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THE BIG MUSICALS

Putting It Together
With the possible exceptions of Parade and Fosse, last season was a bust, musically speaking -- little more than a sorry seascape of plotless, bookless, and fizz-free revues. This year, things aren't looking much brighter, but at least the splashiest revue of them all, the latest Stephen Sondheim omnibus, has the decency to declare itself as such. The premise: Five people come together at a cocktail party -- you gotta have a gimmick, right? -- and then, pop! They're getting to know one another through some of the composer's best-known songs. The company includes George Hearn, John Barrowman, Bronson Pinchot, Ruthie Henshall, and Carol Burnett, who hasn't sung on a Broadway stage for 35 years. (But glad to have this time together, we're sure.) Previews begin October 30 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

Swing!
This show, whose succinct and enthusiastically punctuated title also conveniently describes its content, is the other musical revue currently on the fall docket, though others are certain to come along. A cast of seventeen dances to more than twenty tunes, and jazz singer Ann Hampton Callaway makes her Broadway debut. Previews begin on November 2 at the St. James Theatre -- and throw that girl around!

Kiss Me, Kate
In the revival department (small at the moment; just one receptionist will do), Michael Blakemore directs Cole Porter's frothy adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew. The underlying sexism of the story may offend, but the songs -- "Too Darn Hot," "Always True to You in My Fashion," "Why Can't You Behave?" -- are some of the dandiest standards, and bearing them are Marin Mazzie and Brian Stokes Mitchell, who worked beautifully together as Mother and Coalhouse Walker in the original cast of Ragtime. Previews begin October 25 at the Martin Beck Theatre.

Marie Christine
Lincoln Center once again valiantly comes through with the only original musical of the fall, this time in the form of a period romance by young phenom Michael John LaChiusa about a Southern woman who falls in love with an ambitious sea captain. Graciela Daniele directs and Audra McDonald, the lovely diva with enough Tonys for almost all of the brothers Baldwin, plays the title role. Previews begin October 28 at the Vivian Beaumont.

Saturday Night Fever
Flared pants! Hits by the Bee Gees! Disco balls spinning from the rafters! Yes, the movie turned musical is finally washing up on our shores -- after a successful tryout in London, where the Bay Ridge accents got some much-needed fine-tuning, no doubt -- and begins previews at the Minskoff Theatre on September 28. Consider it this year's Footloose, except dancing is strongly encouraged.

THE PLAYS

Epic Proportions
Attention, Kristin Chenoweth fans! (C'mon, there are legions of you! Stand up.) The boop-a-doop cutie, whose admirers have been neurotically divided between 6-year-old girls and 28-year-old men ever since her adorable (and Tony-winning) performance as Sally in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, now gets her own vehicle in this comedy about old-time Hollywood filmmaking by Larry Coen and Friends co-creator David Crane. The very busy Jerry Zaks directs. Previews begin September 7 at the Helen Hayes Theatre.

The Rainmaker
Attention, Woody Harrelson fans! (C'mon, there are even more of you!) Those wild eyes, bulging veins, and lumberjack arms will be available for viewing at close range in this Roundabout revival, which begins previews at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on October 21. The 1954 drama by N. Richard Nash, about a huckster-preacher who promises to bring rain to parched fields and love to equally thirsty women, seems eminently suited to Harrelson's wicked talents. Jayne Atkinson plays the spinster who capitulates to his guerrilla courting.

Waiting in the Wings

Lauren Bacall, who hasn't set foot on a Broadway stage in more than seventeen years, resurfaces at the Walter Kerr in Noël Coward's comedy about an octet of exquisitely bitchy stage divas in a retirement home. Rosemary Harris, Elizabeth Wilson, and Patricia Conolly help round out the coven; performances begin December 3.

Scent of the Roses
Julie Harris, a grande dame who's always onstage and actually has more than enough Tonys for all of the brothers Baldwin, comes roaring back for Lisette Lecat Ross's drama about art, memory, and politics in South Africa. Previews begin November 28 at the Belasco Theatre.

Dame Edna: The Royal Tour
Dame Edna, a grande dame of a very different breed -- she's a he -- flies in from London, bringing all her draggy voluptuousness to the Booth Theatre, Broadway's intime space of choice for one-person shows. Previews begin September 14; boas encouraged.

Amadeus
Too many notes! Peter Hall directs a revival of the Peter Shaffer play, with Michael Sheen as the prodigious, libidinous composer and David Suchet as the Iago who envies him. Previews begin December 7 at the Music Box Theatre.

