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Wendy R. Williams'
Theatre Column

February 5, 2009

Broadway lost some incredible musicals just before and after this year's holiday season. Multi-million dollar productions of 13, Boeing-Boeing, Grease, Gypsy, Hairspray, Legally Blonde, Spamalot, Spring Awakening, Tale of Two Cities, [title of show], Xanadu, and Young Frankenstein are all kaput/gone leaving many a Midwestern mother-daughter combo at a loss for what-to-do-this-spring-break (especially over the demise of Grease and Legally Blonde). And to continue the lemmings over the cliff trend, Equus closes February 8, 2009 and Speed the Plow closes February 28, 2009.

But as with the analogy about God, the door and a window, new shows are coming to town to hopefully entice tourists and New Yorkers alike.

Here is a listing of the shows that open in February and March (be sure to check out our Broadway Theater Listing Section for more current shows):

33 Variations
Previews Start February 9, 2009
Show Opens March 9, 2009
Show Closes May 24, 2009
Eugene O'Neill Theatre

Jane Fonda heads a cast of eight in 33 Variations, a new American play written and directed by Moisés Kaufman, about Katherine Brandt (Jane Fonda) trying to solve a centuries-old mystery about the world's greatest composer. Katherine's obsession takes her from present-day New York to 19th century Austria. As the music that consumes Katherine comes to life on stage, she races against time to find common ground with her daughter and to embrace the legacy of her own life.

Tickets $111.50; $176.50 - $226.50 Premium 212-239-6200; 800-432-7250 telecharge.com

Show Website

Eugene O'Neill Theatre |230 West 49th Street

Blithe Spirit
Previews Start February 26, 2009
Show Opens March 15, 2009
Open Run
Shubert Theatre

Angela Lansbury returns to Broadway in the revival of Noel Coward's classic 1941 farce Blithe Spirit, also starring Christine Ebersole and Rupert Everett.

Tickets $31.50-$116.50; $151.50 - $301.50 Premium 212-239-6200; 800-432-7250 telecharge.com


Shubert Theatre |225 West 44th Street

Exit the King
Previews Start March 7, 2009
Show Opens March 26, 2009
Show Closes June 14, 2009
Barrymore Theatre

Academy Award-winners Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon star in Eugene Ionesco's Exit the King, translated by Rush and director Neil Armfield.

The play is about a megalomaniacal ruler, King Berenger (Rush) whose incompetence has left his country in near ruin. Despite the efforts of Queen Marguerite (Sarandon) and the other members of the court to convince the King he has only 90 minutes left to live, he refuses to relinquish any control.

Tickets $66.50 - $116.50 at 212-239-6200; 800-432-7250 & telecharge.com


Barrymore Theatre |243 W. 47th Street

Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical
Previews Start March 6, 2009
Show Opens March 31, 2009
Open Run
Al Hirschfeld Theatre

Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical features book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni, and music by Galt MacDermot. Diane Paulus directs.

With a score including musical numbers as "Let the Sun Shine In," "Aquarius," "Hair" and "Good Morning Starshine," Hair follows a group of hopeful, free-spirited young people who advocate a lifestyle of pacifism and free-love in a society riddled with intolerance and brutality during the Vietnam War. As they explore sexual identity, challenge racism, experiment with drugs and burn draft cards, the "tribe" in Hair creates an irresistible message of 'hope' that continues to resonate with audiences 40 years later.

Tickets $37.00 - $122.00; $252.00 Premium 212-239-6200 800-432-7250 telecharge.com


Al Hirschfeld Theatre|302 West 45th Street

Previews Start February 28, 2009
Opens March 12, 2009
Open Run
Schoenfeld Theatre

Tony Award winners Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons star in the world premiere of Michael Jacobs' Impressionism, directed by Tony Award winner Jack O'Brien.

Impressionism is the story of a world traveling photojournalist and a New York gallery owner who discover each other and also that there might be an art to repairing broken lives.

Tickets $66.50-$116.50 - 212-239-6200, 800-432-7250 & telecharge.com

Show Website

Schoenfeld Theatre |236 West 45th Street

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

reasons to be pretty
Previews Start March 13, 2009
Opens April 29, 2009
Open Run
Lyceum Theatre

MCC Theater's presentation of Neil LaBute's bristling new comic drama reasons to be pretty transfers to Broadway!

America's obsession with physical beauty is confronted headlong in this brutal and exhilarating new play. In reasons to be pretty, Greg's tight-knit social circle is thrown into turmoil when his offhanded remarks about a female coworker's pretty face (and his girlfriend's lack thereof) get back to said girlfriend. But that's just the beginning.

Tickets 212-239-6200 & 800-432-7250 telecharge.com


Lyceum Theatre |149 West 45th Street

The Story of My Life
Opens February 19, 2009
Open Run
Booth Theatre

The Story of My Life is a new musical about best friends who change our lives forever, the personal cost of success and the choices we make at the turning points of our lives.

Ticket Price: $66.50 - $100.00 Tickets by Phone: 212-239-6200
800-432-7250 http://www.telecharge.com/behindTheCurtain.a


Booth Theatre| 222 West 45th Street

West Side Story
Previews Start February 23, 2009
Show Opens March 19, 2009
Open Run
Palace Theatre

The landmark musical West Side Story returns to Broadway, directed by two-time Tony Award winning librettist Arthur Laurents.

The show transports Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to the turbulent streets of the Upper West Side in 1950's New York City. Two star-crossed lovers, Tony and Maria, find themselves caught between the rival street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds, the "Jets" and the "Sharks."

