Star Power

Star Power
Al Pacino reprises his acclaimed Shakespeare in the Park turn as Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” at the Public Theater this fall. Photo by Joan Marcus
By Raphael Sugarman

What do Al Pacino, a legendary football coach, a wise chauffeur, President Andrew Jackson and Spiderman have in common? They are all part of New York’s theater season this fall.

As usual, the Broadway and Off-Broadway lineups provide a wide variety of choices for all tastes — this year, particularly theater fans who prefer traditional plays (non-musicals).

Queens residents will be a big part of many of these productions, both on stage and behind the scenes. From the Footlights will bring you the stories of those intrepid artists, who return home to our borough each night after the curtain falls. And as we have done for the past seven years, we will also recommend the plays and musicals we think are worth the trip into the city.

Sight unseen, here are a few of the new productions that caught our eye.

All too often, when movie stars visit Broadway stages, it ends up being more spectacle than memorable, designed to woo tourists and sell tickets. While the Public Theater is certain to sell out its fleeting 78-performance run of Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” because of its star, Al Pacino, his performance will well be worth the price of the ticket. Previews begin Tuesday, Oct. 19; opening night, Sunday, Nov. 7, at the Broadhurst Theatre, 235 W. 44 St.

Bono and The Edge of the band U2 and Julie Taymor of “Lion King” fame seem an unlikely creative combination. However, the threesome have combined to produce “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” Taymor and the U2 lads are sure to give a new spin on the story of Queens resident Peter Parker, inspired by Marvel comics. Previews begin Sunday, Nov. 14; opens Tuesday, Dec. 21, at the Foxwoods Theatre. 213 W. 42nd St.

Can high culture appeal to everyone, or is it designed for a select few? That sounds like a pretty high-minded question for a play billed as a comedy. But rest assured that David Hirson’s Olivier Award-winning comedy “La Bête” will provide plenty of laughs while pondering that philosophical question. Particularly so, with a cast that includes David Hyde Pierce, Mark Rylance and Joanna Lumley. Previews begin on Thursday, Sept. 23, opening night set for Thursday, Oct. 14, at the Music Box Theatre, 239 W. 45 St.

Three-time Tony nominee John Guare returns to Lincoln Center Theater for his fall production of “A Free Man of Color.” Set in New Orleans at the turn of the 19th century, the play centers on the character Jacques Comet, played by multi-award-winning actor Jeffrey Wright. All seems idyllic until an event occurs which sets off a “chain of events which no one, much less this free man of color, realizes is about to splinter the world.”

Previews begin Thursday, Oct. 21, opening night is Thursday, Nov. 18, at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, 150 W. 65th St.

“Three Pianos” beautifully straddles the worlds of musical theater and plays. The production explores the life and music of Franz Schubert, in particular the “Winterreise,” his seminal “song cycle on winter heartbreak.” Opens Tuesday, Dec. 7 at the New York Theatre Workshop, 79 E. 4th St. For information on the entire season, go to www.nytw.org.

The Green Bay Packers’ legendary coach Vince Lombardi would probably have scoffed at the idea that one day a Broadway play would be staged about his life. But in the hands of a highly skilled playwright and director and based on a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss, “Lombardi” promises to be a fascinating look at football, coaching, motivation and other issues. Previews begin on Thursday, Sept. 23, opens Thursday, Oct 21, at Circle in the Square Theatre, 235 W. 50 St.

In what some critics are calling the most exciting musical of the new theater year, The Public Theater is bringing its acclaimed “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” to Broadway this fall. The story of the country’s seventh president is told with humor and raucous rock music. Previews start Monday, Sept. 20 and the show opens on Wednesday, Oct. 13, at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre, 242 W. 45th St.

It’s hard to believe that “Driving Miss Daisy” has never appeared on Broadway. It’s fitting that the first production of the milestone Off-Broadway production and Oscar-winning film will feature legendary actors James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave. Previews begin Thursday, Oct. 7, with opening night Monday, Oct. 25, at the John Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45 St.

One of the nice things about the television show Pee-wee’s Playhouse was that, although it was primarily a children’s show, it had just enough musings and double entendre to attract a sizable following among adults. That’s why “The Pee-Wee Herman Show,” based on a 1981 cult stage production and scheduled to open on Broadway in October, is likely to be a big hit. Paul Reubens, who plays Pee-wee, will bring many of his original cast members to the stage, including Miss Yvonne, Cowboy Curtis, Pterri the Pterodactyl, Jambi the Genie, and Chairry. Previews begin Tuesday, Oct. 26, in the limited-run production, with opening night scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 11. At the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, 124 W. 43 St.

Writer Neil LaBute will explore religion in “The Break of Noon,” his seventh collaboration as playwright in residence with the MCC Theater in Greenwich Village. Television star David Duchovny will play John Smith, a generically named character who “amidst the chaos and horror of the worst office shooting in American history, sees the face of God.” Previews for the limited engagement begin Thursday, Oct. 28, with opening night Monday, Nov. 15. At the Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St. For more information on the MCC Theater season, go to www.mcctheater.org.

Tony Award and Golden Globe Award winner Cherry Jones will star as Kitty Warren in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of “Mrs. Warren’s Profession,” by George Bernard Shaw. Sally Hawkins will make her Broadway debut as Vivie Warren. Considered one of Shaw’s great plays, it tells the story of a mother (Kitty) who “makes a terrible sacrifice for her daughter Vivie’s independence.” In previews, with opening night set for Sunday, Oct. 3, at Roundabout Theatre Company’s American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42 St. For Roundabout’s entire season, go to www.roundabouttheatre.org.

For tickets to these productions, visit the theaters or contact Telecharge.com. For more information on the new theater season, go to www.playbill.com.

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