Big Broadway Revivals Pack the Stage With Stars

Prestige revivals mark this spring’s theater season, with several potentially bankable classics opening on Broadway in the next month. Among the most anticipated are Tennessee Williams’ Southern dramas The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire. Both productions, with star-studded and surprising casts, will attempt to reinvigorate these period plays.

The Glass Menagerie, which premiered at New York’s Playhouse Theatre in 1945, was Williams’ first Broadway hit. It’s a great primer in the dramatist’s early work: expect family dysfunction-an overbearing mother, her angst-ridden son and her misfit daughter-as well as repression, desire, loss and humiliation. Jessica Lange stars as Amanda, with Christian Slater ( Christian Slater!) as the tortured Tom-purportedly the voice of the young, sexually confused Willams himself. Directed by David Leveaux, The Glass Menagerie opens at the Ethel Barrymore Theater on March 22.

Over at the Roundabout Theater’s Studio 54, John C. Reilly takes on Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. Roundabout’s staging will mark the play’s fifth revival on Broadway; the last production, in 1992, paired Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange. Natasha Richardson tries out the role of faded Southern belle Blanche DuBois, driven to madness by her thuggish brother-in-law. But can the often stunning Mr. Reilly, as the macho, liquor-swilling, card-playing Stanley, imbue the role with Marlon Brando’s tight-teed animal passion? (Brando, of course, shared the stage with Jessica Tandy in 1947 and the screen with Vivien Leigh in 1951.) Stellaaaaa!!! The scream to end all screams has come to embody male angst-here’s hoping Mr. Cellophane can rev it up for the show. Mr. Reilly and Ms. Richardson, under the direction of Edward Hall (Sir Peter Hall’s son), will have a tough job getting the audience to forget-temporarily, at least-Brando and Leigh’s legendary portrayals. A Streetcar Named Desire opens at Studio 54 on March 26 and plays through July 3.

Another Broadway favorite this season is Edward Albee’s multi-layered relationship drama, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Will this new production, starring Kathleen Turner as Martha and Bill Irwin as George, outshine the mesmerizing onscreen (and offscreen) work of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as the married couple from hell? We think not, although Ms. Turner as Martha is a scary prospect. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, directed by Anthony Page at the Longacre Theater, opens on March 20.

Broadway’s biggest star attraction this season is Hollywood’s own Denzel Washington, who will play Brutus in Shakespeare’s tragedy Julius Caesar-which, according to the production notes, will be set in the near future this time around. Daniel Sullivan directs Mr. Washington and the rest of the considerably less starry cast. Despite starting his career on the stage-with the Negro Ensemble Company and the Manhattan Theater Club-this is only the second time that Mr. Washington has appeared on Broadway (the first, back in 1988, was in the comedy Checkmates). Julius Caesar opens at the Belasco Theater on April 3.

David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize–winning drama Glengarry Glen Ross, set in a real-estate sales office, sees its first Broadway revival since it premiered at the John Golden Theater in 1985. Mr. Mamet adapted his play for the big screen back in 1992; the movie version starred the relatively unknown Kevin Spacey alongside Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin and Ed Harris. A stellar cast has been lined up for this latest production as well, including theater darling Liev Schreiber and recent Oscar nominee Alan Alda, along with Gordon Clapp and Jeffrey Tambor as the other sparring salesmen. Expect tight direction from Joe Mantello. Glengarry Glen Ross opens on May 1 at the Royale Theater.

On a lighter note, Monty Python fans will be in for an extravaganza of silliness in the guise of Spamalot, a musical version of the troupe’s 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Tim Curry is at the helm as King Arthur, Frasier’s David Hyde Pierce dons a pair of tights as Sir Robin, and Hank Azaria stars as the crowd-pleasing Sir Lancelot. Mike Nichols directs. The show promises all your favorite Grail absurdities (the Knights of Ni!, the killer bunny, flatulent Frenchmen) and more). A new score featuring music and lyrics by Eric Idle and John Du Prez adds to the laughs. Spamalot opens March 17 at the Shubert Theater.