March Madness: Spring-a-Ding-Ding! Here’s the Seasonal Thaw Culture Alert

c frontcover March Madness: Spring a Ding Ding! Here’s the Seasonal Thaw Culture AlertMarch rolled into New York like a fully grown, growling, rather unfriendly lion, with a blustery storm that left city dwellers tromping through knee-deep snow like prairie trappers. Like the stock market, temperatures seem lower on average than we’d like. And higher digits will bring puddles as deep as your knees at every intersection; dripping subway ceilings; damp ankles; and the requisite litter of busted umbrellas clustered around every corner waste can.

But in April, the daffodils will spring along the Park Avenue median, and in Madison Square Park. (We can only hope that our bank accounts will recover with the force of a hyacinth busting through its bulb.) Even in midtown, that concrete jungle of triple lanes and tourists, things will brighten up considerably. There may not be fields of daisies, but there will be a new Broadway season with an explosion of stars so luminous as to rival the Aurora Borealis.

It couldn’t come at a better time. As Manhattanites downsize to the brownstone neighborhoods of Brooklyn, and as brownstone Brooklynites decamp for the further, and cheaper, reaches of their suddenly trendy borough (Ditmas Park, here we come!), it’s worth reminding ourselves why we live here in the first place. Let’s start with the art: The Met, MoMA, P.S. 1—when was the last time you visited? This spring, while you’re lamenting the fact that you’re too maxed out to take that annual trip to Cabo or Sanibel or Istanbul, why not visit New York?

While you’re at it, throw a few bucks at Broadway. Many of the theaters and companies are offering discounts to entice local crowds toward 42nd Street—and we’re not talking tickets to Mamma Mia!. Grande dames Jane Fonda and Angela Lansbury will be here, showing other, younger screen-to-stage lovelies—Susan Sarandon, Joan Allen, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, Allison Janney—how it’s done.

The men are no slouches, either. From Tom Hanks’ son Colin, making his Broadway debut (see profile, page 15), to New York stage fave Jeff Daniels, to Jeremy Irons (thank you for coming stateside, sir!), to James Gandolfini, Tony Soprano himself, it seems like the smarter folks of Hollywood have decamped for the Great White Way, at least until June.

And speaking of Hollywood: If you thought the winter was lean on good movies (exception: Laurent Cantet’s The Class), that’s about to change, too. For the erudite: Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. star in literary tearjerker The Soloist, based on the work of Los Angeles Times reporter Steve Lopez—a film that should have had Oscar written all over it. And then, for everyone else, the action-y films: Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Hugh Jackman, Ben Affleck, Christian Bale, Rachel McAdams, Russell Crowe, Ewan McGregor and Colin Hanks’ father will all turn up (and at least one of them will look like a wolf!) to distract you from your taxes and bank statements.

A few familiar faces will also peek out from your boob tube over the next few months. Professional potty-mouth Ian McShane will take the throne in Kings, a new NBC drama based on the story of David and Goliath; while everyone’s favorite neurotic nerd with a stupidly buff bod, Adam Goldberg, turns up on ABC’s quirky cop drama The Unusuals. Consider giving Mr. Goldberg’s show a chance, if for no other reason than that it’s filmed here in the city—boosting its ratings will also boost our economy!

Finally, and perhaps most seasonally, Leonard Cohen will be making an appearance here in the city on May 16. The universally respected Canadian songwriter-poet is touring for the first time in 15 years to replenish the retirement savings his former business manager allegedly plundered, making his the perfect act for Madoff-drained New Yorkers.

hfrey@observer.com