Storylines are back! Last season's big Broadway hits were pretty thin in that department. The hottest offering was Contact, a "dance-play" with a slight plot, nary an original song, and not even an orchestra. The rest of the schedule was studded with all-dance shows like Swing and Riverdance, revivals like Kiss Me, Kate and The Music Man and a reworking of a movie musical (Saturday Night Fever).
This season, there are book musicals with original scores aplenty. Source material ranges from Dr. Seuss to Charlotte Bronte and Louisa May Alcott. There are even a few tuners with totally original stories. Will wonders never cease?
New plays are not as plentiful as new musicals. There are more than the usual number of non-musical offerings, but they come from the usual birthplaces—Off-Broadway, London, and the regional scene. Even Neil Simon, Broadway's top moneymaking playwright, has had his play in try-outs on resident stages in California and Washington, D.C. before braving Broadway.
But the overall picture is bright for the Great White Way. Despite numerous shows announcing postponements and delays (The Visit, Little Women, Oklahoma!), there are many openings and opportunities.
In order to make this preview more practical for our readers, we've included as much casting information about each production as possible. Most fall shows have already been totally cast, but spring shows may still have some openings. As usual, casting directors should not be contacted directly by phone or mail unless they specifically request it.
The Best Man, Simon Dines, and Strong Women from MTC
With politics on everyone's minds due to the forthcoming Presidential election, it's most appropriate that the first Broadway show of the fall season is The Best Man, Gore Vidal's 1960 drama set during a political convention in Philadelphia. While the setting may be timely (this year's Republican gathering was also held in the City of Brotherly Love), certain elements render the play definitely of its time. Candidates are now chosen during primaries. Forty years ago, it was still possible to have a contest and subsequent conflict for the top spot at the conventions.
The show is officially billed as Gore Vidal's The Best Man to avoid confusion with a movie of the same name released earlier this year. Ethan McSweeney (Never the Sinner) stages the play, which follows the behind-the-scenes intrigues as two contenders vie for their party's nomination for Commander-in-Chief. Spalding Gray takes a break from his solo work to play a liberal Secretary of State running against Sex & the City and Law & Order's Chris Noth as an opportunistic Senator. Charles Durning is the retiring President torn between the two. Elizabeth Ashley, Christine Ebersole, Michael Learned, Jonathan Hadary, Mark Blum, Ed Dixon, Patricia Hodge, and Jordan Lage also star. The opening gavel for previews starts Sept. 5 for a Sept. 17 opening at the Virginia Theatre.
Stuart Howard did the casting, which is complete. The run is limited through Dec. 31, so it's unlikely there will be any further auditions for replacements or understudies.
Neil Simon throws a party at the Music Box—The Dinner Party, his 31st play. This one takes place at an elegant private room in a Paris restaurant where six invited guests will find their lives altered. Two icons of 1970s TV—Henry Winkler (Happy Days) and John Ritter (Three's Company)—head a cast that also includes Len Cariou, Penny Fuller (both of whom appeared in 1970's Tony-winning Best Musical Applause), Veanne Cox (The Altruists, Labor Day), and Jan Maxwell (The Sound of Music, A Doll's House). John Rando directs. Emanuel Azenberg, Simon's usual producer, returns in that capacity. Previews commence Oct. 4 for an Oct. 19 opening.
Jay Binder is the casting director. The small cast of six is complete and Equity auditions have already been held for understudies and possible future replacements.
The next two scheduled non-musical openings are transfers from Off-Broadway's Manhattan Theatre Club, both about strong women in crisis—David Auburn's Proof and Charles Busch's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife. Proof centers around the unstable daughter of a recently deceased genius mathematician and the true authorship of a potentially earth-shattering proof. Mary Louise Parker dropped out of Roundabout Theatre Company's proposed production of Desire Under the Elms to repeat her starring role from MTC's late spring production as the mysterious lead character. (Elms has been subsequently chopped down by Roundabout.) The busy Daniel Sullivan (currently represented by Spinning into Butter at Lincoln Center's Newhouse) is the stager. Larry Bryggman, Johanna Day, and Ben Shenkman will reprise their roles when the equations start flying on Oct. 10 for the first preview at the Walter Kerr. The opening is Oct. 24.
