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A sneak preview of Broadway’s new season

broadway 2015 season Emily Padgett as Daisy Hilton and Erin Davie as Violet Hilton in the Kennedy Center production of Side Show. Photo by Joan Marcus
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While it seems that the English-speaking world is consumed with fringe festivals everywhere you look this month, Broadway is grabbing its share of attention with a rapid-fire series of announcements about what will be on offer during the coming season. Where to begin?

Fun Home

A critical and popular success during its run at The Public Theatre a year ago, and a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for drama, Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s musical Fun Home has announced that it will reach Broadway at the very end of the 2014-15 season. Adapted from Alison Bechdel’s celebrated graphic memoir about a young woman’s relationship with her father, as she slowly discovers his closeted gay life as the source of tension in her family throughout her youth, just as she begins to assert her own lesbian identity. No casting announcement has been made, but Michael Cerveris and Judy Kuhn were lauded as Bechdel’s parents in the run at The Public, as were the three actresses who played her at different ages. When the original book was banned earlier this year by a South Carolina college, the cast reunited to perform a concert version of the show in Charleston at the very same school.

Side Show

Coming much sooner will be the Broadway transfer of the revised Side Show, following engagements at the La Jolla Playhouse and The Kennedy Center. Screenwriter and director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) makes his Broadway debut, and he’s made some shrewd revisions to the 1997 show by Bill Russell and Henry Krieger. The true-life story of conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton now features more background on their early life and hardships, and the spare aesthetic of the original production has been supplanted with sets and costumes that more fully realize the carnival setting of the piece. Erin Davie and Emily Padgett will reprise their roles as the sisters from the prior productions. Previews begin on October 28.

Finding Neverland, American Repertory Theatre

Thoroughly reworked since its debut at Leicester’s Curve in 2012, the musical of Finding Neverland opened this week at Cambridge MA’s American Repertory Theatre, under the direction of Diane Paulus. Obviously previews went very well, because on the day of the show’s Wednesday night opening, Harvey Weinstein, in the lead position for the first time as Broadway producer, announced that he’d be bringing the show to Broadway this spring, at a Nederlander theatre to be announced. Should he have waited until the reviews were in before making a decision? By the time you’re reading this, we’ll know the answer to that question. But perhaps he’s also hoping that the December live telecast of Peter Pan, with Christopher Walken as Captain Hook, will give a boost to all things JM Barrie.

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

This spring will also see Rob Ashford will be at the helm of the first Broadway revival of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, a long running musical hit from 1978, which originated as a 1974 article in Playboy magazine. Although specific dates or a theatre aren’t yet announced, prolific producers Jerry Frankel and Jeffrey Richards are unlikely to encounter any challenges to securing a home for Miss Mona and company.

The Audience, Schoenfeld Theater

Crossing the pond at last is Queen Helen, I mean Dame Elizabeth, I mean Peter Morgan’s The Audience starring Helen Mirren. Her Majesty will ascend to the throne eight times a week at Broadway’s Schoenfeld Theater with previews beginning February 17, 2015. No additional casting has been announced, but I’m hoping that Richard McCabe will reprise his Olivier-winning performance as Harold Wilson.

Fish in the Dark

Fans of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm will get a theatrical taste of Larry David’s trademark humor when he makes his Broadway playwriting debut with Fish in the Dark, a 15 character comedy about a family death. David will also make his Broadway acting debut in the show, realizing a dream he perhaps first expressed publicly with a Curb Your Enthusiasm storyline that saw him playing Max Bialystock in The Producers. The show will play in a Shubert Theatre, as yet unannounced, under Anna D Shapiro’s direction, opening on March 5, 2015.

American Psycho, Second Stage Theatre

In casting news of note, Benjamin Walker has been announced to play the leading role in the US premiere of the musical American Psycho at Off-Broadway’s Second Stage Theatre. Walker was seen on the big screen as Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter but was showcased to better effect, yet again in the title role, in the musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson both off and on Broadway. Is it just me, or is there a sanguinary theme to his career?

Sticks and Bones

In one of the bigger casting coups of the week, The New Group has announced that Richard Chamberlain a TV veteran (Dr. Kildare, The Thorn Birds) with plenty of stage experience (including both The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady on Broadway) will join the previously announced Bill Pullman and Holly Hunter in the revival of David Rabe’s Sticks and Bones. That’s a strong cast to play in a 199-seat theatre (beginning in October)…. Those who recall Alec Guinness’s West End turn as a Soviet diplomat in A Walk in the Woods might be a bit surprised by the casting for Keen Company’s revival beginning 9 September. Playwright Lee Blessing has changed the character’s gender for this production, with Kathleen Chalfant (Wit) now playing Botvinnik for artistic director Jonathan Silverstein.

Sweeney Todd

Sweeney Todd. Photo: Brandon Penick Photography

Finally this week, I previously mentioned the ‘prog metal’ version of Sweeney Todd at Landless Theater, now playing in Washington DC. While the company is not inviting critics for its short run in a small venue, Stephen Sondheim is expected to attend, and surely his response will determine whether this new take reaches a wider audience, in DC or elsewhere. Rock on, Mr. Todd, rock on.

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