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Spring Forward on the Great White Way

May 1, 2012 - by Griffin Miller, Theatre Editor
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For news on the 2011-12 Tony Awards and nominations, click here.

In case you hadn’t heard, New York City is celebrating that sparkling time of year dubbed (at least by me) The Preeminent Pre-Tony Playoffs (what can I say, I’m a sucker for alliteration). Still, 2012’s glam and glorious American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards -- set for Sunday night, June 10th on CBS -- is nothing if not the Super Bowl of Broadway: a star-a-thon deluxe featuring celeb wannabes and attractive relatives of theatrical VIPs as “seat fillers.”

And while this year’s extravaganza probably won’t be privy to a juggernaut winner like last year’s The Book of Mormon (still raking in the big bucks, sometimes to the ka-ching of $477 a ticket), stellar performances by big names -- and soon-to-be big names -- are more than likely to dominate the scene.

But before searchlights, limos and designer fashions officially sweep the red carpet, it’s a pretty good idea to zero in on some of this season’s key shows and luminaries -- and to check out the plays and musicals that speak to us personally.

DRAMAS The caliber of star turns in this season’s dramas falls into the jaw-dropping category. Revival-wise, Broadway’s been blessed with Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman; Blair Underwood playing Stanley in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire; and an overall celebrity jackpot in Gore Vidal’s The Best Man: Candice Bergen, James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, John Larroquette, Jefferson Mays, Eric McCormack, and Michael McKean.

Re: the newcomer dramas, a “Pulitzer cachet” manages to dominate the picture with Tony winners John Lithgow and Boyd Gaines teaming up for The Columnist, penned by Pulitzer winner David Auburn; and Annie Parisse alongside Frank Wood (Side Man) in Bruce Norris’s 2011 Pulitzer-winning follow up to Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Clybourne Park. And transferring from a sold-out run Off-Broadway is Peter and the Starcatcher, directed by Roger Rees and starring Christian Borle of TV’s Smash. Finally, Magic/Bird, with Kevin Daniels and Tug Coker respectively, explores the up-and-down relationship between the two NBA icons.

As for fresh female faces gracing two of Broadway’s most acclaimed dramas, expect a Tony face-off between Theatre World Award winner Nina Arianda (starring opposite Hugh Dancy in David IvesVenus in Fur) and Tracie Bennett, the Olivier Award-winning actress who portrays Judy Garland to standing ovations in Peter Quilter’s End of the Rainbow.

COMEDIES In the currently running LOL department, I am pleased to announce three new comedies: a crème de la dysfunctional family outing, The Lyons, starring Linda Lavin and Tony winner Dick Latessa (Hairspray); the farce deluxe, One Man, Two Guvnors, a London import starring James Corden; and Don’t Dress for Dinner, Marc Camoletti’s sequel to his hit laugh fest Boeing-Boeing, featuring Jennifer Tilly.  

And while there’s only one revival (slated to begin previews on May 18th), it’s a pip: Harvey, starring Emmy winner Jim Parsons as Elwood P. Dodd.

MUSICALS As Mr. Parsons’ Big Bang Theory character, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, might concur, this season’s list of new, vintage, and refurbished musicals is worthy of a “Bazinga!” rating. To the uninitiated, this relatively new turn of phrase translates to “Gotcha!” -- which is surprisingly appropriate since we’re looking at an over-the-top eclectic roster with unexpected twists, turns and stars at every juncture.  

So I’ll stick to the basics and let you pick the musicals most likely to win your affection!

Newbies (all based on films): Ghost the Musical [Caissie Levy, Richard Fleeshman, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph in the roles made famous in the 1990 movie by Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg]; Leap of Faith [four-time Tony nominee Raúl Esparza plays a flimflam faith healer]; Newsies [Disney’s latest limited edition Broadway biggie starring Jeremy Jordan (Bonnie & Clyde)]; and Once: A New Musical [the film picked up an Oscar for the song “Falling Slowly”; with Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti].

Revamped: (Gershwin x 2): The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess [new adaptation by director Diane Paulus and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks; starring Audra McDonald, Norm Lewis, and David Alan Grier]; Nice Work If You Can Get It [Joe DiPietro (Memphis) scored this new Jazz Age musical with hits from the George and Ira Gershwin songbook; stars include Matthew Broderick, Kelli O’Hara, and Estelle Parsons].

Revival: (Just one -- but a definite wow!) Evita [first revival since Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin put their stamp on it. This time around the electricity is turned on by Argentine-born Elena Roger in the title role, Tony winner Michael Cerveris as Juan Peron, and pop idol Ricky Martin as Che.]

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