Linda Lavin has similar identity problems in The Tale of the Allergist's Wife. She plays an Upper West Side housewife bursting with intellectual energy and no outlet to express it. Then a childhood friend reappears and shakes up her already shaken world. Lavin's performance and Busch's play received praise and award nominations from both the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle when the show played MTC's studio space last season. Producers are hoping for more kudos and a bigger audience at the Ethel Barrymore, where it previews Oct. 11 for a Nov. 2 opening. Tony Roberts, Michele Lee, Shirl Benheim, and Anil Kumar will also make the trip along with Lavin under MTC head Lynne Meadow's direction.
The casts for both of the MTC shows are set and auditions have been held for understudies and future replacements.
In between the female-centered Proof and Wife, males take center stage to bare their souls—and quite a bit more—in the first new musical of the season, The Full Monty. Based on the 1997 Oscar-nominated sleeper film hit, the tuner spotlights six unemployed mill workers who throw caution and their clothes to the wind by shaking their moneymakers as male strippers. The twist is they have average, decidedly non-Chippendale bodies. The stripping sextet are played by Jason Danieley (Candide), Patrick Wilson (Bright Lights, Big City), Andre De Shields (Play On!, Ain't Misbehavin'), John Ellison Conlee, Romain Fruge, and Marcus Neville. Annie Golden, Emily Skinner, and Lisa Datz are the ladies in their lives.
The libretto is by Terrence McNally, Broadway's most in-demand book-writer. (He may also be represented this season by the musicalization of The Visit.) The setting for Full Monty has been changed from the North of England in the movie to Buffalo, New York, which has caused some small controversy. The congressman representing Buffalo has officially requested McNally to change the show's setting to another city—or better yet, an imaginary one. It seems portraying Buffalo as a bust town, where unemployment is so bad people are forced to remove their garments for table money, is bad for the city's image. As he did with the gay Christ-like figure in his Corpus Christi, McNally is sticking to his guns.
The score is courtesy of David Yazbek, best known for his songs for the PBS children's series Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? Jack O'Brien stages the musical, which had its world premiere at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego earlier this summer. Will audiences see the full Full Monty—meaning will the boys take it all off, giving us a Broadway version of Naked Boys Singing? We'll find out when previews start at the Eugene O'Neill on Sept. 26 for an Oct. 26 opening. Casting is complete. If the show is a hit, you may see Equity auditions for possible future replacements in the next few months.
Seuss on the Loose; Eclectic "Rocky"
The next Broadway musical moves from adult source material to the works of arguably the greatest children's author of all time. The Seussical employs the many stories of Dr. Seuss (real name: Ted Geisel) in a sort of revue format. The Cat in the Hat (played by David Shiner of Fool Moon fame) acts as an emcee introducing Horton the Elephant, Maisie-Bird, The Lorax, and other fanciful creations. The press material emphasizes this is not strictly a kids' show, but has a grown-up sensibility. The original concept is by Monty Python's Eric Idle and Stephen Flaherty & Lynn Ahrens, the songwriting team of Once on This Island, My Favorite Year, and Ragtime. Ahrens writes the lyrics and Flaherty the music. They also team up on the libretto. They'll be reunited with their Ragtime director Frank Galati, who is also slated to direct The Visit. Kathleen Marshall (Kiss Me, Kate) is the choreographer.
Joining Shiner on stage are Kevin Chamberlin (Dirty Blonde), Janine LaManna, Michele Pawk (Cabaret), Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Erick Devine, Eddie Korbich (Obie winner for Taking a Chance on Love), Alice Playten (Obie winner for First Lady Suite), Sharon Wilkins, and Stuart Zagnit (The Public Theater's Wild Party).
There is something of a Seuss renaissance going on—what with Seussical, an upcoming musical based on his cult film The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (for 2001-'02), and a live action film version of the Yuletide classic The Grinch Who Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey.
Casting for Seussical by Jay Binder is complete. If the show is a hit, watch Back Stage for possible upcoming auditions. Buzz surrounding a Toronto workshop production starring Andrea Martin as the Cat in the Hat before an invited industry audience was enthusiastic, so prospects look good for a long run. Previews start Oct. 15 at the Richard Rodgers for a Nov. 9 opening.
Patti LuPone provides the next opening with her concert Matters of the Heart, which will play for 19 performances on Sunday and Monday nights at the Vivian Beaumont Theater while Contact is dark. LuPone played Reno Sweeney in Lincoln Center's hit revival of Anything Goes at the Beaumont. Her first performance is Oct. 15 and the official opening is Nov. 13.