Tickets $46.50-$121.50 212-307-4100 ticketmaster.com


Palace Theatre |1554 Broadway

Photo Credit: Robert J. Saferstein

You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush
February 5, 2009 - March 15, 2009
Cort Theatre

Will Ferrell stars in You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush, directed by Adam McKay. It's time for a change in America, but not without a few parting words from the 43rd President of the United States. Don't miss your chance to discover the man behind the myth, the truth behind the lies, and the logic behind the illogical in this limited Broadway event.

Ticket Price: $56.50-$116.50; $251.50 - $301.50 Premium Tickets by Phone: 212-239-6200 & 800-432-7250 telecharge.com


Cort Theatre |138 West 48th Street



January 8, 2009

Last month I saw the rockin' new musical Rock of Ages at New World Stages. The play is set in a seedy about-to-be-gentrified club in Hollywood and features the music of of Pat Benatar, Journey, Quiet Riot, Quarterflash, Twisted Sister, White Snake, Poison, Survivor and REO Speedwagon. The show features a young, good-looking, mega-talented cast who succeed in making 80's rock look sexy and seedy. Rock is also American Idolized by the presence of Constantine Maroulis in the cast who totally rocks out songs like Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian." Rock also has a winning gimmick - in seat drink service (the musical started out in a bar).

New York Cool's William S. Gooch gave Rock of Ages a rave review. To which I can only say, ditto. Click here to William S. Gooch's review.

Rock of Ages has shuttered down and will reopen on Broadway in March at the Brooks Atkinson Theater. For more information, go to www.rockofagesmusical.com and/or see this article in Variety.


November 30, 2008

I saw two Broadway shows last month: Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps and 13 The Musical.

The 39 Steps
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

The 39 Steps, based on the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock movie and directed by Peter McKintosh, is beautifully timed and campy as hell. The plot is a simple falling- through-the-rabbit-hole-chase-yarn. The main character, Richard Hannay (played by Sam Robards), is BORED so he goes to the theater where he encounters a mysterious woman (Francesca Faridany, who plays all the mysterious women in the cast). He is then put in a compromising situation where it looks like he has murdered one of these msyterious women and quickly leaves on a personal Amazing Race in order to exonerate himself. He then runs into the other actors, Jeffrey Kuhn and Arnie Burton, who play numerous other male roles, sometimes simultaneously. All the actors are obviously having a lot of fun on stage and they are equally as much fun to watch. The director, Peter McIntosh, has obviously had a blast directing this show, setting the chase scenes ala Hitchcock's North by Northwest and Vertigo.

The 39 Steps is presently playing at the Cort Theatre at 138 West 48th Street.
Ticket are $98.50 212-239-6200, 800-432-7250 and telecharge.com. The 39 Steps will close at the Cort on January 11 and then move to the Helen Hayes Theatre on January 20.

13 The Musical
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

13 The Musical is also a great night out and you don't have to be a teenager to enjoy the show: 13 is blessed with a great book - it is hysterical.

Here is a quote from the press release: "Evan Goldman has it all - he's popular, has the 'perfect' family and lives in the greatest city in the world - New York. That is until his parents get divorced and he's forced to move - to a small town in Indiana. Uprooted from his old life, he has to make new friends and somehow maneuver the minefield of High School to become part of the 'in-crowd'."

And Evan's problems with "fitting in" are exacerbated by the fact that his Bar Mitzvah party is just around the corner and he has no one to invite except his next door neighbor, Caitlin, a truly nice smart girl who because she is truly nice and smart is also UNPOPULAR.

These problems are all solved in an entertaining fashion enhanced by a great score and a talented energetic cast. This show is closing on January 4, 2009 and it is a damn shame since it has probably only failed to find an audience because potential audience members think it is a kid's show. Well, Grease is a kid's show too, but it has the advantage of name recognition from the movie and the original Broadway musical. So, please spread the word about 13. It is a truly great show.


October 20, 2008

Raul Esparza, Jeremy Piven, and Elisabeth Moss in

Last month was a sparse theater month; I only saw one play, David Mamet's excellent Speed-the-Plow. Plow is directed by Directed by Neil Pepe and is a (from the press release) "behind the scenes story of handshaking, dealbreaking, backstabbing and moviemaking as only Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet can tell it."

Plow features Mamet's trade mark fast paced, fast talking dialogue. The story begins when Charlie Fox (played by Raul Esparza) visits his producing-partner-in-crime Bobby Gould (played by Jeremy Piven) with great news, he has scored a coup - the top star from the studio across the street has agreed to star in a movie produced by Fox and Gould and he, Charlie Fox, also has the winning script. All is well; hands are "fived" and conviviality reigns. And in the exuberance of a deal well made, Charlie also challenges Bobby to seduce his new secretary Karen (played by Elizabeth Moss) that night.

Bobby proceeds to ask Karen to read a book that he is supposedly considering (read deep-sixing) and to come to his home that night with a report. Well Karen makes her night visit and Bobby wins his bet. But in the process of winning the bet, Bobby is seduced in more than one way - Karen also scores a coup. She persuades Bobby to produce a film based on the book she just read, which is filled with the kind of new age psychobabble that killed all the trees in the eighties.

Neil Pepe's direction is impeccable; I was totally engrossed by the verbal joust on stage.

Before the play, I had been excited to see Jeremy Piven (Ari Gold on HBO's Entourage) and Elizabeth Moss (so excellent on Mad Men and The West Wing). And although both of these actors did fine jobs, they were having trouble staying on the stage with Raul Esparza. Raul Esparza, who had been so excellent as the sleazy Lenny in Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming, gave one of the best performances I have seen on Broadway this year or any year. Wow!

Speed-the-Plow is running at the Ethel Barrymore Theater at 243 West 47th Street. Tickets are $49.50-$110.00 at 212-239-6200 and telecharge.com.


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