. The show is based on Ryan's "Palm Springs Follies," which has been running in Palm Springs, Fla., for 15 years. Henderson would perform and host a rotating roster of acts. No dates or additional casting as of yet.

New Plays

If not for institutional theatres, there would be hardly any new American plays on Broadway at all. Roundabout Theatre Company joins with Lincoln Center Theater and Manhattan Theatre Club by presenting an original work in its Main Stem season. Richard Greenberg's A Naked Girl on the Appian Way opens Oct. 6 for a limited run through Nov. 27 at the American Airlines Theatre. This comedy stars Oscar nominee Jill Clayburgh as a cookbook author dealing with the consequences of her two grown children returning home after a year in Europe. Director Doug Hughes follows up his Tony-winning work on "Doubt" by staging this show and then Roundabout's revival of Eugene O'Neill's "A Touch of the Poet" (see the section on revivals for details). An EPA for "Naked Girl" was held June 29 by Jim Carnahan and Mele Nagler (Roundabout Theatre Company, 231 West 39th St., Suite 1200, NYC 10018), casting directors for the company.

Speaking of Manhattan Theatre Club, the company launches its third season at the Biltmore with a revival of Alan Ayckbourn's "Absurd Person Singular" (see revivals), followed by David Lindsay-Abaire's Rabbit Hole, starring Cynthia Nixon, and Patrick Marber's After Miss Julie, a variation on Strindberg's classic of class and sexual conflicts. An EPA for "Absurd Person" was held July 12. EPAs are still to come for the other two productions. The casting directors for MTC are Nancy Piccione and David Caparelliotis (Manhattan Theatre Club, 311 West 43rd St., 8th floor, NYC 10036).

Irish playwright Conor McPherson haunted New York stages with his ghost tales in "The Weir." He has another otherworldly play up his sleeve with Shining City. Fran and Barry Weissler are bringing the play over from London, where it played the Royal Court and Dublin's Gate Theatre before that. The story concerns a man seeking help from a therapist after seeing the ghost of his dead wife. Original leading man Stanley Townsend will star with Rufus Sewell, Geraldine Hughes, and Keith Nobbs. Previews begin Oct. 18 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre with a Nov. 10 opening. Howard Cherpakov held Equity principal auditions on Feb. 3.

After starring in "Grease," hosting the Tonys, and producing "Taboo," Rosie O'Donnell is still apparently in love with Broadway. She plans to add dramatic acting to her list of skills by starring in Folding the Monster, a new play by Alexander Dinelaris about a father and daughter in conflict in Washington Heights. Danny Aiello, who played the dad in a developmental reading, has been mentioned to star opposite O'Donnell. No dates announced as of yet, but fall 2005 is a target opening.

Musicals from hit movies are nothing new, but a drama derived from a film is a rarity. Festen is written by David Eldridge based on a 1998 Danish film. It had its premiere at London's Almeida Theatre in 2004 and then transferred to the West End. Bill Kenwright plans to transfer the production to Broadway in March with an American cast. The story centers on a family celebration at the clan's hotel that turns ugly when a dark secret is revealed. Jim Carnahan (address above) held Equity principal auditions on June 22.

The History Boys is another import from the British capital. This comedy by Alan Bennett ("Talking Heads") follows a group of unruly students and their teachers. The National Theatre production won the Olivier, Evening Standard, and London Critics' Circle awards for best play. The American production is scheduled for an April 23 opening at a theatre to be announced.

Producers of another London drama, Hitchcock Blonde by Terry Johnson, postponed its original Broadway plans from 2004 to 2005, but no casting information or dates have been announced.

Revivals

As you probably already know, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are reuniting for a revival of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, directed by double Tony winner Joe Mantello. Previews begin Oct. 4 for an Oct. 27 opening at the Brooks Atkinson. The pals from "The Producers" will be joined by Brad Garrett ("Everybody Loves Raymond"), Peter Frechette, Rob Bartlett, Lee Wilkof, Jessica Stone, and Olivia d'Abo. This limited-run engagement has been cast and Bernard Telsey Casting held an EPA on Feb. 23 for understudies as well as principals.

