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Mitchell, Schwimmer Top Broadway Bill for 2006

NEW YORK (THR) -- We know what we went through last year on and off Broadway -- some great offerings and too many dreary ones -- but, if optimism runs in your veins, there is much to anticipate on the horizon for 2006.

If I had to pick one, I'd start the list with Brian Stokes Mitchell taking on the star spot in the "Encores!" concert staging of "Kismet," due Feb. 9-12 at the City Center. Who could sing that Alexander Borodin music, Robert Wright and George Forrest lyrics, better today than Mitchell? (Alfred Drake sang it first in 1953; Howard Keel did the 1955 movie version). ...

Also interestingly on the agenda, and anticipated: David Schwimmer taking over where Henry Fonda once reigned supreme in the Broadway bound revival of "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial," Schwimmer playing Lt. Barney Greenwald with Zeljko Ivanek (so superb in last year's "The Pillowman") in the especially showy role as the slowly unraveling Lt. Com. Captain Queeg, created by Lloyd Nolan in the original 1954 Broadway version directed by Charles Laughton.

In 1954's "Mutiny" movie, Jose Ferrer played Greenwald and the part of Queeg gave Humphrey Bogart one of his last great roles, and his third and final best actor Oscar nomination. The new "Mutiny" opens May 7 at a Shubert Theatre still to be announced; Jerry Zaks directs. It's the first Broadway revival of this rattlingly good courtroom drama since a 1983 revival with John Rubenstein as Greenwald and Michael Moriarty as Queeg; this time the producers are Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel and Debra Black. ...

That same Jeffrey Richards is among the producers of another revival which looks exceptionally promising: the Roundabout's upcoming redo of "The Pajama Game" in which Harry Connick Jr. will be making his Broadway debut; it opens Feb. 23 at the American Airlines Theatre, with Michael McKean and Kelli O'Hara in co-star spots. A number of press invitees get a first sneak peek on Thursday. ...

Tonight, Mike Starr of "Ed" fame takes over for Brad Garrett as Murray the Cop in "The Odd Couple" with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick at the Brooks Atkinson. ... This is the final week for Cherry Jones and Brian F. O'Byrne in the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Doubt" at the Walter Kerr; starting next Tuesday, Eileen Atkins and Ron Eldard take over the star spots. ... This also is the final week for "Fiddler on the Roof" with Harvey Fierstein and Rosie O'Donnell at the Minskoff; it exits Sunday as does "Souvenir" with Judy Kaye at the Lyceum.

"Fiddler" has had a long and healthy run (it'll have racked up 781 performances and 36 prevues); "Souvenir," unfortunately, has not. It opened a scant nine weeks ago, following a limited but much-praised off-Broadway run by the York Theatre Company. But it's not going out quietly. The house was packed when I saw it last week; rarely have I seen an audience having a better time, and one only hopes that before it closes on Sunday enough Tony voters will have seen it to give it the attention it deserves at award time.

Not only is Kaye dazzling as the famously kitchsy off-key singer Florence Foster Jenkins, but equally unforgettable is her co-star Donald Corren as the show's hilarious narrator who also is the leading lady's woebegone but compassionate pianist. It's a four-star treat.

Robert Osborne writes for The Hollywood Reporter.

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