The stars are shining. Although the recent crop of New York theater openings has proved to be pretty lackluster overall, audiences are being compensated in that lots of big names from the worlds of film, television, and theater are now appearing on our stages.
The presence of these stars is thrilling to their fans, even if some of their vehicles leave much to be desired — for example, matinee idol crooner Harry Connick, Jr. in a messy revisal of the 1965 musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever; Alan Rickman (best known as Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films) in Seminar, an unsatisfying new play by Theresa Rebeck; and Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett in Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop, a sophomoric misfire about the last few hours in the life of Martin Luther King.
Hugh Jackman had a smarter idea: Rather than follow up his Broadway triumphs in The Boy From Oz and A Steady Rain with a turn in an ill-chosen revival or a less than worthy new play or musical, the star best known as Wolverine in the X-Men film franchise returned to the Great White Way in a concert show built around the great talent he displays as a song-and-dance man. Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway (at the Broadhurst) has proven to be the biggest hit of the season thus far. You still have a chance to catch the crowd pleasing Mr. J. before he ends his 10-week run on January 1.
Over at the Barrymore, there’s another concert show — this one starring Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, two major Broadway names who have also had some success in film and television. Kim Cattrall (a.k.a. Sex and the City‘s Samantha) is giving an excellent performance as Amanda in a strong revival of Private Lives at the Music Box; sadly, the show never caught fire at the box office and is closing earlier than scheduled, on December 31. Relatively Speaking, an evening of three one-acts by Woody Allen, Elaine May, and Ethan Coen at the Brooks Atkinson, is (to paraphrase Professor Marvel in The Wizard of Oz) a very mediocre commodity, but its cast boasts such rarely-seen-on-stage stars as Marlo Thomas, Steve Guttenberg, and Julie Kavner.
Elsewhere, Stockard Channing, Judith Light, and Rachel Griffiths headline a far more edifying evening of theater, Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities; Hunter Parrish, the young hottie from TV’s Weeds, plays Jesus in the high-energy revival of Godspell at Circle in the Square; and the company of the latest revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies includes not only Bernadette Peters but also Elaine Paige, one of London’s greatest musical theater stars, in only her second Broadway sojourn.
Manhattan Theatre Club’s Broadway presentation of Venus in Fur has garnered much attention for the tour-de-force performance of newcomer Nina Arianda in the title role, and the show also gives us up-and-coming film and theater star Hugh Dancy as the other half of the enigmatic pair that make up the entire cast of this intriguing two-hander. Meanwhile, David Hyde Pierce, who has been continually active in theater ever since Frasier went off the air, is appearing alongside Rosie Perez in MTC’s Off-Broadway production of Close-Up Space, a new play by Molly Smith Metzler. Also Off-Broadway, the Classic Stage Company staging of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard fields a lineup of actors that includes Dianne Wiest and John Turturro in the leads, as well as Michael Urie (Ugly Betty) and Daniel Davis (The Nanny) in other roles.
So, there you have it. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few notables in this list of stars now treading the boards in NYC, and I’m not even counting the fabulous folks who are appearing in the city’s cabarets and clubs. Check your calendars, buy some tickets, and give yourself and your loved ones a star or two for the holidays.