NEW YORK, Aug 30, (Agencies): “Cats” is back on Broadway, purring along. “Hamilton” tickets are still hard to get. What else is new this fall? Some big celebrities are coming, including Cate Blanchett, Diane Lane, Janet McTeer, Josh Groban and Liev Schreiber. Some old writers are also showing up, like Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy. Here’s a look at some highlights of the first half of the 2016-17 Broadway season:
Old school tunes
Producers raided the golden age of movie musicals to pull out a stage adaptation of the Bing Crosby-Fred Astaire 1942 film “Holiday Inn.” The Broadway cast is led by Bryce Pinkham, Lora Lee Gayer, Megan Lawrence, Megan Sikora and Corbin Bleu and it has 20 classic Berlin songs, including “Steppin’ Out With My Baby”, “Shaking the Blues Away”, “Easter Parade” and “Cheek to Cheek.” (Opens Oct 6 at Studio 54)
Small to big
One of the bravest — or most foolhardy — choices on Broadway will be the transfer of the somewhat fragile play “Heisenberg” from its perch at a 150-seat off-Broadway space to a 650-seat Broadway theater. The Simon Stephens play is only about 80 minutes, performed by just two people and with no real set. In the play, two strangers — a 33-year-old woman and a 75-year-old man — embark on an affair. Mary-Louise Parker and Denis Arndt had plenty of fireworks off-Broadway; it remains to be seen if they lose anything getting to the big time. (Previews begin Sept. 20 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre)
Welcome, Queen Cate
Cate Blanchett will make her Broadway debut in Anton Chekhov’s first — and long-forgotten — play. The Oscar winner will star opposite Richard Roxburgh in “The Present,” which centers on a woman celebrating her 40th birthday at her country summer home. Chekhov wrote it as a young medical student in the 1880s but it went nowhere and the playwright put it aside. It was unearthed in a Moscow bank vault in 1920. (Previews begin Dec 17 at the Barrymore Theatre)
Feel familiar, Diane?
Diane Lane made her Broadway debut at age 12 in the 1977 revival of “The Cherry Orchard,” goofing around backstage with co-stars Raul Julia and Meryl Streep. Now she’s coming back in the same play. It’s a new adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s classic play by Tony Award-winner Stephen Karam, who wrote “The Humans.” The rest of the cast includes Tavi Gevinson, Chuck Cooper, John Glover, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Joel Grey. (Previews begin Sept 15 at the American Airlines Theatre)
Hello, sweetheart. Gimme rewrite: “The Front Page,” a jaundiced view of newspaper journalism from 1928, is coming back this fall in an era when print reporters are on the decline. The cast — including Nathan Lane, John Slattery, John Goodman, Jefferson Mays, Holland Taylor and Sherie Rene Scott — will be no doubt be fast-talking and wise-cracking. Whether they can avoid the now-massive clichés in the script is another matter. (Previews begin Sept. 20 at the Broadhurst Theatre)
If “The Front Page” celebrates old mainstream media, the musical “Dear Even Hansen” does the same for the digital age. It stars the appealing Ben Platt of “Pitch Perfect” and has great songs by the duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. In the musical, a misfit teen writes a private letter to himself that accidentally goes viral, with astounding results. Whether this smallish show will wilt or thrive under Broadway lights is up for debate. (Previews begin in November at the Belasco Theatre)
Old school magic
The magic supergroup “The Illusionists” returns with eight magicians — including, for the first time, a female contingent — as part of a show celebrating the tricks and mood of the Golden Age of Magic, from 1903 to 1927. Expect levitation, card tricks and death-defying escapes and costumes true to the era. The new show will also tip its hat to the era’s most famous guy with nothing up his sleeve — Harry Houdini. (Previews begin Nov 25 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater)
True theater geeks will adore the news that “Falsettos” is being revived. The William Finn-James Lapine show is actually the pairing of two one-act musicals written nearly a decade apart “Falsettos” follows Marvin as he struggles to create a family out of his eclectic relationships that includes his ex-wife, his new boyfriend, his adolescent son and his psychiatrist. The revival stars Christian Borle, Stephanie J. Block and Andrew Rannells. (Previews begin Sept 29 at the Walter Kerr Theatre)
The second Broadway revival of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” a play about power and seduction in 18th century France, will return this fall from London, starring Janet McTeer and Liev Schreiber. Christopher Hampton’s dark comedy became an award-winning sensation in London and on Broadway in 1985, followed by the 1988 film starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer. (Performances begin Oct 8 at the Booth Theatre)
One of the more out-of-left field options this fall will be “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” a sung-through musical that dramatizes a 70-page melodrama at the center of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.” Josh Groban will star but the transfer to Broadway may be tough. When it was off-Broadway, the show tried to erase the line between audience and performer by offering a full Russian-themed meal and audience members were asked to pass along love letters and interact with actors. How will the show keep its immersive soul? (Previews begin Oct 18 at the Imperial Theatre)
Watch the closing doors
Some of the folks behind the films “Frozen” and “Pitch Perfect,” have combined for a new musical — “In Transit,” an a cappella romantic comedy set in the New York City subway. The show has a book, music and lyrics co-written by Academy Award winner Kristen Anderson-Lopez of “Frozen” fame and vocal arrangements are by Deke Sharon, of the “Pitch Perfect” movies. Kathleen Marshall will direct. (Previews begin Nov 10 at the Circle in the Square Theatre)
From the subways to the street, Broadway will feature taxis in the only one of two-time Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s plays in his The American Century Cycle that hasn’t been seen on Broadway until now. “Jitney” centers on a group of men trying to eke out a living by driving unlicensed cabs, or jitneys. Ruben Santiago-Hudson will direct. (Previews begin Dec 28 at Samuel J. Friedman Theatre)
LOS ANGELES: The end of “Finding Neverland’s” Broadway run took a bite out of earnings last week. Box office on the Great White Way dropped 6.6 percent to $21.5 million after the theater community bid goodbye to the musical look at the life of Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie. It capped a slow month for Broadway and represented a 2.3 percent drop from the year-ago period.
It’s understandable, in a way, and not just because the Malarial weather in New York must be warning off tourists who aren’t excited by the prospect of navigating the theater district in the heat and humidity. After all, the glow of the Tony Awards is fading and a new crop of hopefuls doesn’t start hitting theaters until next month when a revival of “The Front Page” with Nathan Lane and John Slattery and a new take on the Irving Berlin chestnut, “Holiday Inn,” open.
That left “Hamilton” as the week’s biggest earner. The hip-hop exploration of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton continued to be a cultural phenomenon with few parallels, bringing in more than $2 million while playing to capacity audiences.
Musicals dominated ticket sales. “The Book of Mormon”, “Les Miserables” and “The Lion King” essentially sold out, while “Aladdin” and the recently opened revival of “Cats” also were strong performers.