No Hibernation for Broadway

Just because the snow falls, the menorahs light up and the evergreens hit living rooms, it doesn’t mean that Broadway goes into hibernation. In fact, this particular winter finds the Great White Way busy with activity, from a Mamet drama to an Inge revival to an all-star concert of a Sondheim classic.

Recent years have seen David Mamet (whose great Glengarry Glen Ross is currently enjoying yet another Broadway revival) dabbling in satirical farces, so it’s exciting to see him dipping his toe into full-throttle drama again. The Anarchist, opening December 2 at the John Golden Theatre, tells the story of a woman (Patti LuPone) jailed years ago for belonging to a violent political organization. Now she seeks parole, but has to first convince a female prison warden determined to keep her there, played by three-time Oscar nominee Debra Winger (making her Broadway debut). This new piece promises to be as gritty and bold as any of the playwright’s previous works, straining polemical tensions out front, firmly in the audience’s faces.

Originally, the warden was to be played by Laurie Metcalf who was featured in the 2007 Mamet comedy, November. But the Roseanne actress bowed out owing to “scheduling conflicts.” Turns out she was booked for a different Broadway show, The Other Place, a thriller by main stem newcomer Sharr White. Directed by Broadway veteran Joe Mantello, this play examines a businesswoman confronted by a debilitating illness—and possibly her own paranoia. Plaudits greeted the drama’s 2011 off-Broadway run, with Daily News scribe David Hinckley raving, “Though the ultimate destination the play takes us to is more ordinary than hoped, the emotional wallop it delivers is almost shocking.” Audiences can brace for that shock when The Other Place opens January 10 at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.

Turning to the lighter side, we have William Inge’s second-most popular play (after Bus Stop): A Broadway revival of his 1953 Pulitzer winner, Picnic. A small-town girl, a handsome drifter, a late-summer afternoon—all the fixins for a romance to put the townfolk in a tizzy and matinee ladies in a swoon (the 1955 film starred William Holden and Kim Novak). Sam Gold, who made his Broadway directing debut with 2011’s sleeper hit, Seminar, takes the reins for this Roundabout revival, opening January 13 at the American Airlines Theatre.

A less familiar entry from the classic canon, Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy also returns to Broadway—for the first time in fifty years. It’s the tale of a young man facing a heavy career choice: The violin or the boxing ring. As critic John Lahr once put it, the protagonist is “torn between commercial success and artistic fulfillment” and murders himself “out of nostalgia for [his] lost integrity.” Penned in 1937 (less than a decade after The Jazz Singer made a different young man choose between the synagogue and spotlight), Golden Boy may be better known for its 1964 musical adaptation, which featured Sammy Davis, Jr. as the embattled battler. Lincoln Center Theater’s revival of the play, which opens December 6 at the Belasco Theatre, features Seth Numrich as the fighter and Tony Shalhoub as his Mephistophelian manager.

Lastly, although no musicals will open during the early winter, the Roundabout is offering a treat for Stephen Sondheim fans. All the major cast members of the Tony winning 2004 production of Assassins will regroup for one night only—December 3 at Studio 54—for a concert version of the controversial tuner. Neil Patrick Harris, Denis O’Hare, Michael Cerveris, Mario Cantone and more will again populate this sardonic yet sympathetic look at folks who are driven to kill presidents. How times change; the show’s 1990 off-Broadway debut didn’t move uptown for fear the unpleasant subject matter would have trouble drawing crowds. For this revival, only $1,000 benefit seats are still available because regular tickets have long sold out. Money goes to the Roundabout’s Musical Theatre Program.