— The fall on Broadway started early this year. And auspiciously. Transferring from the Kennedy Center in Washington, Eric Schaeffer's lush, raw and moving revival of "Follies," the classic 1971 musical by James Goldman and Stephen Sondheim, set the bar that all other musical revivals will have to beat this season.
At least one such show will be taking it "Day by Day." In November at Circle in the Square, a revival of the 1971 Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak musical "Godspell" (wherein the iconic score also includes "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord" and "All Good Gifts") will reintroduce for a new generation this gently plotted and melodically scored treatment of the parables found in the Gospel of Matthew.
Also that month, Michael Mayer (a director known for much edgier fare) will stage the tricky piece "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever." Everyone loves the Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner score, but the book is, well, quirky. Enter Peter Parnell with a plan to freshen and fix it up for its typically reliable star, Harry Connick Jr. This show, which opens on Broadway cold in December, also stars the Chicago actress Jessie Mueller, in her Broadway debut.
The fall season has at least two new musicals: Frank Wildhorn, a prolific songwriter known for attracting critical disdain and (sometimes) great popular success, opens in early December (at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre) the seemingly potent title "Bonnie and Clyde," replete with a blues and rockabilly score for the famed outlaws to warble (Don Black wrote the lyrics and Ivan Menchell the libretto). Also in December, Douglas Carter Beane and Lewis Flinn update the Aristophanic comedy "Lysistrata" (the one where the women refuse to have sex as long as their men continue to fight) to "Lysistrata Jones," a previously off-Broadway piece set among sexy cheerleaders and needy student-athletes.
Several new plays are on the slate. David Henry Hwang's "Chinglish" arrives from a hit run at Chicago's Goodman Theatre and, offering a savvy reversal of fortunes from this writer's brilliant "M. Butterfly," pokes much mistranslated fun at how American business is now suppliant at roaring China's feet.
In Theresa Rebeck's "Seminar," Alan Rickman plays a sleazy seminar-giving writer whose fame does not excuse his behavior. And Jon Robin Baitz's "Other Desert Cities," a piece about the intersection of family and politics, arrives on Broadway in November from theLincoln Center.
David Ives' "Venus in Fur," a quirky take on a classic erotic novel, makes the November move to the Great White Way from its off-Broadway stand, now replete with Hugh Dancy and the up-and-comer Nina Arianda. The Chicago-honed playwright Lydia R. Diamond makes her December Broadway debut with her sharply observed play "Stick Fly" (which premiered at the Congo Square Theatre Company in Chicago and follows the travails of an affluent black family); Alicia Keys is the lead producer of Kenny Leon's production. And, perhaps most notably of all, Samuel L. Jackson, playing no less than Martin Luther King Jr., arrives, along with Angela Bassett, on "The Mountaintop," a new play from London by Katori Hall.