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The Downtown Houses


The new fall theater season is upon us, and it holds promise of good things to come, new and old, from companies large and small. Today, we’ll look at what’s coming to the Big Four -- The Colonial, Wilbur, Shubert and Wang Theatres.

The leader of the pack, and certainly possessor of the big guns in town, is Broadway in Boston. With 17 productions announced, Broadway in Boston has served as a shining light these past few years. It was only a few seasons ago that several of Boston’s big houses were dark more than they were lit. And the summer season was occasionally filled with tumbleweeds blowing down Tremont Street.

The good news for theater lovers is that things have changed and Boston's arts scene is the better for it. Talented and affable Bill Conner, who has been at the helm as President of Broadway in Boston, has moved on. His successor, Tony McLean (a local guy who comes back to town via Disney Theatricals), will bring his own style and voice to the Theater District.

Broadway in Boston kicks off its fall season with “A Night With Dame Edna: The Show That Cares” -- at The Colonial from September 24 to October 13. Following her record-breaking run at The Wilbur this past year, Dame Edna returns with a vengeance to scatter her mystical wisdom in a dazzling two hour spectacle that's sure to be filled with dish, dirt and a plethora of flung gladioli.

Shifting gears a bit, BinB continues with an award-winning production of the Abbey Theatre's "Medea," directed by Europe's premiere theater and opera director, Deborah Warner. "Medea" will play a short run at The Wilbur from October 23 - 27.

Tony Award-winning Mandy Patinkin takes over "In Concert" at The
Colonial from October 30 through November 3, followed by the "popular demand" return, also at The Colonial, of John Leguizamo's "Sexaholic . . . a love story."

The holiday season will find the return of Disney's "Beauty & The Beast," this time at The Colonial, from December 3 to January 5. Also on December 3, look for "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" at The Wilbur. A co-presentation of Broadway in Boston and The Huntington Theater, "Allergist's Wife" is Charles Busch's razor-sharp comedy that takes a look at one culture-obsessed New Yorker whose mid-life crisis deepens when her glamorous childhood friend reappears for a mysterious visit. Valerie Harper, who starred in the Broadway production, will headline.

The one new entry (sort of) from Broadway in Boston is "Some Like It Hot," playing The Wang from January 14 to January 19. Based on the film of the same name, this has already had a life as "Sugar," which played The Shubert back in the 70s.

Since the music, lyric and book are by the same people, one can only assume this is based more on that production than anything else -- however it's curious that (so far) any mention of "Sugar" is missing from the current description. Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe starred in the original film. Tony Roberts, Bobby Morse and Elaine Joyce starred in "Sugar."

Tony Curtis is above the title here, but in the smaller millionaire role originally played in the film by Joe E. Ross. From what I can determine, a lot of the songs from "Sugar" are still in the show, along with new material. Confused? Don't be. It's still filled with cross dressing musicians, gangsters and bootleg gin.

You can come and meet those dancing feet at The Wang when the new production of "42nd Street" dances into town on January 21. The razzle-dazzle show filled with numbers like "Lullaby of Broadway," "We're In The Money" and "Dames," won the 2001 Tony for Best Musical Revival. The national tour is reportedly sparing no expense to present the show as close to the New York production as possible.

The ABBA phenomenon, Mamma Mia" returns to turn you all into Dancing Queens from January 25 to March 2 at The Colonial. And after all that disco ball mayhem, the silence of "Mummenschanz Next" will be a welcome relief at The Wilbur from February 4 to 9. The legendary Swiss theater troupe embraces mime, puppetry and masks to present an evening of imaginative fun.

Scooby-Doo and the gang return to the Hub in "Stagefright," at The Wang from February 4 to 9, followed by the return of the Tony Award-winning "Contact" from March 4 to 9. Also in the "return to Boston" column is Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella," at The Wang from March 18 to 23 (will we be spared Eartha Kitt's geriatric aerobics during her final solo this time around?).

Also at The Wang is Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Jesus Christ Superstar" from April 15 to 20. Meredith Wilson's classic "The Music Man" comes to Boston at The Colonial from April 30 to May 4. Can there be anyone who doesn't know the "76 Trombones" story of con-aritst-turned-musician Harold Hill and his endless "Trouble In River City?" From what I've heard, this is a Non-Equity production, so there may also be trouble outside the theater from picketers.

Rob Becker's "Defending the Caveman" which played a happy run at The Wilbur several seasons ago, returns with another candid exploration of the gender gap. The longest running sold play in Broadway history, this is one for the married people.

June 17 will mark the arrival of what USA Today called "most fearlessly irreverent thing ever seen on stage" when "The Producers" arrives at The Colonial.

Based on the Academy Award winning film of the same name, "The Producers" is Mel Brooks' story of down-on-his-luck theatrical producer Max Bialystock and timid account Leo Bloom. Together they hatch a scheme to scam investors by raising more money than they need for a completely stinko show. The musical will intentionally flop on opening night, they'll pocket the extra cash and nobody will be any the wiser.

The problem? The flop becomes a hit and "Springtime for Hitler" is added to the Great American Songbook. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick starred in the original, Martin Short and Jason Alexander are planned forthe West Coast production, but no word yet on who be playing the tour that comes to Boston. Stay tuned.

And that’s a brief look at what’s up with the larger downtown theaters. Changes and additions are inevitable, but as we always say, “That’s Show Biz.”

Need info on any of the above?

For shows at the Colonial & Wilbur call Ticketmaster, 617-931-2787.
For shows at the Wang, call Telecharge, 800-447-7400.

(To read Part 2 of the Fall Preview, click here.)

-- OnStageBoston


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