From family entertainment, we go back to the over-21 crowd for a revival of The Rocky Horror Show. When this musical satirizing mad-scientist films and sexual stereotypes first opened at the Belasco in 1975, the Broadway theatregoing public just didn't get it, and it vanished like a vampire at dawn. But when the film version (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, and the show's author Richard O'Brien, started playing midnight movie houses and college campuses, it acquired a devoted following. Expect crowds dressed like the kinky characters to show up at the Circle In The Square, where previews start Oct. 20 for a Nov. 15 opening. The original target date of Halloween had to be postponed.
Christopher Ashley, famous for his rapidly paced direction in Jeffrey and The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, will attempt to repeat his magic here. Jordan Roth, one of the producers of The Donkey Show, will try to create that same party-like atmosphere uptown.
The casting is a fascinating mixed bag. Tom Hewitt, who played the hunky boyfriend in Jeffrey, is that sweet transvestite Dr. Frank N Furter. Rock star Joan Jett makes her Broadway debut as Columbia. Dick Cavett steps out of the talk show mold to enact the stuffy narrator. Daphne Rubin-Vega is no longer Rent-controlled and will be Magenta. As she did in the Encores production of L'il Abner, Lea DeLaria will play a male role—two in fact: Dr. Scott and Eddie. Alice Ripley (Side Show, James Joyce's The Dead) and Jarrod Emick (Tony winner for Damn Yankees) are Brad and Janet. Raul Esparza rounds out the cast as Riff Raff.
Bernard Telsey casts the show, which made a publicity splash by claiming to be the first show to use the Internet in its casting. A website with an audition application was posted and several thousand web-crawlers replied. Whether anyone from that unconventional search was actually cast has yet to be announced. To fill the role of Rocky, Dr. Frank's bodybuilder creation, a recent open call was announced for musclemen who can sing as well as they pump iron.
Harold Pinter's Betrayal replaces the cancelled Desire Under the Elms in Roundabout's schedule at the American Airlines Theatre. David Leveaux (The Real Thing) has been announced to direct. No casting as of yet, but the rumor mill has it Alec Baldwin and Liev Schrieber are being wooed for the two male leads—best friends embroiled in a romantic triangle with the wife of one of them. The trick here is that the story is told in reverse chronological order. The production will begin previews Oct. 20 for a Nov. 14 opening.
Since Roundabout operates under a LORT (League of Resident Theatres) contract rather than a standard Production contract, they are not required to hold Equity principal auditions for each of their shows. Auditions are held for Roundabout on an as-needed basis.
In another return to the Great White Way, Lily Tomlin will reprise her one-woman, multi-character performance in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. The comedienne won a 1986 Tony for Jane Wagner's play about a small galaxy of interrelated eccentrics making the titular quest. Search plays Seattle and Princeton, New Jersey before zooming into a Shubert house to be announced on Nov. 11 for the first preview, opening Nov. 16.
Tony Randall's National Actors Theatre may be seeing stars as well. The company has plans to mount a stage version of the searing 1961 film Judgement at Nuremberg. Maximillian Schell may repeat his Oscar-winning film role as the German lawyer defending former Nazi judges before an international tribunal. Abby Mann's script originated as a TV play (which also starred Schell). If Schell (who was recently rushed to the hospital in Riga, Latvia with pancreas problems as a complication of diabetes) does head the company, it will be one of the few times a star has played the same part on film, stage, and TV. John Tillinger, who brought NAT's hit revival of another courtroom drama, Inherit the Wind, to order, has been slated to direct. No dates or other information have been forthcoming.
2000 comes to an end with the long-awaited Broadway debut of Jane Eyre. This musical adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's immortal Gothic novel had its world premiere in Toronto four years ago. Plans for New York were immediately announced, but numerous roadblocks—mostly lack of an appropriate musical theatre—prevented Jane from getting on the plane. The American premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse in La Jolla, California took place last year in July and indications are solid for an opening on the Main Stem. Marla Shaffel plays the title role with James Barbour (Beauty and the Beast) as her Rochester and Mary Stout as Mrs. Fairfax. John Caird (Les Miserables, Nicholas Nickleby) wrote the book and co-directs with Scott Schwartz. Paul Gordon is responsible for the songs. Previews begin Nov. 7 at the Brooks Atkinson for a Dec. 3 opening. Casting, which is complete, is by Johnson-Liff.
