Fall Theater 2012: Broadway highlights include 'Annie,' 'Glengarry,' 'Virginia Woolf'

So who's more in tune with the times? Boozy Martha, Katie Holmes or Little Orphan Annie?

Passive aggression, defiant independence and sunny optimism all are offered as part of the fall season on Broadway, where "Annie" gets her first Broadway revival at the Palace Theatre, timed for when Sandy popping out of a Christmas box starts to look seasonal.

For those who'd rather starve to death in Hooverville than watch another pre-adolescent belt out "Tomorrow," the child-unfriendly Steppenwolf Theatre Company revival of Edward Albee's classic "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is on hand at the Booth Theatre. Director Pam MacKinnon's riveting revival, opening Oct. 13 on Broadway, offers a counterintuitive take on the classic 1962 drama, wherein Amy Morton's comparatively normal Martha spends most of her time trying to defuse the time bomb that is Tracy Letts' George.

It's a very different approach from past revivals of a play that can stand any number of them.

Another play headed to New York this fall is Craig Wright's "Grace," which profiles a Christian couple in business for themselves. Wright (a writer for HBO's seminal "Six Feet Under") first staged his play in suburban Chicago in 2006. This heavily revised version is directed by Dexter Bullard. The Broadway production stars Paul Rudd and Michael Shannon. Shannon was in the original production. Now he's acting with his real-life partner, Kate Arrington.

These days, if David Mamet says he has a new play up his sleeve, a producer immediately books a theater. In the latest case, the John Golden Theatre for a Dec. 2 opening. The newest drama from the conservative (or maybe he's libertarian) provocateur is "The Anarchist," a play set in a women's prison (ideal for Mamet you'd think) and starring Patti LuPone and Debra Winger.

Mamet will have to compete against himself: A revival of his "Glengarry Glen Ross," surely among the best plays ever written about American business, is slated for the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, opening Nov. 11 under the direction of Daniel Sullivan. Al Pacino stars as Shelly "The Machine" Levene, with Bobby Cannavale getting in his face as Richard "Ricky" Roma (played by Pacino in the 1992 movie).

If those who peddle Florida swampland cry and bleed just like the rest of us, then so do porn stars. That, at least, is the premise of the new comedy "The Performers," by David West Read. Opening Nov. 14 at the Longacre Theatre under the direction of Evan Cabnet, "The Performers" stars Henry Winkler as an aging you-know-what, along with Alicia Silverstone and Cheyenne Jackson, in the role of a usurping younger performer. There's also, reportedly, a character who is a reporter for the New York Post and envies aspects of a profession surely classier than journalism.

The musicals with the most buzz ("Matilda," "Kinky Boots") are coming in the spring, but the fall slate includes an early arrival, "Chaplin," the musical story of the cinema's most famous tramp, which opens Monday with newcomer Rob McClure in the title role.

Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca" (a $12 million musical attraction hit by delays) finally arrives at the Broadhurst Theater Nov. 18. Mandalay is re-created by directors Michael Blakemore and Francesca Zambello, the score is by Sylvester Levay, and the book and lyrics by Michael Kunze. Expect a tempestuous, full-throated affair, replete with anguished power ballads.

Just as some knives are out for "Rebecca," so Broadway wags aren't expecting that much from the new musical "A Christmas Story," the stage version of the iconic movie about the Indiana kid, the mean Santa and the much-desired BB gun. But based on a look at its debut last Christmas in Chicago, this sweet, tuneful, funny show might well surprise a lot of folks.

Who knows how "Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson" will do, but this new musical set in the Hollywood of the 1920s certainly has a famous author in TV personality Kathie Lee Gifford, who penned both music and lyrics and got to announce her own show on the air. The love affairs and controversies officially begin Nov. 15 at the Neil Simon Theatre.

The former Mrs. Tom Cruise is in "Dead Accounts," a new play by Theresa Rebeck ("Bad Dates," "Smash"). In this family drama, she'll be working opposite Norbert Leo Butz. And Holmes has just as much at stake as anyone or anything on Broadway this fall.


Twitter @ChrisJonesTrib

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