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Jersey theaters tap top names, new plays

Paper Mill's season to include 'Anything Goes,' 'Victor/Victoria'

New plays by Arthur Laurents, A.R. Gurney and Athol Fugard are among the highlights of the upcoming season at New Jersey’s major theaters. There will be revivals of musicals featuring the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter and Jule Styne, and a new entry from the team of Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts (“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”).

Paper Mill Playhouse kicks off its 63rd season with Porter’s shipboard musical comedy “Anything Goes” (Sept. 6-Oct. 15), starring two-time Tony winner Chita Rivera as the irrepressible Reno Sweeney. Lee Roy Reems helms the production, with George Dvorsky and Bruce Adler in support as the elusive stowaways.

Reems in revival

Reems later stars in the first major area revival of “Victor/Victoria,” also at the Paper Mill, and helmed by the theater’s new associate artistic director, Mark S. Hoebee (Nov. 1-Dec. 10).

The new year at the Paper Mill will bring the Jersey premiere of Yasmina Reza’s “Art” (Jan. 3-Feb. 4), followed by a revival of “Funny Girl” (April 4-May 20). No lead has been announced for the Jule Styne-Bob Merrill 1964 musical bio of Fanny Brice.

Season closer will be the R&H classic “Carousel” (May 30-July 15). It is rumored that Brandon Jovanovich and Christiane Noll, romantically paired in last season’s revival of “The Student Prince,” will be reunited. A final slot in the season is unannounced; “Twigs” and Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes” are among the plays considered for the spot.

Princeton’s McCarter Theater bows with “The Odyssey” (Sept. 12-Oct. 1), adapted from Homer and directed by Mary Zimmerman from Robert Fitzgerald’s translation. On the way back to Broadway, Lily Tomlin reprises her 1986 solo turn in “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,” written and directed by Jane Wagner (Oct. 17-Nov. 5).

‘Scandal’ planned

Mark Lamos is set to stage Sheridan’s “The School for Scandal” (Feb. 13-March 4), while artistic director Emily Mann, currently on a yearlong sabbatical, will return to stage a revival March 27-April 15.

The season finale will be the world premiere of “Sorrow and Rejoicings,” written and directed by Fugard (May 1-20). The production will mark Fugard’s fourth turn at the McCarter. The new play concerns a biracial love story after the fall of apartheid in South Africa.

The Jersey premiere of Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Wit” opens the season at New Brunswick’s George Street Playhouse (Oct. 14-Nov. 12). That’s followed by a new musical, “The Spitfire Grill,” based on the 1994 film. Artistic director David Saint directs the tuner, with book, music and lyrics by James Valcq and Fred Alley (Nov. 25-Dec. 24). Saint will also direct a new Gurney play, “Human Events,” set in New England’s hallowed halls of academia (Jan. 6-Feb. 4.).

Playwright-director Arthur Laurents returns to New Brunswick, where will stage the U.S. premiere of “Valencia,” which he adapted from a play by Argentine playwright Jorge Accarne (Feb. 10-March 11). Laurent’s “Jolson Sings Again” made its East Coast bow in 1998 at George Street, and his revised book for “Do I Hear a Waltz?” debuted there last season.

Laurents will extend his stay at George Street for the world preem of his new play, “Claudio Lazlo” (April 21-May 20), the backstage story of a temperamental opera star. Saint again sits in the director’s chair.

George Street’s new associate artistic director, Ethan McSweeny — who is currently staging the Broadway revival of Gore Vidal’s “The Best Man” — will direct a yet-to-be-announced play for a spring opening.

American Stage Co. will revive “Forever Plaid,” the nostalgic revue that the company preemed in 1988 (Oct. 5-22). Also highlighting the season is “Men,” the East Coast premiere of a new musical by DiPietro and Roberts (Nov. 16-Dec. 10).

From ‘Jekyll’ to ‘Antony’

“Jekyll & Hyde” star Robert Cuccioli trades a cape for a toga for his Bard debut in “Antony and Cleopatra” at the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival. Fest artistic director Bonnie J. Monte will stage the historical tragedy (Sept. 6-30). Also in the season are “The Merchant of Venice” and Maurice Maeterlinck’s storybook fantasy, “The Bluebird.”

The adventurous Playwrights Theater of New Jersey in Madison, dedicated to the nurturing of new writers and plays, offers a rare musical turn with “Dance With Me,” an evening of songs inspired by the compositions of John and Johanna Hall and Jonell Mosser.

The revue will include new songs, in addition to the team’s notable chart hits of the ’70s and ’80s (Nov. 30-Dec. 17). And a new drama focusing on high school violence, “Criminal Acts,” by Kim Merrill, premieres on Feb. 1 for a two-week stand.

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