2001: A Space Crunch Odyssey
As we enter 2001, dates become less solid and many shows are still formulating their schedules and searching for theatres. Inevitably, some will get squeezed out, as the space chase becomes more competitive. The first production of the year with the most definite opening is The Rhythm Club, which has announced a target date of Feb. 15. Jeremy Kushnier of Footloose fame stars with Tim Martin and Lauren Kennedy. Set in 1930s Hamburg, Germany, the story concerns two young musicians—one Jewish and the other Gentile—and the female singer they hire to lead a swing band. Chad Beguelin authors the book and lyrics to Matthew Sklar's music. Eric D. Schaeffer directs. The cast also includes Broadway's favorite mother Barbara Walsh (Big, Blood Brothers), Megan Lawrence, Florence Lacey, Jonathan Hogan, Kevin Kern, Kirk McDonald, Larry Cahn, Buzz Mauro, Marsh Hanson, and Joe Kolinski. Stuart Howard is the casting director. All roles are filled.
After all these musicals, you may ask where are all the plays? Of course, one of the most anticipated is from Britain. Mid-March sees the New York premiere of Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love. This latest intellectual puzzler from the author of Arcadia, The Real Thing, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead profiles the Victorian poet A.E. Housman and his struggle with homosexuality in a repressed society. Lincoln Center Theater will present the show at a Broadway theatre to be announced while Contact continues on its main stage, the Vivian Beaumont. For the record, Love premiered in London at the National Theatre in 1997 starring John Wood. The American debut was at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre in January of this year. No casting has been announced. Alan Filderman of Ortlip-Filderman is the casting director. Watch Back Stage for probable upcoming Equity principal auditions. Another yet-to-be-decided Broadway LCT offering is a possibility.
Roundabout continues its season flying the friendly skies at the American Airlines Theatre (or is that the slogan for United?). Anyway, after Betrayal, the company will present another triangle play by a British author, but this one is much lighter in tone. Design for Living by Noel Coward is a fizzy comedy revolving around the off-and-on-again affairs of a trio of friends among London's bright set in the 1930s. The original production was a great triumph, with the leads played by Coward himself and Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. For the latest incarnation, Roundabout has recruited the services of two Tony-winning stars: Alan Cumming (Cabaret) and Jennifer Ehle (The Real Thing). A third star has yet to be cast. Roundabout Artistic Associate Joe Mantello (The Mineola Twins) directs. Previews commence Feb. 16 for a March 16 opening.
Roundabout is also staging perhaps the most highly anticipated show of the season—Follies, Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman's Proustian musical of a reunion of former showgirls on the stage of their theatre which is about to be demolished. There have been numerous remountings since the original 1971 production, including one in London (with an entirely rewritten book, which has since been mothballed), a concert version at Alice Tully Hall, and a Paper Mill Playhouse restaging that almost made it to Broadway. Roundabout Theatre Company is behind this first Broadway revival and speculation is rampant as to the cast. Gregory Harrison, Treat Williams, Sigourney Weaver, Judith Ivey, Jean Smart, Karen Ziemba, Dan Butler, Polly Bergen, Betty Garrett, Karen Morrow, and Carol Woods have all been mentioned as possibilities. Matthew Warchus (Art, True West) directs and the extremely busy Kathleen Marshall (also represented this season by The Seussical) choreographs. Previews March 6, opens April 5 at a theatre to be announced. Jim Carnahan is the casting director. Equity chorus calls will be held Sept. 25 and 26 (see the casting notice in this week's issue).
Roundabout rounds out its season with Brian Friel's The Faith Healer, set for a June 2001 opening with Alfred Molina starring. For information on the company's Off-Broadway schedule, check out our spotlight on Off and Off-Off-Broadway in the Oct. 6 issue.
Competing with Follies in the most-eagerly-awaited show category is The Visit. Everything was hunky-dory for this dark musical adaptation of Frederick Durrenmatt's symbolic drama of a wealthy woman returning to her hometown to seek revenge on the man who wronged her as a girl. Angela Lansbury was all set to star, with Terrence McNally on book, John Kander and Fred Ebb at the ready with songs, Frank Galati staging, and Ann Reinking choreographing. A fall opening was slated. But then this July Lansbury pulled out of the show, citing the health of her husband as preventing her from giving the project her full attention. Lack of a name star has delayed The Visit. The call went out to all available divas. Shirley MacLaine was supposedly offered the part, but she turned it down. The latest rumor has Dame Diana Rigg considering it. But if she took it, the show would open in London first, meaning Broadway would not be receiving a Visit until 2001-'02.
