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New Year News on New York Stages

January 13, 2011 - by Griffin Miller

As the hoopla of holiday shows subsides (adieu Elf, Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Donny & Marie), January 2011 is clocking-in in a rather bittersweet fashion. There's the staggeringly large exodus of Broadway musicals, including beloved long-timers In the Heights and West Side Story, the awesome revival of A Little Night Music, and the brilliant Fela!

Then there’s the seemingly endless web of conjecture hovering around Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, the highly anticipated Julie Taymor/Bono and The Edge (of U2) epic whose most recent revision derailment has pushed the opening date from mid-Jan. to Feb. 7. (On the plus side, insider scuttlebutt has it that once it gets its arachnid footing, Spider-Man will be soaring on Broadway for years to come.)

Balancing the scales are an optimistic handful of New Year's surprises -- unexpected extensions, savvy relocations, and at least one new Broadway opening.

Colin Quinn: Long Story Short, the former SNLer’s blisteringly funny one-man rundown of world history was slated to end its limited run on Jan. 8. Directed by Quinn buddy/fellow comic Jerry Seinfeld, the closing date has now been pushed to Mar. 5, giving audiences a whole new block of tickets to pluck from. With just the right dose of historical hilarity, you won’t be disappointed!

Another bit of welcome news comes with the announcement that Driving Miss Daisy with Vanessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines (Broadway’s most impressive Tony-winning trifecta) have laughed in the face of a Jan. 29 closing and will now be knocking the socks off audiences through Apr. 9. Did I mention that this revival is the opportunity of a lifetime? The mind-blowing cast list and Alfred Uhry’s stellar script did it for me...

That madcap love affair with the 1980s music scene, Rock of Ages -- which would have bowed out permanently Jan. 15 had not the fates (and fans!) intervened -- will be unfurling its big hair and hot licks at the Helen Hayes Theatre this spring once Colin Quinn takes it on the lam (or, more than likely, on the road). Official new opening: Mar. 24. Click here for tickets.

Moving into Rock of Ages’ former digs at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre is another retro-music extravaganza: the acclaimed concert recreation RAIN – A Tribute To The Beatles on Broadway. The show ends its second extension at the Neil Simon Theatre on Jan. 15 and reopens at its new home on Feb. 8.

The one and only new kid on the Great White Way this month is Roundabout Theatre’s production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by and starring Tony winner Brian Bedford (The School for Wives), which officially opened on Jan. 13. And just in case you’re thinking, “OMG! I’ve seen one too many high school and community theatre versions over the years -- not to mention the film versions (1952 with Michael Redgrave, i.e. Miss Daisy’s dad; and 2002 with Rupert Everett and Colin Firth),” give it up. This one’s a must-see squared, if for no other reason than watching the classically trained Bedford sweep across the stage as a fabulously formidable Lady Bracknell.

Meanwhile -- and I can’t stress this strongly enough -- January is, was, and always will be the perfect time to revisit vintage Broadway shows: Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera, and Mamma Mia!, e.g., and to sample some newer powerhouse productions like American Idiot (with Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong rejoining the cast Jan. 1-9 & 18-30), Lombardi, Memphis and Million Dollar Quartet. And if you want to see the original cast of La Cage aux Folles, now is the time to act: come mid-February, Tony winner Douglas Hodge will be replaced by Tony winner Harvey Fierstein while Kelsey Grammer’s role will be taken over by none other than Jeffrey Tambor of The Larry Sanders Show fame.

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