Theater District Attracts Commercial Off Broadway Runs This Fall

'Becoming Dr. Ruth' and 'Great Comet' migrate to the Broadway box

Commercial Off Broadway productions are falling into place for theater-district runs this fall, with Dr. Ruth bio “Becoming Dr. Ruth” locked in for a run at the Westside Theater and downtown buzzmagnet “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” set to move uptown.

A solo outing starring Debra Jo Rupp (“That ’70s Show”), “Becoming Dr. Ruth” originally bowed at Massachusetts’ Barrington Stage Company prior to a well-reviewed run at TheaterWorks in Hartford, Conn. Original helmer Julianne Boyd, a.d. of Barrington Stage, returns to direct.

The play chronicles the life of sex therapist and media personality Dr. Ruth Westheimer, stretching from a childhood in Nazi-dominated Germany to Jerusalem to the States. Formerly titled “Dr. Ruth, All the Way,” the play is penned by Mark St. Germain, whose recent outing “Freud’s Last Session” carved out a lengthy life Off Broadway.

Produced by Michael Alden, Stefany Bergson and Rodger Hess, the show had staked out a fall run that begins previews Oct. 11 prior to an Oct. 29 opening and runs through Jan. 12. Unlike downtown Off Broadway venues, the two-stage Westside Theter has the advantage of being located in the theater district, where it can benefit from Times Square tourist traffic. “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” ran there for 12 years; more recently, “My Name Is Asher Lev” just wrapped up a 10-month run and “Old Jews Telling Jokes” will soon shutter after more than a year.

“Great Comet,” Dave Malloy’s electropop opera based on part of “War and Peace,” also is giving the theater district a try, moving its custom-built cabaret and performance space from its summer home in the Meatpacking District to a lot on West 45th St. Whereas over the summer the environmentally staged show, where food and drink is served, aimed to attract Meatpacking nightlife revelers, in the theater district the well-reviewed production can aim to pick up legit avids and other tourist biz.

Producers Howard and Janet Kagan are also tweaking the revenue model a bit, reducing the meal options to smaller plates but still maintaining the bar service.

“Great Comet” has lined up a 14-week run starting Sept. 24.

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