Tony Race Warms B’way Winter

Love takes many forms, especially on Broadway. Three examples:

Producers of a revival of Jean Cocteau’s “Les Parents Terribles,” coming in from London, were made nervous by the French title. They mulled many English variations for the play, including “Liars and Lovers,” “Intimate Relations” and the not very loving “Parents From Hell.”

And the absolute, final winner?

You read it here first: “Indiscretions,” which has been the working title for several weeks and has now been made official.

Love figured in two other titles as well. After a year’s delay to accommodate a director and star, Alexandra Gersten’s “My Thing of Love” – starring “Roseanne” and Steppenwolf regular Laurie Metcalf and staged by Chicago miracle man Michael Maggio – looks to be the last show of the Broadway season.

The play, to be mounted under the aegis of the lower-costs Broadway Alliance, thought it had booked the Walter Kerr Theater. But that Jujamcyn house went instead to the Manhattan Theater Club production of Terrence McNally’s “Love! Valour! Compassion!” – sending “Thing” producers Fran and Barry Weissler scrambling. Happily, they’ve found another Alliance-eligible theater in the Nederlander Organization’s namesake house (the Nederlander was home to the very first Alliance production, “Our Country’s Good,” back in 1991).

In fact, another Nederlander house, the Lunt-Fontanne, is currently the only one of Broadway’s 35 Tony-eligible theaters to lack a booking for the spring.

And, as usual, most of the back-ups have back-ups, as well. Of the 20 shows slated to open between now and May 3, nine are new plays, at least by Tony standards; seven are play revivals, most with limited runs. Count two new musicals and two musical revivals; you can make the total 21 if you include the Feb. 28 return of “Damn Yankees” with Jerry Lewis in his (non-Tony-eligible) Broadway debut.

And Metcalf and Lewis are far from the only stars slated to cross the footlights this spring.

Broadway’s dramatis personae will also include, in no particular order, Matthew Broderick, Carol Burnett, Kathleen Turner, Blair Brown, Helen Mirren, Nathan Lane, Donal Donnelly, Mary Alice, Gloria Foster, Ralph Fiennes, Tom Courtenay, Amanda Donohoe, Eileen Atkins, Zoe Caldwell, Brian Bedford, Victor Garber, Philip Bosco, Brian Dennehy, Dana Delany and Penelope Ann Miller.

There will undoubtedly be more juggling as the season gets underway. But here’s how things are shaking out, in order of when the shows are scheduled to begin previews.

* January: Two early contenders are up and running. McNally’s “Love! Valour! Compassion” is already being touted as the play to beat for this year’s Pulitzer Prize for drama; it’s begun previews at the Walter Kerr with only one cast change from its fall premiere at the Manhattan Theater Club, with Anthony Heald replacing Stephen Spinella. Opening date is Valentine’s Day. By the end of the season, McNally should be getting royalty checks from three Broadway shows – “LVC,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and the upcoming “Master Class.”

Also now playing previews is the Roundabout’s Moliere double bill, “The School for Husbands” and “The Imaginary Cuckold,” both starring Bedford. Opening date at the Criterion Center is Feb. 2.

* February: Courtenay and Donohoe should start bringing audiences back to Circle in the Square when they begin performances of “Uncle Vanya” Feb. 4 at the venerable theater, with an opening on the 23rd. Fans of the classic rock songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller will get theirs with “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” which gets underway at the Virginia on Feb. 2 and opens March 2.

Lincoln Center Theater has booked the Cort Theater for its revival of “The Heiress,” Ruth and Augustus Goetz’s 1947 adaptation of Henry James’ novel “Washington Square,” with previews beginning Feb. 9 and an opening a month later. The original, at the Biltmore, featured a cast that included Wendy Hiller and Basil Rathbone, and was staged by Jed Harris. Bosco, Cherry Jones and Patricia Conolly head the current cast, under Gerald Gutierrez’s direction.

* March: This is where things start really heating up. On the first, Rob Becker brings his popular one-man show about the battle of the sexes, “Defending the Caveman,” to the Helen Hayes, opening the 26th. On the 2nd, Tom Stoppard’s London triumph, “Arcadia,” begins performances at the Vivian Beaumont under Trevor Nunn’s direction, with a March 30 opening.

One of the season’s big musical revivals, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” will bring both Des McAnuff (“Tommy”) and Matthew Broderick back to Broadway, at the Richard Rodgers beginning on the 6th and opening on the 23rd. Brian Friel’s “Translations” had a wonderful American premiere at the Manhattan Theater Club in 1981, with a cast that included Daniel Gerroll and Ellen Parker. But it’s never been seen on Broadway, so it’s a new show. The cast features Brian Dennehy, Dana Delany, Rufus Sewell and Donal Donnelly, and the show begins performances at the Plymouth on March 7, opening on the 19th.

Gloria Foster and Mary Alice star in “Having Our Say,” Emily Mann’s play about the Delaney sisters, authors of the bestselling book “Having Our Say: The Delaney Sisters’ First 100 Years,” which begins on the 16th at the Booth and opens April 6. The National Actors Theater will begin and end its season with the Goodspeed Opera House revival of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” previewing from March 28 at the Lyceum and opening April 10.

Two more British revivals follow that: The Roundabout imports Helen Mirren for Turgenev’s “A Month in the Country” beginning March 29, while Sir Peter Hall’s production of Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband” takes over the Longacre sometime that month.

* April: The last lap. “My Thing of Love” begins at the Nederlander on the 7th, with a May 3 opening. A $2.5 million staging of “On the Waterfront” that promises spectacle is slated to begin performances at the Brooks Atkinson on the 10th, with a May 1 opening date reserved. Ralph Fiennes heads the Almeida Theater Company production of “Hamlet,” which comes into the Belasco for a limited run beginning on the 14th and opening May 2. “Indiscretions,” with Kathleen Turner and Eileen Atkins, begins at the Ethel Barrymore on the 18th and opens on the 27th. A new folk musical, “Shlemiel the First,” begins at the Neil Simon on the 21st, also opening on the 27th, an indiscretion if ever there was one.

Two other shows are slated for April: Ken Ludwig’s “Moon Over Buffalo,” which sounds a little like “Noises Off,” brings Carol Burnett back to Broadway and is slated to open at the Martin Beck on the 30th. And McNally’s “Master Class,” in which Zoe Caldwell stars as Maria Callas, has booked the Ambassador, following its premiere in Philadelphia.

Also waiting in the wings: Tommy Tune’s “Busker Alley,” which will tour before opening in October at the St. James, and James Freydberg’s $10 million gamble on a musical version of “Big,” staged by the sizzling hot team of Mike Ockrent and Susan Stroman, who also hope for an October opening. As does Carol Channing in her revival of “Hello, Dolly!”

These are only the plans, of course, and plans are subject to change. Actually, on Broadway, they’re subject to dollars, and plenty of them. Stay tuned.

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