Sweeney Todd has already been seen twice on Broadway (in the original 1979 production and again in a 1989 revival), as well as in a staging at New York City Opera. Are Main Stem audiences ready for a third variation on Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's bloodthirsty barber? This British production from the Watermill Theatre that had a hit run in the West End sets the action in an insane asylum, with the characters enacted by patients who also play all the instruments. A group of American producers including Steven Baruch, Thomas Viertel, and Marc Routh are hoping that will intrigue theatregoers enough to plunk down the ducats to hear about "The Worst Pies in London" again. Michael Cerveris (Tony winner for "Assassins") has been signed for the title role, with Mark Jacoby, Benjamin Magnuson, and Lauren Molina also on board. Patti LuPone is reportedly in talks to play Mrs. Lovett, but the deal has not been finalized. Previews begin Oct. 3 for a Nov. 3 opening at the Eugene O'Neill. Bernard Telsey Casting (address above) held Equity principal auditions on April 1. In other Sondheim news, Glenn Close is reportedly set to star in a revival of A Little Night Music, reuniting with her "Sunset Boulevard" director, Trevor Nunn. Spring of 2006 is the reported opening goal, but no dates or auditions have been announced.

After strolling on the "Appian Way," Jill Clayburgh will go Barefoot in the Park with a revival of Neil Simon's 1963 domestic comedy about a newlywed couple adjusting to life together. She'll be joined by Tony Roberts, who replaced Robert Redford as the young husband in the original Broadway production. This time, Roberts will essay the role of Victor Velasco, an aging roué neighbor who takes a liking to the wife's mother (Clayburgh). Patrick Wilson and Amanda Peet are the young marrieds. Scott Elliott, known for his stagings of angst-ridden British dramas for the New Group, takes on this change-of-pace production. Previews begin in late January for a mid-February opening at a theatre to be announced. Judy Henderson (330 West 89th St., NYC 10024) is the casting director.

As noted above, Roundabout Theatre Company opens its season on Broadway with a new play but will continue with a revival of Eugene O'Neill's A Touch of the Poet, starring Gabriel Byrne as the delusional Con Melody. Previews begin Nov. 11 and the show opens Dec. 8 at Studio 54. Jim Carnahan (address above) held an EPA on March 19 and an open call for one role on July 30.

Manhattan Theatre Club's Absurd Person Singular opens Oct. 18 at the Biltmore. Mireille Enos, Clea Lewis, Alan Ruck, Paxton Whitehead, and Deborah Rush have been cast, with one more performer to be announced.

Scott Elliott will go from Neil Simon to Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill when he stages Roundabout's revival of The Threepenny Opera in a new version by Wallace Shawn. A spring opening at Studio 54 has been announced. Alan Cumming, Edie Falco, and Nellie McKay are slated to star. EPAs to be announced.

Lincoln Center Theater's Tony-winning production of "The Light in the Piazza" has extended through Jan. 1, 2006, and no plans have been announced for the Vivian Beaumont after that.

Producer Jeffrey Richards has had success with revivals of such male-dominated plays as "The Best Man" and "Glengarry Glen Ross." He'll attempt to repeat that winning formula with The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, Herman Wouk's stage version of his nautical novel, first produced on Broadway in 1954. There's nary a female on deck as the neurotic Captain Queeg takes the stand. There are plenty of juicy roles in the roster, so look for some big names above the title. No casting director has been announced and no date has been set for "Caine" to launch other than sometime during 2005-06.

Dame Diana Rigg has scaled the dramatic heights as Medea and Heloise. Now she takes on one of the greatest comedy roles: Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest. Emanuel Azenberg plans to mount a production of Oscar Wilde's classic comedy of manners. Theatre, dates, and casting director to be announced.

Dublin's Gate Theatre production of Brian Friel's Faith Healer hasn't even started rehearsals yet, but the fact that Ralph Fiennes is playing the lead prompted the company's artistic director to state it will open on Broadway in spring 2006.

2006-07 and Beyond

Now for a rundown of shows for future seasons, in development or just in the rumor stage.

