On March 4, Mary-Louise Parker was sipping up some lobster bisque in a New York cafe when the man sitting in the seat next to her dropped dead. Or, shall we say, slumped dead at his table. His cell phone started to ring. Ms. Parker, playing a shy, retiring museum worker on the opening night of Sarah Ruhl’s oddball comedy at Playwrights Horizons, kicked off the spring theater season by answering that Dead Man’s Cell Phone. Ms. Parker, the hottie mom on Showtime’s Weeds, stars as Jean, who unwittingly becomes comforter and confessor to a stranger’s grieving friends and family. (Playwrights Horizon Mainstage)
The Golden Globe winner is just one of the stars of the big and small screens who will join resident New York stage actors this spring in a theater season ripe with old-timey musical revivals and edgier newcomers.
In the Heights, a Latin and hip-hop musical (we’re envisioning an amalgam of those Step Up dance movies and West Side Story), has already garnered Broadway buzz in previews. Lin-Manuel Miranda, 28, a Washington Heights native, created and composed the musical about outsiders and young love when he was a Wesleyan University student. With its young, bright-eyed cast and crew (the book writer, Quiara Alegría Hudes, is 29, and the director, Thomas Kail, just turned 30), In the Heights is sure to bring a much-needed under-40 crowd to the theater. (March 9, Richard Rodgers Theater)
Conversations in Tusculum at the Public brings a leading-man triple threat: Brian Dennehy, who has won two best-lead-actor Tony awards; Aidan Quinn, the dreamy Irish actor who we’ll always see as Dez from Desperately Seeking Susan, and David Strathairn, a Pinter stage veteran who channeled Edward R. Murrow for his Oscar-nominated role in 2005’s Good Night, and Good Luck. They’ll play leads in Richard Nelson’s new historical play about a small town outside Rome during Julius Caesar’s era. They’ll ask themselves: When a misguided and manipulative leader endangers his own country, should citizens bury their heads in the sand or take action? Hmmm … sounds relevant! (March 11, the Public Theater)
Get ready for “Some Enchanted Evening,” because Light in the Piazza’s Bartlett Sher will bring Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific back to Broadway for the first time in almost 60 years. Two-time Tony nom Kelli O’Hara will play World War II Navy nurse Nellie Forbush, who falls in love with a middle-aged French plantation mogul, Emile de Becque, played by Brazilian opera singer Paulo Szot. (April 3, Vivian Beaumont Theater at the Lincoln Center)
Stephen Sondheim’s Gypsy will get its Broadway run this year, with director (and book writer) Arthur Laurents returning to helm the production (last year’s Encores! City Center production received great reviews). Patti LuPone will also reprise her role as Mamma Rose, “the ultimate show business mother,” to sultry striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. Laura Benanti (who can be spotted in the new ABC comedy Eli Stone) will play Gypsy, and Boyd Gaines will play the agent, Herbie. (March 27, St. James Theater)
John Waters’ 90’s cult classic Cry-Baby will makes its way from the La Jolla Playhouse in California to the Marquis Theater stage this spring. James Snyder, playing a blond version of Johnny Depp’s bad-boy Wade Walker, will get a little crush on square Allison (played by Elizabeth Stanley) while the rest of 1950’s Baltimore sings and dances their dissent. Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, the fellas who penned the last Waters musical, Hairspray, wrote the book for the musical. Mr. Waters himself receives a “creative consultant” credit for the production, so we have high hopes! (April 24, Marquis Theater)
In more star-studded productions, don’t miss powerhouse Frances McDormand playing Georgie Elgin, a lovable lady whose long years of devotion to her actor husband, Frank (played by Morgan Freeman), have almost obliterated her own personality, in the Clifford Odets play The Country Girl. (April 27, Bernard B. Jacobs Theater)
Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis and director Philip Seymour Hoffman coaxed Ellen Burstyn to the stage for The Little Flower of East Orange, a ghost story set in a Manhattan charity hospital. (April 6, Public Theater)
Speaking of Mr. Hoffman, his lovely co-star in The Savages, Laura Linney, will star with Brit Ben Daniels as friends with benefits in a new production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, directed by Rufus Norris. Can’t wait to see those cuties get feisty. Talk about spring fever … we’re burning up! (May 1, American Airlines Theater)
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