It’s official: Broadway is now but the final way station on the pop-culture franchise express. With the commercial success of such recent film-to-stage transmutations as The Lion King and Saturday Night Fever, theatrical producers, battling escalating budgets, are increasingly looking to audience-tested vehicles as foolproof investments. Among the fall crop of topflight dramas (David Auburn’s Proof, a revival of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal) and comedies (Charles Busch’s The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, Jane Wagner’s The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, starring Lily Tomlin), the new season offers three such synergistic hopefuls: a singing-and-dancing version of a movie about male strippers, the latest incarnation of a cross-dressing Me Generation cult object, and (how’s this for perverse?) a paean to a classic kids’ author. The buzz varies — The Full Monty smells like a critic-proof hit, The Rocky Horror Show sounds like solid high camp, and Seussical may yet overcome its plague of grinches.
Opening date: Nov. 30
The critics in Boston have turned up their noses/The costumes are redesigned down to their toeses/There’s rumors the star’s not a happy-chap-chapper/The whole ”Lorax” number’s been thrown in the crapper/A play doctor’s coming, the Internet’s humming/And somewhere in heaven Ted Geisel is bumming/The sets that we started with have been dismembered/You mind if we push the thing off ’til December?
Every theatrical season has its troubled child — a production so fraught with overhauls, so rife with second-guessing, so dogged by gossip backstage, in the press, and now on websites like Broadway.com and Talkinbroadway.com that the responsible parties can barely hear themselves think. ”Doesn’t anyone have anything else to write about?” gripes actor Kevin Chamberlin (Dirty Blonde), who’s playing Horton the Elephant in the $10 million musical adaptation of several beloved works by Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss. Sure we do, but when a show switches its child actors and cans its original costume designer and brings in another director (Cabaret‘s Rob Marshall) as a ”fresh pair of eyes” and delays the opening by almost a month, it’s awfully hard not to notice. Still, any musical from Ragtime tunesmiths Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty sounds worthy, and artful clown David Shiner should be a treat even if his featured role as The Cat in the Hat has reportedly been whittled down. Promises Chamberlin, ”The final product is going to be so kick-ass.” Not how the good Doctor might have put it, but here’s hoping.
THE FULL MONTY
Opening date: Oct. 26
Somebody alert Mayor Giuliani — male strippers have returned to Times Square.
Actually, Rudy might approve: Like the Disneyfied Big Apple, the Broadway Full Monty wants to retool Sin City into fun for the whole family. Based on the smash 1997 British film, the $7 million Monty exchanges the unemployed steelworkers of the original with disenfranchised factory hands in Buffalo — and replaces Flashdance with Michael Jordan as the men’s source of boogie-down inspiration. Add an ingratiating cast, a book by respected playwright Terrence McNally (Master Class), a crowd-pleasing score by singer-songwriter David Yazbek — and, oh yeah, six naked men — and prospects look good for a long run.