Less glitz, less risk: Broadway's new season will stick with the tried and true

By Mark Kennedy

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Sept. 3 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

There will also be two reimagined works: "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" with a new book and with Connick playing a dashing psychiatrist; and a new "Porgy and Bess" in December starring McDonald that has been revised by director Diane Paulus and playwright-librettist Suzan Lori-Parks.

"Porgy and Bess," by George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, has a new ending and some character development. It also has some controversy. Sondheim heard about the changes and sneered, kicking up an unusual public spat for a show still in the works and months before its Broadway arrival.

In an odd twist, Gershwin songs will also be heard in another show this season — "Nice Work If You Can Get It," a new screwball musical starring Broderick, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall ("Anything Goes") with a book by Joe DiPietro ("Memphis"). It will be Broderick's first Broadway musical since "The Producers."

Cult films this season are helping fuel two shows: A musical adaptation of the 2003 Tim Burton film "Big Fish" and an adaptation of the movie "Once," about a Dublin musician who falls in love with a Czech singer.

James Earl Jones will bridge last season and the new one, going from the chauffeur in "Driving Miss Daisy" to playing a former U.S. president in a revival of the political play "Gore Vidal's The Best Man" in the spring, just in time for the new election cycle. Jones, who has won two Tonys for "The Great White Hope" and "Fences," is believed to have been the first black actor to play an American president in the 1972 movie "The Man."

Times Square will also be haunted by an adaptation of the Patrick Swayze-Demi Moore film "Ghost," making its way from London. The book was written by Bruce Joel Rubin, who penned the script for the hit 1990 music, and the music is by former Eurythmics musician Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, who produced Alanis Morisette's "Jagged Little Pill." Casting hasn't been announced yet.

Another sort of haunting will take place when an adaptation of the classic Daphne du Maurier novel "Rebecca" makes its way to Broadway. The story, turned into an Oscar-winning film by Alfred Hitchcock, will have an original book and lyrics by Michael Kunze and music by Sylvester Levay. Though no cast has been named, Sierra Boggess, who just wrapped up "Master Class," is in negotiations to join.

One of the best little-engine-that-could stories this season will be "Lysistrata Jones," a joyful, youthful, basketball-themed musical written by Douglas Carter Beane and Lewis Flinn that was last seen at a basement gym in Greenwich Village. The musical is loosely based on "Lysistrata," the circa 411 B.C. classical anti-war comedy by Aristophanes. The feel-good spirit surrounding the show would be amplified if its producers chose to cast the same energetic, fresh-faced crew on Broadway.

In the play category this season, two offerings will make the prestigious jump from off-Broadway: Jon Robin Baitz's "Other Desert Cities," which premiered at Lincoln Center Theater starring Stockard Channing last winter; and last year's "Venus in Fur," which will let audiences see Nina Arianda, nominated for a best actress Tony for "Born Yesterday," again in the role that helped catapult her into stardom.

Two plays by respected playwrights make their way to Broadway for the first time in Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Wit" and Fugard's "The Road to Mecca." Meanwhile, a ninth production of "A Streetcar Named Desire" arrives, this time with Blair Underwood and Daphne Rubin-Vega, and an eighth production of Coward's "Private Lives," now with Kim Cattrall.

Two established playwrights also return to Broadway. Auburn ("Proof") has a new play, "The Columnist," which makes its world premiere in April, and Rebeck's "Seminar" debuts starring Rickman, Rabe and Hamish Linklater. This year marks the centennial of Rattigan's birth and the Roundabout Theatre Company has revived his "Man and Boy" with Frank Langella.

Three playwrights combine for one show in "Relatively Speaking." Ethan Coen, Elaine May and Allen each contribute one-act plays that will be directed by John Turturro. Steve Guttenberg and Marlo Thomas are starring.

One of the most anticipated play revivals will be the spring production of "Death of a Salesman" starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy Loman, under Mike Nichols' direction. The Arthur Miller classic American tragedy was last seen on Broadway with Brian Dennehy as Loman in 1999, 50 years to the day after the original arrived in New York.

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