It was kind of startling, a couple of weeks ago, to start seeing back-to-school commercials running on tv, when it felt like the school year had just ended. And yet, there they were, spots for healthy breakfast cereals, new environment-friendly backpacks, supplies at your local Staples and other juggernaut superstores, and yet here we are, August already. Which means there’s a whole new Broadway and off-Broadway season about to happen, and this looks to be, already, an extremely promising season. When you have a season about to start wherein not only do you get a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies”, but a brand new reworking of one-time Broadway mega-bomb musical, “Carrie”, you can just feel something special in the air.
Take “Follies”, for instance. The last revival was about 10 years ago, and starred Blythe Danner, Treat Williams, Gregory Harrison and Judith Ivey, and for me, believe it or not, it was the first time I’d ever seen a fully staged production, after I’d been kicking myself for years over having passed on the original production at the Winter Garden in 1971, which I could have seen, but chose not to, not realizing it would become the stuff of theatrical legend. So ten years ago, I enjoyed the Matthew Warchus-directed revival a lot, while most of the critics didn’t, but I didn’t really listen to the critics, because it would be my first “Follies”. This month, a new production out of Washington, D.C., moves to the Marquis Theatre, starring Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell, Danny Burstein and Ron Raines, and if the advance notices are true to their word, this “Follies” could be around for awhile. If you’ve never seen this landmark musical, it’s about former chorus kids who’ve grown up to be not exactly who they wanted to become, who come together at a reunion at the theater they once called home, which is about to be torn down. It’s about lives misspent, roads not taken, loves not embraced, and it is one of Stephen Sondheim’s best and most beautiful scores, filled with musical treasures like “Too Many Mornings”, “In Buddy’s Eyes”, “Could I Leave You?” and “Broadway Baby”. It is a haunting piece of work and could be a stunner.
“Carrie”, on the other hand, was a notorious flop when it played a week on Broadway many years ago, even with Betty Buckley in the cast. Based on the Stephen King horror tale, this time it’s going to play off-Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theatre on Christopher Street, courtesy of the MCC(Manhattan Class Company) in a scaled-down, reworked production, in a teeny tiny theater that might just show it off in a different light. It will star newcomer Molly Ranson in the title role.
Off Broadway won’t be just filled with newcomers, however, and to back that up, this month the Atlantic Theatre Company will present the play, “Bluebird” starring British stage giant, Simon Russell Beale. Mr. Beale is one of his generation’s finest actors, and here he’ll be, for a mere 6 week run of “Bluebird” before going back to London to star in a new play at the National Theatre on the South Bank. Mr. Beale has also FINALLY!!! started what will surely be a terrific film career, soon to be seen in the next James Bond film directed by Sam Mendes, and appearing opposite Rachel Weisz in a film adaptation of Terrence Rattigan’s “The Deep Blue Sea”, coming this winter.
One of last season’s biggest off-Broadway hits, Jon Robin Baitz’s “Other Desert Cities” will be moving to the Booth Theatre on Broadway in October, again starring Stockard Channing and Stacy Keach, and again directed by the great Joe Mantello, but with two replacements in the cast, Judith Light, and Rachel Griffiths. For those who couldn’t get into Lincoln Center Theatre’s sold-out run last winter, I urge you to grab tickets this time around as soon as you can, because I can assure you, it’s going to be the hottest play in town, all over again.
Samuel L. Jackson will be coming to Broadway in September, playing Martin Luther King in a new play called “The Mountaintop”, and that play won the Olivier Award in London two seasons ago. Kim Cattrall will also be arriving on Broadway in December, playing in “Private Lives” by Sir Noel Coward, at the Music Box Theatre.
Over at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, after “Master Class” with Tyne Daly closes, there will be another off-Broadway transfer coming, a new play by David Ives called “Venus In Fur” which played the Classical Stage Company season before last, starring smart, talented up- and- comer Nina Arianda (who just starred in the revival of “Born Yesterday”) as an actress with a few tricks up her sleeve and an agenda in her pocket. No word yet on whether Wes Bentley will be reprising his role as the director she sets her sights on in this terrific piece directed by Walter Bobbie.
And yes, there is to ABSOLUTELY be a revival of the musical “Evita”, coming into the Palace Theatre around the middle of the season, starring Argentinian songstress Elena Roger, with superstar Ricky Martin as Che, in the roles that made the careers of Patti LuPone and Mandy Pantinkin.