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TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: Fall Preview 2012, The Musicals

September 5th, 2012

The Cast of "Chaplin". Photo by Joan Marcus.

Buckle up, boys and girls! The theater season is about to get up and rolling so we’ve got a two part preview of the tunes and tears the Great White Way has to offer through the end of the year. Since the first show out of the gate post-Labor Day is a musical, let’s start with a closer look at the originals and revivals singing and dancing onto Broadway during the rest of 2012.

On a quick glance, the slate is…well…a bit like the island of misfit toys; a curiosity chest of pieces with unusual histories from less than name brand writers. But one never knows until the curtain goes up what we truly have in store; the oddest ducks (or Cats) can sometimes turn out to be blockbusters.

Chaplin (September 10): One of Hollywood’s first mega-stars gets the first slot of the season in what promises to be a splashy theatrical biography. The biggest news is that the lead is being played by a relative unknown (almost unheard of in these marquee driven times), Rob McClure. Also in the plus column, a book co-written by musical vet Thomas Meehan (Hairspray) and supporting turns from the recent Closer than Ever dynamic duo Jenn Colella and Christiane Noll…as well as our very own Theater Buff, Wayne Wilcox.

Katie Finneran. Image via BBB.

Annie (November 8): Katie Finneran as Miss Hannigan. Seriously, do I need to write anything else? Even if the thought of another go-round for the perky depression era orphans makes your teeth hurt, the casting of the two-time Tony-winning scene stealer in one of THE scene stealing roles of all time is worth rushing on down to Easy Street.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (November 13): Speaking of blockbuster casting, the Roundabout revival of the famous “choose your own ending” Dickensian romp features a posse of vocal gunslingers: Chita Rivera, Stephanie J. Block, Will Chase, Betsy Wolfe, Gregg Edelman and the delightful Tony-nominee “it girl” of the year Jessie Mueller. Toss in Rupert Holmes’s wonderfully overstuffed oddity of a book and score and this is definitely one not to miss.

Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson (November 15): Yep, it’s the show with book and lyrics by Kathie Lee Gifford. It also happens to star the jaw-droppingly fearless Carolee Carmello as the 1920’s evangelist and Sweeney Todd himself George Hearn. With only small rumblings of buzz out of West Coast tryouts, I have no idea…

"A Christmas Story: The Musical". Image via

Rebecca (November 18): Unlike Manderley mansion, the musical that takes place there is rising from the ashes. After an aborted Broadway bid last season, the epic finds a slot in 2012 with a different roster of stars including Jill Paice and Ryan Silverman. If it has even half the suspense and romance of the Hitchcock film version, then this tale of haunted love may prove a satisfying throwback to the mega-musicals of the 1980’s.

A Christmas Story, The Musical! (November 19): “You’ll shoot your eye out!” If that line of dialogue doesn’t ring any bells than you haven’t turned on cable TV in the month prior to Christmas for the last decade. Now the beloved holiday comedy about a boy and his Red Ryder bb gun is getting the tune treatment with a score by the impossibly young team of Pasek & Paul (Dogfight). After trying out regionally last November and December, the show is making the big leap toward perennial status.

Elf (Previews November 9, Opening TBD): A Christmas Story has competition, though, in the holiday cash grab sweepstakes. The 2010 limited run hit based on the Will Ferrell film returns for another go at tourist dollars. (Not to mention Grinch playing at Madison Square Garden and, of course, some little kick-line group at Radio City.) Clearly, somebody thinks Santa is bringing lots of green to NYC.

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