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What's in Broadway's Future?

Since our Broadway preview (Back Stage, Sept. 12), a number of shows have moved from the maybe column to the definite with firm dates for opening on the Main Stem. The most immediate of which is Anna in the Tropics, Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about a cigar factory in 1929. It will begin preview performances Nov. 4 at the Royale Theatre in advance of a Nov. 16 opening. This will be a transfer of the McCarter Theatre production with most of the cast intact, including Jimmy Smits, Daphne Rubin-Vega, and Priscilla Lopez. Bernard Telsey is the casting director.

Mark Hampton and Barbara J. Zitwer's Paper Doll, a bio of trash best-seller author Jacqueline Susann, has had more bumps on the road to Broadway than Neely O'Hara has had fake prescriptions. After productions in Pittsburgh and New Haven and a revolving-door list of leading ladies (Marlo Thomas, Fran Drescher, Dixie Carter, and Andrea Martin have all been attached to the project at one time or other), the play was finally set to open here at the Circle in the Square in December with Swoosie Kurtz as Susann and Judd Hirsch as her supportive husband, Irving Mansfield. However, producer Randall Wreghitt announced the production would have to be postponed due to a lack of financing. He hopes to have the money together before the close of the season.

The revival of Sly Fox starring Richard Dreyfuss has set an April 1 opening date at the Ethel Barrymore. Dreyfuss will be joined by Elizabeth Berkley, Bob Dishy, René Auberjonois, Bronson Pinchot, and Irwin Corey. Stuart Howard is listed as casting director.

Now that Cabaret has posted its closing notice, Roundabout Theatre Company will mount its long-planned revival of John Weidman and Stephen Sondheim's Assassins at Studio 54. The offbeat musical about presidential killers both successful and not had its debut Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in 1990 for a very limited run. Roundabout was planning a revival in fall 2001 after a well-received workshop directed by Joe Mantello. But the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks made for a risky atmosphere to present a dark show questioning American values. Mantello is still slated to direct, now that his work on Wicked (opening Oct. 30 at the Gershwin) is just about finished. Assassins is tentatively set to begin performances in March.

Speaking of Roundabout, they're also planning another Sondheim revival for fall 2004 with a new production of Pacific Overtures. This is another unconventional tuner from the master of the modern musical and the Assassins librettist John Weidman. The original production in 1976 featured an all-Asian cast and won Tonys for sets and costumes. It was overwhelmed in every other category by its rival A Chorus Line and closed after 193 performances. Overtures is planned for the American Airlines Theatre. Jim Carnahan is casting director for Roundabout.

Speaking of 2004-05, let's take a look at the pending projects for next season and beyond.

An American in Paris: Continuing in the trend of movies into musicals, Wendy Wasserstein is writing a new book for this 1951 Oscar-winning film. It will not use the original story of Alan Jay Lerner's Oscar-winning screenplay, but will still employ the George and Ira Gershwin songbook that served as the inspiration for the film. There have been two workshops so far.

Batman: Composer Jim Steinman and playwright David Ives still have a musical version of the adventures of the Caped Crusader in the works. Hopefully, their Dance of the Vampires debacle hasn't dissuaded them from working with bats. Tim Burton, director of the 1990 movie version, is set to stage the musical.

The Blue Angel: Peter Parnell and Stephen Trask (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) are working together on a stage version of the film that launched the career of the legendary Marlene Dietrich. Fran and Barry Weissler are producing.

Catch Me If You Can: Hairspray's Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman are working on the score for a musical version of Steven Spielberg's film about a real-life con man.

Chess: The Shuberts may be considering a revival of this 1988 cult favorite from ABBA men Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. Now that Mamma Mia!, which features their music, is entering its second year on Broadway, producing a new Chess might be a good move.

The Coast of Utopia: Tom Stoppard's trilogy of plays on the Russian Revolution was a hit at the National Theatre in London and Lincoln Center plans an American production in the spring of 2005.

The Color Purple: Creative Battery has optioned Alice Walker's novel for the musical stage and a spring 2005 opening appears possible. Gary Griffin of Chicago Shakespeare Theater is slated to direct from a book by Regina Taylor (Drowning Crow) and songs by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray.

Cry-Baby: Three of the producers of Hairspray (Adam Epstein, Allan S. Gordon, and Elan V. McAllister) are hoping lightning will spritz in the same place twice. They're planning a musical based on another John Waters film. The 1990 cult piece featured Johnny Depp as a singing rebel. No staff as of yet.

