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November in New York: A Month-Long, Celebrity-Filled Theatre Feast

November 5, 2010 - by Griffin Miller

The weather may be cooling off here in the Northeast, but the theatre scene in the Big Apple is about as hot as it can get -- big names, big shows and big news from both on and off Broadway!

CURRENT BROADWAY CLASSICS... On November 6th, Jersey Boys, the Tony-, Olivier- and Grammy Award-winning Best Musical, hit the five-year mark that led into a week-long celebration featuring a Mayoral Proclamation (not only for the show’s longevity, but also for the economic impact its box office has had on the city); a new quartet of caricatures at Sardi’s honoring Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice (check them out!); and the naming of a section of 52nd Street “Jersey Boys Walk” (where you’ll “Walk Like a Man” -- regardless of your sex).

Feeling lucky? Well, if you thought you missed out on Broadway’s hottest twosome, Tony, Grammy and Golden Globe Award winner Bernadette Peters and Tony/Emmy winner Elaine Stritch in the Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s A Little Night Music -- you hit the lottery: both have extended their run through January 9th, the musical’s scheduled closing date. A certified “don’t miss” as well as a definite “act fast.”

Also closing in early January -- the 2nd to be exact -- is Fela!, the jaw-droppingly creative and powerful musical bio about Nigerian political activist/Afro-beat pioneer Fela Kuti. The recent addition of Grammy winner Patti LaBelle to the company as Fela’s mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, is what I consider one of Broadway’s most brilliant casting coups, with fans from her extensive and varied career lining up for tickets. And speaking of Fela! celebs, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter is one of the show’s producers -- how’s that for a perfect alignment of generational stars?

NOTEWORTHY NEWCOMERS... A hot contender for my favorite show of the fall-winter season is David Mamet’s 1977 two-person homage to life upon the stage, A Life in the Theatre featuring Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: Next Generation) as an aging actor and T.R. Knight (Grey’s Anatomy) as a newcomer to the craft. What appealed to me is how Mamet manages to capture the ongoing humor and heartbreak of performing in a repertory theatre company over several years in a series of short -- sometimes only single-sentence -- scenes.

Time Stands Still – Having seen Donald Margulies’ stunning drama last spring, I found it got even richer with time -- both in terms of performances and poignancy. The opportunity to see Laura Linney, Brian d’Arcy James and Eric Bogosian reprise their characters with burnished ardor is an honor, and to see Christina Ricci step assuredly into the role Alicia Silverstone originated was a revelation. Well worth a second viewing.

And while we’re traversing the celebrity landscape, let me also toss in some heavyweight praise for the coming together of superstars Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones and multi-Tony winner Boyd Gaines in the exquisite revival of Alfred Uhry’s Pulitzer-winning Driving Miss Daisy, as well as for the demonically funny La Bete, pitting Tony winners Mark Rylance and David Hyde Pierce against each other while showcasing Ab Fab alum Joanna Lumley as a willful princess who will have her way.

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