Each year as August fades, I look forward to cooler weather and the start of the fall theater season. This year there was no big summer opening, so all the excitement is to come.
Out of the upcoming musicals, the one I am most looking forward to is Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. I feel I am not alone on this front. Despite the fact that I viewed the prior David Yazbek/Jeffrey Lane collaboration, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, to be a misfire, I have high hopes that they'll score here. I think Yazbek is a talent who should have won a Tony for his Full Monty score. It features a cast of theater luminaries and Justin Guarini. (Guarini, known for American Idol and J2K, was supposed to make his Broadway debut years ago in Good Vibrations but didn't make it through rehearsals. Here is hoping this goes better for him!) But the real reason I am so excited about this show is the source material. The fabulous Pedro Almodóvar film on which the musical is based is wonderfully theatrical and colorful. I must admit, it wouldn't have occurred to me that it should be a stage musical, but, it now feels like a natural choice. Sight unseen it's hard to recommend shows--it could, after all, be this season's Thou Shalt Not--but, if I were to encourage the purchasing of tickets to one musical ahead of time, it would be this one.
Now, that's not to say I am not eagerly anticipating some other tuners. I wasn't as huge a Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson fan as most others, but I am curious to see how it translates to a bigger stage. I've heard the creative team has done a lot of work on The Scottsboro Boys and so I hope it may actually live up to its potential--it has a lot, still unfulfilled off-Broadway. And, though I may be the only theater journalist to openly welcome Elf, I love kids shows and I hope this one is a lot better than the terribly banal Grinch.
In terms of plays, I have to be honest, I don't have that much to say on them. Brief Encounter is the most interesting of the options on first glance and it arrives with much hype from overseas. I am hoping to enjoy La Bête, which features the Broadway return of David Hyde Pierce (which my mother is looking forward to) and the Broadway debut of Joanna Lumley (which I am looking forward to). A Free Man of Color could be brilliant. I love Mrs. Warren's Profession as a play, but its effectiveness is very cast specific, so only time will tell whether it is genius or just plain boring. I don't know enough about the man Lombardi or the show Lombardi to even comment on that one. I also plead ignorance about The Pitmen Painters, Driving Miss Daisy and A Life in the Theater. I've seen both Merchant of Venice and Time Stands Still; the latter could play differently now thanks to new cast member Christina Ricci, the former I imagine will be much the same as it was, minus the magic of the park.
Because I didn't have terribly strong feelings about any of the aforementioned plays, I took a poll of other theater people to see what they wanted to see. A bunch of folks were just as apathetic as me, but I did get some opinions. Brief Encounter received the most votes, followed by La Bête, which a handful of people seem to really love. There were also a few John Guare fans in the bunch. One person said The Pee-wee Herman Show, but I refuse to consider that a play (even though the Tonys may have to, given the lack of the Special Theatrical Event category this year).
Of course, this post has only discussed the officially announced fall season. There will be more surprises--and hopefully some thrills--to come. I am always semi-optimistic about the season at this time of year. I figure, if all else fails this fall, we can enjoy the cooler temperatures, watch television and look forward to the spring.