Democracy: Michael Frayn's new play is a smash at London's National Theatre and several New York producers have made the trip across the Atlantic to have a look for possible transfer. The play is based on an actual political scandal in the 1969 government of West German chancellor Willy Brandt when it was revealed his personal assistant was a spy for East Germany. Director Michael Blakemore wants to get the show up and running in the West End before considering a possible American version. Blakemore has stated he would recast the show with Yanks if it makes the transatlantic jump. The National's revival of Tom Stoppard's Jumpers is another candidate for a possible New York run. Broadway producers Bob Boyett and Ostar Productions have an arrangement with the National to bring the company's product to the Main Stem.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: The team from The Full Monty (book writer Terrence McNally, songwriter David Yazbek, director Jack O'Brien, and choreographer Jerry Mitchell) is set to musicalize this 1988 film comedy, which starred Steve Martin and Michael Caine as charming con men. Side note: The film was a remake of Bedtime Story with David Niven and Marlon Brando. A reading is set for this December with Brian Stokes Mitchell, Norbert Leo Butz, Christine Ebersole, Sherie Rene Scott, and Denis O'Hare.

Disney Musicals: Hoopz, The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins, Pinocchio, and Tarzan are at various stages of development.

The Frogs: Another new Sondheim musical on Broadway? Not quite. This 1974 adaptation of the classic comedy by Aristophanes had its premiere at the swimming pool at Yale University. Lincoln Center Theater will leap into action with a Broadway edition at the Vivian Beaumont. Producers director-choreographer Susan Stroman will reunite with her star Nathan Lane, who, in addition to playing the god Dionysus, will be rewriting the book by Burt Shevelove, with Sondheim augmenting the short score with additional songs. Performances are set to begin June 2004, capping off LCT's subscription series for the season, but starting too late to be considered part of the 2003-04 season. Lane has worked on a reading of the show and a CD of the score.

Jerry Springer: The Opera: A smash at London's National Theatre, this satire of the trash talk show host just began a commercial West End run and will probably see a New York engagement next season.

Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train: The first big hit of the Labyrinth Theater Company is looking to hop to Broadway. This Stephen Adly Guirgis drama of convicts and lawyers was a success d'estime Off-Broadway in 2000, receiving several Drama Desk nominations. It has since played London. Producers John Gould Rubin and Ron Kastner want to drive it uptown in the fall of 2004.

The John Lennon Project: Yoko Ono has approved a stage musical employing her late husband's music. Don Scardino will direct and co-write the book with Eric Overmyer. Lennon's songs will be used to tell the story of the 1960s and the '70s with 12 actors playing different aspects of Lennon's personality. An opening in 2004-05 is projected.

Legally Blonde: Producer Hal Luftig (Thoroughly Modern Millie) has optioned the story and characters from the Reese Witherspoon films—about a ditzy sorority girl who becomes a legal eagle—for a musical version.

Mame: Jerry Herman told columnist Liz Smith he wants to coax the blues right out of the horn again with a revival of his 1966 tuner about the eccentric title lady. He reportedly wants Tommy Tune, who is staging a Las Vegas production of his Miss Spectacular, to direct and choreograph. The wish list of possible Mames includes Christine Baranski, Glenn Close, Michele Lee, Bebe Neuwirth, Leslie Uggams, Shirley MacLaine, Liza Minnelli, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The Nederlanders and Jon Wilner are producing as part of a plan to revive three Herman hits (La Cage Aux Folles and Hello, Dolly! are the other two).

More Musicals Based on Movies: Bullets Over Broadway, Dr. Zhivago, Edward Scissorhands, Get Shorty, Moonstruck, Mr. Holland's Opus, Pleasantville, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, Shrek, The Wedding Singer.

My Man Godfrey: Producer Kelly Gonda has optioned this 1936 screwball film comedy (which originally starred William Powell and Carole Lombard) as a Broadway musical. The plot concerns the romance between a nutty heiress and her ever-resourceful butler in Depression-era New York. Side note: Alan Jay Lerner and Gerard Kenny were working on a musical version at the time of Lerner's death. Lyrics from it are in Lerner's book of collected lyrics, A Hymn to Him.

'night, Mother: Fox Theatricals has expressed interest in presenting a revival of Marsha Norman's 1983 two-hander with Emmy winner Camryn Manheim (The Practice) as a woman intent on suicide and Oscar nominee Brenda Blethyn (Secrets & Lies, Little Voice) as her shocked mother. Michael Mayer (Thoroughly Modern Millie) would direct. Scheduling depends on Manheim's commitment to her TV series, so it probably will be mounted during the summer of 2004.