Speaking of divas, perhaps the greatest of them all—Tallulah Bankhead—will dominate our stages this coming season. Three shows will feature the deep-voiced, Dixie-bred vixen on, Off, and Off-Off-Broadway. The Broadway show, called simply Tallulah, is a solo play starring Kathleen Turner, fresh from her stint and a brief nude scene as Mrs. Robinson in the London production of The Graduate. Sandra Ryan Heyward's script takes place in 1947 as La Bankhead gets ready to host a fundraiser for President Harry Truman. As she prepares for the event, she shares secrets, anecdotes, and passions from her glamorous life and raucous career. A national tour begins in Minneapolis in October and plans are for a Broadway opening in the spring. Tovah Feldshuh will be bring her own Bankhead piece, Tallulah Hallelujah, to the Douglas Fairbanks Off-Broadway, while Dahling, a multi-character play based on the same actress, is planned for the Grove Street Playhouse.
While not a diva, Tom Selleck is certainly the male equivalent—in the sense that his name alone will sell tickets. The former Magnum, PI hunk is making his Broadway debut in a revival of Herb Gardner's A Thousand Clowns. Selleck was intrigued with the possibility of playing against type. Instead of a dashing detective, he plays a non-conformist, unemployed comedy writer coping with raising his 12-year-old nephew. The last New York production of Clowns, seen at the Roundabout in 1996, was beset with problems. Star Robert Klein and director Gene Saks left the show during rehearsals to be replaced by Judd Hirsch and Scott Ellis. Reviews were mostly negative. Rehearsals start for the Selleck production Jan. 2 and then there'll be a four-city tour, culminating in a Broadway run to start previews on April 16. Casting for the play's five other roles has not been announced. Watch Back Stage for upcoming Equity principal auditions.
The only new American play with more than one character announced for the spring is August Wilson's King Hedley II. This latest installment in the playwright's decade-by-decade cycle of plays examining the African-American experience in the 20th Century is set during the 1980s and focuses on characters who also appeared in Wilson's earlier Seven Guitars. It's already been seen on many regional stages and was nominated for last season's Pulitzer. Marion McClinton, who also staged the currently running Jitney, is the director. Hughes Moss is the casting director for the show, which has already had its required Equity principal auditions. A pre-Broadway production is scheduled for Los Angeles this month with a planned Broadway opening in April.
Racing for the Tonys
Several other shows have begun planning to beat the Tony, Drama Desk, and other award deadlines for 2001. Here's a rundown:
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: We've already had a Broadway musical about Huck Finn (Big River); his companion from Mark Twain's books has been waiting a long time to join him. This project has been in development for two or three seasons, but prospects are good for its final docking in New York. Equity principal auditions were held during the summer and rehearsals are slated to commence in January 2001. Ken Ludwig forsakes the farcical trappings of his Lend Me a Tenor and Moon over Buffalo to write the book. Music and lyrics are by Don Schlitz, and Scott Ellis directs.
Bells Are Ringing: Faith Prince became a star when she took on a quirky character role in a hit revival of a 1950s musical—Adelaide in Guys and Dolls in 1992. She might hit the jackpot again in another restaging from the same decade. Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote the role of an answering service worker who gets too involved with her clients for their friend Judy Holliday. Prince will take on the part under the direction of Tina Landau, whose credits include such Off-Broadway shows as Floyd Collins and Dream True. David Garrison, Beth Fowler, and Bob Ari are reported to have featured roles. Rehearsals begin early next year with a try-out in Stamford, Connecticut's Palace Theatre opening Feb. 20. If all goes well the bells will be ringing on Broadway in mid-April.
Brighton Beach Memoirs: A revival of Neil Simon's first play in the Eugene Jerome trilogy has been in the planning stages for months. Originally it was going to be a repertory of Brighton Beach and Broadway Bound, but the latter play was dropped. Linda Lavin and Zoe Wanamaker were possible leads for the mother, but both have proven unavailable. A mounting at Florida's Coconut Grove Playhouse has been announced.
Dublin Carol: This Irish play by Conor McPherson (The Weir) has been mentioned as a possibility for transfer from London.
