B’way Maps Musicals; Plays Not The Thing

Casting controversies aside, Broadway’s dearth of drama will continue into the second half of the 1990-91 season.

Only three new dramas have set openings for the last third of the legit year. “The Speed Of Darkness,” “Dancing At Lughnasa” and “Our Country’s Good” will join the tiny roster of this season’s dramatic openers and may or may not join the even tinier lineup of successes.

To date, latter “lineup” is a roster of one: “Six Degrees Of Separation,” which transferred from Lincoln Center’s off-Broadway Mitzi Newhouse Theater upstairs to the Vivian Beaumont, where it is a consistent sellout or near-sellout.

Remainder of the season should prove kinder to comedies. Circle in the Square will begin previewing the Alan Ayckbourn comedy “Taking Steps” Feb. 1, while Neil Simon’s new “Lost In Yonkers” will be the cornerstone of the Nederlander Organization’s spring lineup.

On shakier ground is Jujamcyn’s presentation of the Stuart Ostrow-Andrew Lloyd Webber-produced comedy “La Bete,” which began a pre-Broadway run in Boston last month to sluggish b.o.

Jujamcyn is rounding out its spring line with another comedy, “I Hate Hamlet,” set for the Walter Kerr Theater in March, and a musical, “The Secret Garden,” which previews April 5 at the St. James. “Garden” will replace “Gypsy” after 476 performances, and “Hamlet” takes over for the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Piano Lesson,” closing Jan. 27 after 327 perfs.

At the Nederlander Organization, “Fiddler On The Roof has helped offset the flop of David Merrick’s “Oh, Kay!” while “Jackie Mason: Brand New” and the limited-run “Peter Pan” have done solid biz. “Shogun” is so-so.

The rest of Nederlander’s season includes “Our Country’s Good,” previewing at the Nederlander Theater Feb. 4; “Yonkers,” previewing at the Richard Rodgers Feb. 12; and “Will Rogers At The Ziegfeld Follies,” a tuner opening the company’s refurbished Palace Theater March 25. “Lughnasa,” a production of Dublin’s Abbey Theater, is set for late March previews at an undetermined Nederlander house.

Although the Shubert Organization has only three shows set for winter/spring openings, the company lays claim to the record-setting “Miss Saigon.” With casting disputes resolved and advance sales approaching $35 million, the Cameron Mackintosh-produced musical will open April 11 at the Broadway Theater.

“Mule Bone,” a comedy with music, by Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, will begin a month of previews at the Shubert’s Ethel Barrymore Theater Jan. 15. “The Speed Of Darkness” previews Feb. 18 at the company’s Belasco Theater. With “A Few Good Men” departing the Music Box Jan. 26, “Darkness” will be the Shubert’s only drama.

Wild card is “Oh, Kay!” which Merrick says he intends to bring back to Broadway in April after limited runs out of town. Sources say Merrick hopes to land a name to star in the production to avoid a repeat of the dismal 77-performance run at the Rodgers.

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