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Fall Preview 2016

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A new season where everyone is hopeful and optimistic about what's coming up and the doom-sayers are keeping quiet until the first hint of disaster rears its head (as it inevitably will).  And by saying that I've become a doomsayer right out of the gate.

I'm going to concentrate on the musicals which open before Christmas and not discuss all the big guns which are headed our way in the annual spring pre-awards season crush. And frankly it's a bit thin this fall. Already there is a revival of Cats about which people are either a) enthusiastic or b) resigned to. I offer no further comment.

Ahead of us in order of opening are:

I've got high hopes for Holiday Inn a "new" Irving Berlin musical with a book by Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge, directed by Mr. Greenberg and choreographed by Denis Jones, if only because all it has to do is entertain me with songs, dances and jokes. It's not out to be a game-changer; it's not out to bring in audiences who "don't usually go to the theatre."  I believe it's there to simply celebrate Mr. Berlin's extraordinary catalog of music and give us a good time. And with Bryce Pinkham and Megan Lawrence heading the cast I'm pretty sure that's what's going to happen.

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. At long last the Broadway transfer of Dave Malloy's inventive and audacious off-off Broadway musical of 2012. As I said in blog a few weeks ago, I adored it in the intimate off-off Broadway space Ars Nova, but didn't have a good time when it transferred to an uncomfortable tent in the meat-packing district. I'm hopeful that the talented director Rachel Chavkin and the rest of the creatives, as well as the casting of pop vocal superstar Josh Groban, make this a huge distinctive Broadway hit.

Dear Evan Hansen. With a heartfelt score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (and a smart book by Steven Levenson) makes the leap from an off-Broadway run where it garnered unanimous raves to Broadway. It's a musical of this moment in time where whether we like it or not social media guides our responses to most everything which happens in our lives. Aside from the emotional power of the show, it boasts at least two award-worthy performances come season-end: that's the amazing Ben Platt and the heart-breaking eloquence of Rachel Bay Jones.  (And as far as I'm concerned she should've been at least nominated, if not won for the revival of Pippin).

When I walk into A Bronx Tale with a book by Chazz Palminteri and a score by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater (who have collaborated on Sister Act and Leap of Faith), I'll be at a disadvantage as I've never seen or read or listened to any incarnation of the story. Everybody involved is really talented (though I honestly never thought that a Broadway musical would be co-directed by Robert DeNiro). Part of me says that I should use this time to familiarize myself with one of its incarnations, but the other part of me says-if I come in with no expectations of favorite scenes or incidents, I can actually judge it on its own merits. So I 'm pretty sure that's what I'm going to do.

I'm faced with a similar situation with the long-gestating In TransitBook, music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez (yes of Frozen fame), James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth and directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall. The only thing I know about it is that it's an a cappella musical being performed in the relatively intimate space of the Circle in the Square Theatre. Maybe it's the "sleeper" musical which captures the hearts of critics and audiences that every small show opening on Broadway hopes to be? Fingers crossed.

As for revivals on Broadway this fall there is just one: Falsettos, Bill Finn and James Lapine's emotional, hilarious, and heart-breaking musical. Readers of this blog know of my deep affection for this show, so I won't go on and on about it again but with a gold-plated cast headed by Christian Borle, Andrew Rannells, Stephanie J. Block, Tracie Thoms, Betsy Wolfe, and Brandon Uranowitz  I just can't wait to see it and probably see it again and maybe one more time after that.

I'm going to step away from the musical front for a moment and tout a Broadway show this season that isn't a musical but is an astonishing experience and that's Simon McBurney's wondrous one man play  The Encounter. Ostensibly it's about a trip up the Amazon, but actually it's about so much more. It's a theatrical experience like no other I've ever had and one that you'll probably never forget. 


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