Wrong Mountain
And in the tentative-but-we're-rooting-for-it department: David Hirson's new comedy about a playwright who bets his wife's ex-husband $100,000 that he can't write a good play -- and loses -- is currently slated to preview in early December at a theater to be announced. We wouldn't bet the same amount that the play will open on time, but hope springs eternal . . .

OFF BROADWAY

Two songful offerings look very promising: At Playwrights Horizons, Richard Nelson's adaptation of James Joyce's The Dead begins a six-week run on October 1, and just down the street, Shockheaded Peter, a British "junk opera," makes a two-week stop at the New Victory Theatre starting October 14. The former features a magnificent cast, including Blair Brown, Stephen Spinella, and Christopher Walken, plus the plaintive Irish melodies of Shaun Davey. The latter, an adaptation of Hoffman's Struwwelpeter ("Slovenly Peter"), is a gleeful bloodbath in which all the young protagonists are systematically killed (by fire, starvation, cutlery). Bring the kids!

More highlights of the season: At the Public, look for Tina Landau's Space, a drama about science and faith, on November 16, and Andrei Serban's staging of Hamlet, starring the impeccable Liev Schreiber, on November 23.

Pulitzer winner Marsha Norman tests out her newest, Trudy Blue, about a Manhattan woman besieged by thousands of voices in her head. (Though really, what Manhattan woman isn't?) Previews November 16 at MCC Theater.

The Manhattan Theatre Club will present Y2K, Arthur Kopit's techno-psycho-thriller about a hacker who bores through cyberspace and into a young couple's lives; James Naughton stars. Performances begin November 9 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre.

On its small stage, Lincoln Center Theater will offer Contact, a dance-theater work by Susan Stroman and John Weidman previewing September 9 (watch for the twinkly toes of Karen Ziemba). Morning, Noon and Night, a monologue about domestic life by Spalding Gray, will run on its large stage on down nights of Marie Christine. Previews begin October 31.

First course at Naked Angels: Shyster, a new comedy starring Annabella Sciorra and Fisher Stevens about the frictions between the son of a slumlord, his sister, and a young black tenant in their father's building. Previews November 12 at the Blue Heron Theatre. Second course at New York Theatre Workshop: Claudia Shear, blown sideways back to where she started, goes Dirty Blonde in her new show about a girl, a guy, and Mae West. Previews begin December 10.

MORE NEW PLAYS

If the Brian Friel-athon from last summer's Lincoln Center Festival left you pining for more, Give Me Your Answer, Do! may be just the ticket, previewing September 10 at the Gramercy Theatre. (Added cast bonus: Joel Grey.)

Douglas Carter Beane, a founding wag of the Drama Dept. and author of As Bees in Honey Drown, comes back to the Greenwich House Theatre on September 14, riding crop in hand, with The Country Club, a comedy about burned-out Wasps in their thirties. (Cast bonuses: Cynthia Nixon, Amy Sedaris.)

Donald Margulies, the twice-almost-Pulitzered author of Sight Unseen and Collected Stories, has just completed Dinner With Friends, a comedy about maintaining friendships in the age of rampant divorce. Previews begin October 21 at the Variety Arts Theatre.

Michael Mayer, more sought-after these days than a corner office chez Condé Nast, directs An Almost Holy Picture, Heather MacDonald's play about a priest turned groundskeeper whose faith is continually put to the test, and True History and Real Adventures, Sybille Pearson's play about a Scottish girl's search for Calamity Jane. David Morse plays the defrocked lead of the former, which begins previews October 5 at a theater to be announced; Kathleen Chalfant plays the gun-toting heroine of the latter, which begins previews November 17 at the Vineyard Theatre.

Joe Mantello stages Adam Baum and the Jew Movie, Daniel Goldfarb's new play about the reluctance of Hollywood machers to make movies about their own kin during the first part of the century. Ron Liebman stars; performances begin November 8 at the McGinn/Cazale Theater.

And finally, a second coming: A revival of The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler's ode to nappy dugouts, fannyboos, twats, etc., starts previews at the Westside Theatre on September 21.

RETROSPECTIVES

The Signature Theatre Company dedicates its season to the work of Maria Irene Fornes, with one-acts Mud and Drowning previewing on September 14. The Atlantic Theater Company, meanwhile, celebrates its fifteenth anniversary with a David Mamet marathon starting with one-acts The Water Engine and Mr. Happiness on September 29.

FOR KIDS

Start dialing! For two weeks only, the New Victory Theater presents the eclectic shtick of Tomás Kubínek in The Maestro Returns! The last time he was here, the Czech-Canadian comedian-magician-musician flew across the stage, sprouted four extra feet, and balanced a full wine glass on his forehead ("So big, I call it my five-head") while playing the ukulele. What next? Performances begin November 5.


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