Little Women: This musicalization of Louisa May Alcott's immortal novel of sisterly love joins Jane Eyre and Tom Sawyer in Broadway's crash course in 19th Century American Literature. The show was to have opened in the fall, but delays and a switch in creative personnel have pushed it back to a spring try-out in Boston, tentatively followed by an April Broadway debut. Jason Howland and Mindi Dickstein are writing the songs to Allan Knee's libretto of the adventures of Jo, Amy, Meg, and Beth. Hughes Moss is the casting director and Equity auditions were held some weeks ago.
Lone Star Love: Numerous hit musicals have employed Shakespeare as a source material and transposed the stories to non-Elizabethan settings. John L. Haber has conceived and adapted this new show based on The Merry Wives of Windsor and set in the wild west. The country-western-flavored score is by Jack Herrick with contributions from Michael Bogdanov, Bland Simpson, and Tommy Thompson. Bogdanov directs with Patricia Birch choreographing. The Red Clay Ramblers, seen in A Lie of the Mind and Fool Moon, are featured. Possibilities for the cast include Kevin Carolan, John Jellison, Beth Leavel, Kay McClelland, Gary Sandy (WKRP in Cincinnati), Stephen Temperley, and Clarke Thorell. Hopes are for a spring 2001 opening. Hughes Moss Casting has already held the necessary Equity principal auditions.
The Producers: Who could forget Springtime for Hitler, the biggest bomb in Broadway history? But wait, that wasn't really a show, it was a hilarious production number from Mel Brooks' 1968 film comedy about two crooked showmen mounting a failure on purpose. Brooks is writing the score and libretto for a stage version of the movie with Susan Stroman coming off her Contact high to direct and choreograph it. Nathan Lane is said to be the prime candidate for the Zero Mostel role. Johnson-Liff recently held Equity chorus calls.
Stones in His Pockets: Producers love small-cast shows with big laughs. This London hit fits the bill perfectly. Two actors (Conleth Hill and Sean Campion) play all the inhabitants of an Irish town invaded by a Hollywood film crew—plus the American movie people. Marie Jones' play made an impact at last year's Edinburgh Festival and is playing to packed houses at the Duke of York in the West End. Word is circulating that Broadway is the next stop, probably by this spring.
Thoroughly Modern Millie: Erin Dilly has the title role as the vivacious flapper when this stage version of the 1967 movie musical opens at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego on Oct. 15. Two songs from the film will augment a new score by composer Jeanine Tesori (Twelfth Night, Violet) and lyricist Dick Scanlan, who is also working on the book. Michael Mayer (You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown) directs. If all goes well, Millie expects to be doing the Charleston on the Great White Way with Whoopi Goldberg as one of the producers this spring.
Tropicana: Havana is suddenly a hot spot for the stage. Perhaps the media circus over Elian Gonzalez sparked this interest, but here are three projects with the Cuban capital for a setting. The most immediate is Tropicana, the story of a showgirl who flees Havana to seek a new life in Miami while her mother, a star in her own right at the titular nitery, remains behind. Chuck Gomez is the main producer as well as the book-writer and lyricist. Mark Pennington composed the music. Additional music and lyrics are by Michael Rupert, Alberto Perez Duval, Phil McKenna, and Ruben Gonzalez. An earlier version, entitled Adios, Tropicana, was seen as part of the Festival Latino at the Public/New York Shakespeare Festival in 1989. Like all the shows list above, they're hoping to open by April of 2001. The other Cuban-themed projects are Frank Wildhorn's Havana (now pushed back to 2002) and My Cuba, a piece being developed for Kevin Costner.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: The Goodman Theatre of Chicago is mounting a revival of Edward Albee's 1962 marital battlefield of a play in the spring of 2001. Patti LuPone dropped out of Arthur Laurents' Jolson Sings Again in order to play that sexy harridan Martha. (But she'll be doing her concert Matters of the Heart first.) Word is that the folks at Goodman are looking for another Broadway transfer just like last year's Death of a Salesman.
Wonderful Town: A smash review in The New York Times of this Encores! revival started talk of a Broadway transfer. No word on whether things have gotten beyond the talking stage. The minimal design concept of the concert presentation would mean low production costs, but those savings would probably be eaten up the large cast (32) and orchestra (30). Still, Donna Murphy and Laura Benanti repeating their Encores! performances would be Broadway magic.