The Apprentice: How does "You're Fired!" sound for an 11 o'clock number? Fran and Barry Weissler are in talks with Mark Burnett, producer of the reality TV series, to develop a musical derived from the show that features Donald Trump setting up challenges for contestants vying to win a position in one of his companies. Spring 2006 is the scheduled opening, but that may be optimistic.

Billy Elliot: Elton John told columnist Liz Smith he definitely plans to bring his West End smash about a ballet-loving youngster to Broadway, probably in the spring of 2007.

Catch Me If You Can: Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman ("Hairspray") are still at work on the stage version of this Steven Spielberg film about a charming con artist, and Terrence McNally has signed on as book writer. Other movies-into-musicals still in development include Clueless, Cry-Baby, Don Juan DeMarco, High Fidelity, My Man Godfrey, Rocky, The Last Starfighter, and Shrek.

A Chorus Line: A revival of the long-running singular sensation will strut into town in mid-September 2006 after a San Francisco tryout July 17–Sept. 2 of next year. Original co-choreographer Bob Avian directs, with Baayork Lee (the original Connie) choreographing. Jay Binder Casting (address above) held Equity principal auditions June 21 and an Equity chorus call on June 23.

The First Wives Club: Hybrid cars are all the rage. Why not a hybrid musical? This show combines two trends: It's based on a hit movie and the score is provided by a songwriting team with a Top 40 background. The story is based on the 1996 film starring Diane Keaton, Bette Midler, and Goldie Hawn as a trio of discarded spouses. The music and lyrics will be by Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Brian Holland, whose 1960s hits include "Heat Wave," "Where Did Our Love Go?," and "You Can't Hurry Love." According to the press release, "First Wives" will feature new songs and some of the team's Motown hits.

Fried Green Tomatoes: Producer Jeffrey Finn has optioned "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe," Fannie Flagg's novel of Southern comfort and female solidarity, for a nonmusical stage adaptation. The show will go by its shorter title, which also served as the moniker for the hit 1991 film version. Finn has announced plans for a regional production in late 2006 with a Broadway premiere sometime in 2007.

Grumpy Old Men: Producer Jeff Gardner has purchased the rights to this 1993 film comedy that reunited "Odd Couple" roommates Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as battling buddies. Gardner has yet to assemble a writing team and spring 2008 is the target opening date.

Legends: Producer Ben Sprecher plans to star "Dynasty" divas Joan Collins and Linda Evans in James Kirkwood's comedy, which never reached Broadway when Carol Channing and Mary Martin headlined a 23-city tour in the mid-'80s. Plans are to try out in Toronto in 2006 and then come to New York.

The Pajama Game: Harry Connick, Jr. has been announced to star in a long-delayed revival of this 1954 Tony-winning tuner. It will feature two new songs from composer-lyricist Richard Adler (who wrote the score in collaboration with his late partner Jerry Ross), direction and choreography by Kathleen Marshall, and a revised book by Peter Ackerman. Dates are forthcoming.

The Pirate Queen: The producers of "Riverdance" and the songwriters of "Les Misérables" are teaming up to tell the real-life tale of Grace O'Malley, a 16th-century Irish heroine who fought for the independence of her homeland. Tara Rubin Casting (address above) held Equity principal auditions on June 22 and an Equity chorus call on June 23. Rehearsals are scheduled to begin in early 2006, with an opening late the same year.

Ray: The producers of last year's hit film bio of the late singer-musician are working on a stage version telling the story of Charles' remarkable career through musical performances and dramatic vignettes.

Robbie Robertson Musical: Liz Smith mentioned in an April 2005 column that Robbie Robertson, formerly of The Band, was working on a Broadway musical about Native Americans.

Simply Heavenly: This hit London version of Langston Hughes' enduring stories about the character Simple might try Broadway, according to the Official London Theatre Guide website.

The Skin of Our Teeth: A long-gestating musical version of Thornton Wilder's fantastical comedy-drama by John Kander and the late Fred Ebb recently had a series of backers' auditions starring Eartha Kitt with the goal of raising funds for Broadway.

Zanna: This musical fantasy about a high school where gay is normal and straight is weird had an Off-Broadway run in 2003 under the title "Zanna, Don't!" Producer Jack M. Dalgleish is planning to present a rewritten version for the Main Stem in either the summer or fall of 2006.

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