By Ellis Nasour
Though all the season’s headliners haven’t been announced, look at the star power coming in: Two-time Tony and three-time DD-winner John Lithgow, making his frequent transition from screen to stage roles, this season co-starring at Second Stage in Douglas Carter Beane’s Mr. and Mrs. Fitch; Two-time Oscar-winner Denzel Washington, returning five years after his Brutus in Julius Caesar, in the Fences revival; and Kelsey Grammar is back after 10 years and roles in Shakespeare classics for a total change of pace as Georges in the La Cage revival.
Joining them are Vanessa Williams, Sondheim on Sondheim; Oscar nom Abigail Breslin, above the title in The Miracle Worker revival; Valerie Harper, absent almost 10 years, as over-the-top Tallulah Bankhead in Looped.; and the multi-talented Megan Mullally will co-star in Roundabout’s Lips Together, Teeth Apart revival, with Lili Taylor, who returns to theater after 13 years apart. Let’s not forget Hugh Dancy upcominging in Pride; and Michael Urie [Ugly Betty] returning in The Temperamentals.
In addition to the long list of revivals, there’re new works, such as former hoofer Christopher Walken returning to his stage roots in Martin McDonagh’s black comedy A Beheading in Spokane, playing a man searching for his hand; and he’ll b e joined by Anthony Mackie [The Hurt Locker]. In the revival of Noel Coward’s Present Laughter, Victor Garber, after transitioning from stage to film to TV [co-starring or with recurring roles in seven series, including ABC’s smash Alias], headlines.
There’ll be the revival of Lend Me a Tenor , fully- loaded with star power: Tony Shalhoub [back after 18 years], [his wife] Brooke Adams [absent since the late 80s], Justin Bartha [from The Hangover]. Directing is Oscar nominee and Golden Globe/Emmy winner Stanley Tucci, absent from the NY stage for almost eight years.
But there’s already megawatt star power on the boards: Oscar-winner [as Velma in the screen adaptation of Chicago] Catharine Zeta-Jones, in her Broadway debut in the Little Night Music revival; and Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johansson, making her Bway debut in the role of Beatrice, in the revival of Arthur Miller’s sizzling noir View from the Bridge .
Stage vets Meryl Streep, Stockard Channing, Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Richard Thomas, Swoosie Kurtz, and Kristin Chenoweth rode the early wave from East Coast to West Coast, with frequent or occasional trips back East. Thomas is back on Broadway in David Mamet’s Race, with James Spader and Kerry Washington, making their Bway debuts. Chenoweth will join Sean Hayes in the revival of Promises, Promises.
Among the stars who made the leap from stage to screen, and whom we may not be seeing here for a while, are: Cherry Jones, after coming up the Off Bway ranks to Tony and Drama Desk Awards, is now the first female president of the United States on Fox megahit 24; Michael Emerson from his acclaimed performance as Oscar Wilde Off Bway has become one of the best – or maybe just misunderstood – villains of all time, Ben Linus, on ABC smash Lost; and Matthew Morrison, from Light in the Piazza, and Lea Michelle, from Spring Awakening, are full of Glee on their new Fox hit.
Tony and DD-winner Tonya Pinkins made the transition to daytime TV with her role as attorney Livia Frye on All My Children, and more recently in a recurring role on 24. Patrick Wilson, who returned last season for All My Sons, made it known he wanted a film career and, since exposing himself to good effect in some hot hump sequences in Little Children, seems to be on a movie roll.
Numerous NY actors have established bulging retirement annuities for their guest roles in NBC’s Law & Order franchise; and, HBO’s Sex and the City.
Following Oscar winners Susan Saradon, away 37 years, and Geoffrey Rush, in his Bway debut, who co-starred last season in the Exit the King revival, among the screen names who came or returned to the stage were Hugh Jackman, in his second Bway outing, and Daniel Craig, making his Bway debut, in A Steady Rain; Jude Law as Hamlet; and John Stamos in Roundabout’s revival of Bye, Bye, Birdie after a gap of over six years following stepping into three revivals [Nine, Cabaret, How to Succeed…]. More recently, Kristen Johnson delivered a rollicking characterization Off Bway in the long-forgotten So Help Me God!
Last season also saw Jane Fonda, after 46 years, on Bway in Beethoven’s Ninth; Allison Janney, after almost seven years and stardom on and Emmys for TV’s West Wing, receiving a Tony nod and DD win for 9 to 5; and Daniel Radcliffe from Warner Bros. blockbuster fantasy franchise Harry Potter delivering a sizzling Bway debut in the Equus revival.