Into the Millennium
And on tap, in the pipeline, or just on the drawing board for 2001-02 and beyond:
An American in Paris: Jujamcyn Theatres, in partnership with SFX Entertainment, has a stage version of the 1951 Oscar-winning film employing the Gershwin songbook in the story of an expatriate painter in the City of Light. Wendy Wasserstein is said to be working on a new book, unrelated to Alan Jay Lerner's Oscar-winning screenplay.
Assassins: Roundabout recently mounted a staged reading of Stephen Sondheim's dark chamber musical about the social misfits who murdered or attempted to murder our presidents. Joe Mantello's staging sparked interest in a possible full-blown production, but probably not until next season.
The Beautiful Game: Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest. This one mixes soccer and politics as an Irish team battles over love and loyalty. A London production is in the works and, if it scores, New York could be the next goal.
Batman: After the abysmally received Batman and Robin film, you would have thought the Caped Crusader would be hiding out in the Batcave. But no, he'll be swinging back into the popular culture with two new movies (one based on the animated Batman Beyond series and another continuing in the traditional franchise), as well as a Broadway musical. Pop songwriter Jim Steinman is working on the bat-tunes and David Ives is reportedly the author of the bat-book.
The Beat Goes On: Yes, a Sonny and Cher musical is in the works. Very tentative at this point, due to legal issues involving the estate of the late Sonny Bono. Producer Manny Kladitis is developing the project.
Birdy: Naomi Wallace's drama based on William Wharton's novel has been circling Broadway. A successful production at North Carolina's Duke University has led to speculation the show has a chance of landing here.
The Boy from Oz: A musical bio of Peter Allen is a big hit in Australia and might make the leap halfway round the world to Broadway.
The Boys from Syracuse: This Rodgers and Hart classic is a maybe for Roundabout in 2001-'02.
Bullets over Broadway: A musical version of Woody Allen's film comedy is a possibility with music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Craig Carnelia, and maybe a libretto by the Woodman himself and Douglas McGrath, his collaborator on the screenplay.
Copacabana: Not to be confused with Tropicana, this stage version of Barry Manilow's hit song, previously produced in England on tour and in the West End, is currently visiting some 30 US cities with an eye toward landing in New York. Gavin McLeod (TV's Love Boat and The Mary Tyler Moore Show) stars, supported by Darcie Roberts (Dream, Busker Alley), Franc D'Ambrosio, Terry Burrell, Philip Hernandez, and Beth McVey. Co-produced by Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and Dallas Summer Musicals, it has a book by Manilow, Bruce Sussman, and Jack Feldman, music by Manilow, and lyrics by Sussman and Feldman. David Warren, playwright Nicky Silver's favorite director, is at the helm, with choreography by Tony Award-winner Wayne Cilento (Tommy, Dream).
Dance of the Vampires: A stage version of Roman Polanski's 1967 horror spoof The FearlessVampire Killers or Pardon Me, but Your Teeth Are in My Neck is a big hit in Vienna and plans are afoot for producers Elizabeth Williams and Anita Waxman to resurrect on Broadway. The score is Jim Steinman who seems to have a thing for flying mammals. He's also at work on Batman and wrote "Bat Outta Hell" for Meatloaf.
Dracula: Speaking of vampires, the tireless Frank Wildhorn is reportedly at work on a musical version of Bram Stoker's horror novel. Expect it to be finished sometime in 2001 as Wildhorn says this is his top priority.
Eleanor: First Lady of the World: Jean Stapleton in a one-woman show on Eleanor Roosevelt. She's been touring with the vehicle and producer Philip Langner has put feelers out for a possible Broadway run.
The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T: As noted earlier, a second musical using Dr. Seuss as a source is in the works. This one will use the 1952 film the good doctor wrote about a maniacal piano teacher who plans to take over the world and force 500 little boys to practice their scales night and day. Anthony Horowitz is the bookwriter and Glen Roven writes the songs. Actor Simon Callow (Four Weddings and a Funeral) is slated to direct.
Flower Drum Song: David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly, Golden Child) has been working on a revision of the Joseph Fields/Rodgers and Hammerstein 1958 Chinatown musical, hewing more closely to the C. Y. Lee novel on which it was based. A production at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles has been announced for March 2001, with Robert Longbottom (Side Show, The Scarlet Pimpernel II) directing and choreographing. Flower may blossom on Broadway depending on the LA engagement.
