Friday, September 30, 2011

Broadway Picks for 2011-2012

Last year I put up a list of Broadway shows I was looking forward to seeing for the 2010-2011 season. It was an eclectic list, mostly musicals, that ended up being a mixed bag of disappointments, non-openings, and few successes. Oh well.

This year there is a lot of star power coming to Broadway, but few interesting, new musicals that are totally, unequivocally, indisputably, without question set to open. So, here is my Top Ten list, in date order, of the Broadway productions I most want to see for the 2011-2012 season. We’ll talk in May about my choices.

New comedies by Woody Allen AND Elaine May AND Ethan Coen (as in the Academy Award winning Coen brothers) in one night! Granted, they are all one acts, but how else to squeeze in all three. The cast, a real smorgasbord of television, movie and theater actors, that includes Steve Guttenberg, Julie Kavner, Grant Shaud, Marlo Thomas, and Mark Linn-Baker. Could be a VERY funny night in the theater.
First Preview: scheduled for September 20, 2011
Scheduled Opening: October 20, 2011

Tony winner, mutant, movie star, award show emcee, Aussie, song and dance man—is there anything I’ve left out—comes back to Broadway in a one-man show that is sure to be a crowd pleaser and SRO. Pulling out all the stops, there will even be an 18-piece orchestra backing him up.
First Preview: scheduled for October 25, 2011
Scheduled Opening: November 10, 2011
Special Note: This is a limited run with a scheduled January 1, 2012 closing.

A positive buzz for a Frank Wildhorn musical? That hasn’t happened for quite a few years. The much maligned, power ballad crazed composer might have his first hit since Jekyll & Hyde over 20 years ago with the forthcoming Bonnie and Clyde. The man behind The Scarlet Pimpernel (decent run), The Civil War (flop), Dracula, the Musical (disaster), Wonderland (huge flop), and many more regionally produced shows comes in with the first non-revival of the year. In addition to the good word-of-mouth, the musical’s Clyde—Jeremy Jordan--has just opened to positive reviews in a stage production of the Disney movie, Newsies (which itself may end up on Broadway this year) at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. Jordan has actually been shuttling between NJ, for Newsies, and NYC for rehearsals of Bonnie and Clyde.
First Preview: scheduled for November 4, 2011
Scheduled Opening: December 1, 2011

I will admit I don’t know much about this musical, but it was all the rage Off-Broadway last year. Something downtown, something original, and something edgy. The question is will it work uptown? Will it be this year’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, which worked so well in its initial run at The Public Theater and then crashed on Broadway?
First Preview: scheduled for November 12, 2011
Scheduled Opening: December 14, 2011

This revival, originally set for an Off-Broadway run, was moved to Broadway once Harry Connick Jr. became involved with the production. Connick is a crowd pleaser and a true leading man with a role perfectly fit for his talents. A delightful score, with many memorable songs, by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner (bit of trivia—according to Richard Rodgers, in his autobiography, he and Lerner were working on an ESP musical before differences ended the would-be collaboration. Soon after, Lerner and Lane came out with On a Clear Day).
First Preview: scheduled for November 12, 2011
Scheduled Opening: December 11, 2011

Let’s see--friends since their school days at Julliard and Tony winners for their respective roles in Evita. Add in an armful of memorable Broadway roles and electrifying solo concerts. Now combine these two powerhouse and emotive entertainers on one stage and you can almost feel the earth move. Goodness, one of them in concert would be worth the price of admission, but both. OMG!
First Preview: scheduled for November 16, 2011
Scheduled Opening: November 21, 2011
Special Note: This is a limited run with a scheduled January 13, 2012 closing.

One of the most talked about and critically examined shows of the year, including a scathing letter to The New York Times by Stephen Sondheim, this Broadway bound version of the Gershwin classic (inexplicably renamed as The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess) has many theater-goers wondering what the uproar is all about. We’ll soon have our chance to chime in. Oh, and then there is the very talented cast headed up by Audra McDonald who’s return to the Broadway stage—no matter what the show—is always cause for celebration. In addition, there are Norm Lewis, David Alan Grier, and Joshua Henry (a standout in last year’s The Scottsboro Boys).
First Preview: scheduled for December 17, 2011
Scheduled Opening: January 12, 2012

On my list from last year, but definitely scheduled for this season, Enter Laughing was one of the highlights from the 2008-2009 Off-Broadway theater season. The musical, in reality, a revival of the failed 1976 musical, So Long 174th Street, was hysterical and featured a comic tour de force by the young actor, Josh Grisetti, who will, once again, star as the stage struck teenager trying to break into show business. A number actors from the original York Theater production will also be making the trip to Broadway, including husband and wife, Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker.
First Preview: To Be Announced
Scheduled Opening: To Be Announced

In 1983 there was a musical called My One and Only that incorporated Gershwin songs, that starred a charismatic male lead (Tommy Tune), and an engaging female star (Twiggy). The show was fun, frivolous and a hit of the Broadway season. Fast forward almost thirty years and a musical incorporating Gershwin songs, starring an appealing male lead (Matthew Broderick) and a captivating female star (Kelli O’Hara) is set to open on Broadway. Can lightening strike twice? With Broderick and O’Hara singing and dancing up a storm (the director is Kathleen Marshall) will the Gershwin estate once again score a Broadway hit.
First Preview: Spring 2012
Scheduled Opening: To Be Announced

A few months ago I heard, maybe read, that Kristen Chenoweth was planning to star in a revival of the 1978 musical On the Twentieth Century, playing the role that Madeline Kahn originated (but only played for a short time). Kahn was Lily Garland, a temperamental movie diva and Chenoweth would be perfect for the role. The only problem—is the production more rumor or more fact? Also, in the original you had Kevin Kline (Tony Award) and John Cullum (Tony Award) that could go toe-to-toe with Madeline Kahn. Unless you have two actors that can do the same a revival will become more of “On the Kristen Chenoweth.”
First Preview: Unknown
Scheduled Opening: Unknown