Pal Joey: The New York Post speculated in a recent Page Six item that maverick film director Robert Altman was planning a new version of this Rodgers and Hart gem, which he would rewrite himself. The Times confirms this, adding the Weisslers are angling to produce it. Others who have in the past attempted rewrites of Joey include playwrights Richard Greenberg and Terrence McNally.

Pitch: Burt Reynolds may make a return to Broadway after an absence of 40 years in this Joel Fields comedy about two TV producers attempting to push their latest project. Producer Jeffrey Richards states the star has expressed interest. Barnet Kellman, whose credits include TV's Murphy Brown and Alias, is attached as director. For the record, Reynolds last appeared on the Main Stem in 1961 in Hugh Wheeler's Look, We've Come Through, which closed after five performances.

Reckless: Mary-Louise Parker is set to star in a Second Stage revival of this Craig Lucas dark comedy Off-Broadway in the spring of 2004. Variety reports producers Roger Berlind and Daryl Roth are hoping to bring it to Broadway soon thereafter.

Samson and Delilah: Liz Smith recently reported on an Oak Room presentation of songs and scenes from this musical Biblical epic. She called its arrival on Broadway "inevitable," but no word yet on Samson conquering the Main Stem as he did the Philistines. Frederick S. Roffman authored the book, while Neil Middleton and Shane Keister wrote the music, with additional lyrics by Middleton.

Spamalot: Eric Idle of Monty Python fame is said to be writing a musical version of his troupe's immortally zany film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which will also incorporate sketches from their classic TV series. Idle and John Du Prez are penning the songs while Idle handles the book. Director Mike Nichols and choreographer Jerry Mitchell are reportedly also joining in the madness. A spring 2005 opening is planned.

Sweet Charity: First Oscar winner Marisa Tomei and then Tony winner Jane Krakowski were slated to step into the dancing shoes of Gwen Verdon (1966 original), Chita Rivera (original National Tour), Juliet Prowse (original London company), Shirley MacLaine (1969 movie), and Debbie Allen (1986 revival) as the dance-hall hostess with the heart of gold. Walter Bobbie (Chicago) was slated to direct with a January 2004 opening scheduled. But Timothy Sheader directed a workshop (June 23-July 15) that the Weisslers produced. Tomei dropped out during the workshop and Krakowski took over, but there were press reports of arguments between the star and book author Neil Simon. The project is on hold for the moment, but Walter Bobbie has been in talks with the Weisslers about returning.

The Three Sisters: Elizabeth McCann told she wants to bring Michael Blakemore's recent London revival of the Chekhov classic to Broadway with stars Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient) and Kate Burton. It all depends on their schedules.

The Threepenny Opera: Roundabout has the Brecht-Weill dark classic on its roster for 2004-05.

Tootsie: Oscar- and Tony-winning producer Marty Richards (Chicago) has stated he's interested in bringing the Dustin Hoffman cross-dressing comedy to the musical stage.

The Vampire Lestat: You would think after Dance of the Vampires had a stake driven through its heart that no one would try another bloodsucker musical on Broadway. No one except Elton John, that is. The superstar composer is at work on a musical based on Anne Rice's immensely popular Lestat series of novels. John is collaborating with Bernie Taupin on the songs, while Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast) writes the book. A fall 2005 opening is targeted.

The Visit: This long-delayed dark musical was all set to open Off-Broadway at the Public Theater with Chita Rivera, but the enhancement was withdrawn at the last minute. Michael Reidel conjectured in the New York Post that the show's songwriters, Kander and Ebb, were looking to get Roundabout to produce it instead. But the company has announced it will put on Assassins and then Pacific Overtures. So it may be another long wait before we get a Visit.

West Side Story: Jeffrey Seller and Kevin McCollum, producers of Avenue Q, Rent, and La Bohème, are considering a Broadway revival of this Bernstein-Sondheim-Laurents-Robbins classic for spring 2005, to be directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. Meanwhile, two separate companies of West Side Story are planning European tours.

The Woman in White: Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest is based on Wilkie Collins' Victorian thriller. He presented one act to invited guests at his estate this summer.

Young Frankenstein: At this year's Tonys, Thomas Meehan (who won for co-authoring the book of Hairspray) told the press that he and Mel Brooks have gotten halfway through the first act of a working script based on Brooks' classic horror spoof. In addition, Brooks has written six songs. A reading is a possibility for 2004, followed by a production to be directed by Susan Stroman sometime in 2005.

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