Hairspray: Producer Margo Lion has on her slate a musical version of the 1988 film by fellow Baltimore native John Waters. The plot, for those who are not Waters devotees, centers on an overweight teen (played in the film by Ricki Lake) who is obsessed with becoming a local star on a TV dance show. Harvey Fierstein is reportedly being courted for the role the late Divine played in the film. Composer Marc Shaiman (South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut) and director-choreographer Rob Marshall (Cabaret) are reportedly on board.
It's Good to Be Alive: Alan King headlines this Cy Coleman musical about a star of the Yiddish theatre. Book is by Avery Corman, with Corman and Coleman handling the lyrics together. Marty Richards and PACE Theatricals are looking to produce, with Gene Saks directing and Patricia Birch choreographing.
The Little Mermaid: Yet another Disney cartoon may make the transition from two-dimensional animation cells to flesh and blood. Hey, they said it couldn't be done with The Lion King. Matthew Bourne (Swan Lake) is reportedly kicking around ideas with Thomas Schumacher, Disney's top theatre producer.
A Little Night Music: A revival of the Sondheim romantic musical has been on the back burner for quite a while. Producers are still waiting for the right star and the right theatre to become available.
Mamma Mia!: In keeping with nostalgia for the 1970s (what else could keep Saturday Night Fever running this long?), a show made up of ABBA's greatest Top 40 hits is slated to continue its winning ways here after successful runs in London and Toronto. Target opening is fall of 2001 at a Shubert house to be announced.
Marty: Paddy Chayefsky's 1955 screenplay about a lonely butcher is fodder for this new musical with a book by Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood and AMC's Remember WENN TV series, replacing writer Aaron Sorkin) and a score by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse (Bye Bye Birdie, Applause). Jason Alexander is said to be interested in playing the lead, but did not participate in a recent staged reading.
The Night They Raided Minsky's: The death of director Michael Ockrent in 1999 has put this stage edition of the movie about burlesque on hold. No word yet on a possible future staging.
Oklahoma!: The waving wheat sure doesn't smell sweet for this long-awaited revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's groundbreaking classic. First Actors Equity objected to producer Cameron Macintosh's plans to transfer this National Theatre/West End hit from London with the British cast intact. Numerous American auditions and postponements were announced before the go-ahead was given for a Yank cast to open in the fall of 2000. But now the schedules of the creative personnel, including director Trevor Nunn and choreographer Susan Stroman, don't match up. So it looks like the corn won't be as high as an elephant's eye until sometime in 2002.
Orpheus Descending: Producers Elizabeth Williams and Anita Waxman are said to negotiating to bring over Helen Mirren (Prime Suspect) in a revival of Tennessee Williams' steamy play from London's Donmar Warehouse, original site of their Tony-winning transfer of The Real Thing.
Pal Joey: SFX inherited this revival when they bought Livent. No further announced plans on when it will go into production.
Pinocchio: Still more cartoon-to-Broadway news. Puppet queen Julie Taymor is in talks with Disney to bring the ultimate marionette story to the stage.
The Pirate: Yet another movie musical from Hollywood's Golden Age slated for Broadway. A project of the David Merrick Foundation, no word on how the legendary producer's death might affect the production's future.
A Star Is Born: This one's been up in the air for the longest time. Andrew Lloyd Webber was going to produce, but not score, a new version of the often-told tale of a star-crossed marriage between a young hopeful and an older has-been. Now Audra McDonald reportedly wants to star in it.
Sweet Smell of Success: John Lithgow has been mentioned as a possibility to play the lead role of vicious gossip columnist J.J. Hunsecker in this stage edition of the 1957 film. But we'll have to wait till his contract for the TV show Third Rock from the Sun runs out, which pushes the show to 2002. John Guare adapts the screenplay by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman. Songs are by Marvin Hamlisch and Craig Carnelia, who can use the extra time to work on their score for the aforementioned Bullets Over Broadway. Nicholas Hytner is the director.
Wise Guys: Stephen Sondheim's latest, with a book by John Weidman (Contact), was slated for last season, but a workshop at New York Theatre Workshop revealed too many flaws. It's being reworked with Harold Prince as director.
The Witches of Eastwick: A Cameron Mackintosh production in London, based on the John Updike novel. Rumored to be eyeing the Broadway Theatre if The Visit postpones.
—Additional reporting by Erik Haagensen and Mike Salinas