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Movies dominate stage for upcoming Broadway season

SHARE Movies dominate stage for upcoming Broadway season

NEW YORK — There was a time when Hollywood turned to Broadway for movie ideas, transforming such shows as "Chicago," ''The Sound of Music" and "Amadeus" into box-office gold and Oscar winners.

These days, theater producers look to the film community for juicy stage projects, turning movies like "Billy Elliot," ''The Producers" and "Hairspray" into Tony winners.

The new Broadway season is no exception. Among shows opening this fall are "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," based on the comic book and movie franchise; "Elf: The Musical," inspired by the outrageous Will Ferrell comedy; and Pedro Almodovar's 1988 film farce, "Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown."

Meanwhile, "Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical," adapted from the 1994 road movie about drag queens and a transsexual and their cabaret act, opens for a pre-Broadway run in Toronto on Oct. 26. It was first adapted for the stage in 2006 for a run in Sydney, and most recently had a successful turn on London's West End.

Many eyes, though, are on the $50 million-plus "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," which was in the works for six years and long hung in limbo as it jumped financial hurdles. Based on the Marvel comic book hero, "Spider-Man" features music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge, with a book by its director, Julie Taymor, and Glen Berger.

U2's Bono and The Edge are cutting their teeth writing show tunes. The jump may not be so far, given the appeal of the hit series "Glee" and its occasional ability to transform rock anthems into show music. So it's not hard to believe that the Irish rockers can retrofit their stadium-oriented rock into the more intimate musical theater.

The big budget musical extravaganza boasts one of the highest budgets in Broadway history and bursts with producers that include Marvel Entertainment and Sony Entertainment. Above the pack is lead producer Michael Cohl.

The cast once included Evan Rachel Wood, known as both Queen Sophie-Anne Leclerq on TV's "True Blood," and the on-again, off-again girlfriend of Marilyn Manson. Alan Cumming was slated at the villainous Green Goblin, but has been replaced by Patrick Page, the namesake of the Broadway version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

"Spider-Man" opens in the newly named Foxwoods Theatre. Perhaps the name change for the cavernous venue will bring a change of fortune, because until this year, the Hilton Theatre, as it was previously called, had been a place where shows went to die. "Young Frankenstein" played for a lackluster 485 performances, while other shows became more immediate casualties. "The Pirate Queen" (85 performances) and "Hot Feet" (97 performances) barely hit their stride. Interestingly, the theater's earlier moniker, the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, saw a successful revival of "42nd Street" that ran for 1,524 performances.

"Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark" begins previews on Nov. 14, and will open on Dec. 21.

"Elf: The Musical" begins previews Nov. 2 at the Al Hirschfeld Theater, opening Nov. 10 in time for the holiday season. Based on the 2003 comedy, the musical tells the story of Buddy, a human raised as an elf at the North Pole. Madness ensues after he is sent to New York to live with his biological father. After getting used his new world, the giant elf goes on a mission to save Christmas.

The musical stars George Wendt ("Cheers") as Santa Claus. Tony winner Beth Leavel co-stars and is reunited with her "Drowsy Chaperone" counterpart, Bob Martin, who wrote the book with Thomas Meehan ("Hairspray," ''Young Frankenstein"). Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin ("The Wedding Singer") supply the music.

Even foreign films aren't outside the realm of what producers will adapt these days for the stage. "Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown" tells the story of a soap opera actress, her philandering boyfriend and the people who come in and out of her life. In some ways, it's like "Sex and the City," though with less sex and a different city. (Is "Sex and the City The Musical" not far behind?)

The cast includes Tony winners Patti LuPone, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Laura Benanti, as well as Tony nominees Danny Burstein and Sherie Rene Scott.

"Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown" begins previews Oct. 2 at the Belasco Theater, and will open Nov. 4.

The classic Pee-wee Herman TV show, "Pee-wee's Playhouse," was based on the film, "Pee-wee's Big Adventure." Now "The Pee-wee Herman Show" will have a limited run at the Stephen Sondheim Theater, opening Nov. 11.

And, as in previous seasons, Broadway welcomes a bevy of stars that include: James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave ("Driving Miss Daisy"); Laura Linney and Christina Ricci ("Time Stands Still"); Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight ("A Life in the Theatre"); Cherry Jones ("Mrs. Warren's Profession"); David Hyde Pierce ("La Bete"); and Jeffrey Wright and Mos Def ("A Free Man of Color").

The season will also see the last collaboration of musical theater greats John Kander and Fred Ebb ("Chicago," ''Cabaret"): "The Scottsboro Boys," the real-life, staggering story of nine young black men accused of raping two white women in Alabama in the early 1930s and their tale of justice repeatedly delayed and denied. The show played off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre, winning good reviews and a Drama Desk prize for Kander and Ebb.

The score for "The Scottsboro Boys," which opens Oct. 31 at the Lyceum Theatre, was written before Ebb died in 2004.

One of the most talked-about plays for the new season is the Broadway premiere of "Driving Miss Daisy," starring Tony winners Redgrave and Jones. Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning play ran off-Broadway in 1987 before becoming an Oscar-winning movie starring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman.

"Driving Miss Daisy" begins previews Oct. 7 at the Golden Theater, and will open on Oct. 25.

Other plays include the Roundabout Theatre Company's "Mrs. Warren's Profession," starring Cherry Jones in the George Bernard Shaw work about a mother who makes a bad sacrifice for her daughter. It opens Oct. 3 at American Airlines Theatre.

The Roundabout also will present the Kneehigh Theatre's production of Noel Coward's "Brief Encounter," which was sold out in its off-Broadway run at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, opening at Studio 54 on Sept. 28; and Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," starring Brian Bedford, which debuts at the American Airlines Theatre on Dec. 20.

John Guare is debuting his new play, "A Free Man of Color," at the Vivian Beaumont Theater on Nov. 18. Set in 1801 New Orleans, Jeffrey Wright stars as a Lothario.

Discussion of art return to Broadway with David Mamet's latest, "A Life in the Theatre," opening Oct. 12 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, and "The Pitmen Painters," with an opening Sept. 30 at Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.

Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight ("Grey's Anatomy") star in the Mamet tale about two actors in a repertory company, while "The Pitmen Painters" concerns itself with a group of miners who become celebrated painters.