News Column

A Broadway Mini Summer Season

June 23, 2013


Based partly on the notion that not many people are paying attention this time of year, Broadway shows rarely open in summer.

This season, though, four productions, all of modest size, are taking advantage of the availability of theaters and going for it.

With summer theater attendance dominated by tourists, several of the shows are clearly aiming at that broad market.

Sensuous tango dancing has always had a theatrical appeal, and the revue "Forever Tango," which explores the varieties of the Argentine dance, is back for the third time, having debuted on Broadway in 1997 and previously returned in 2004.

To spice up this production, the featured dancers for the first three weeks will be two of the best-known pros on "Dancing With the Stars," Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who lives in Edgewater, and Karina Smirnoff.

The show begins previews July 9 and opens July 14 at the Walter Kerr Theatre, for a run scheduled through Sept. 15. Chmerkovskiy and Smirnoff will appear through July 28.

Another perennially popular Broadway attraction is the Beatles tribute show, going back to "Beatlemania" in 1977 and including, most recently, 2010's "Rain."

The newest will be "Let It Be," which has been running in London's West End since last fall (under the direction of Joey Curatolo, who played the fake Paul in "Rain").

The template is followed, with four musicians portraying the band members and playing their songs, while Beatles-era film footage is projected on screens. The show begins previews July 16 at the St. James Theatre and opens July 24. The run is scheduled through Dec. 29.

Another kind of 1960s music will be featured in "Soul Doctor," a musical biography of Shlomo Carlebach, an Orthodox rabbi who became a popular singer-songwriter, known for infusing traditional Jewish songs with folk and soul. One of his influences was jazz singer Nina Simone.

The show, which was written by Daniel S. Wise, had a short off- Broadway run a year ago. It stars Eric Anderson as Carlebach and Amber Iman as Simone.

Previews at the Circle in the Square begin July 17, with an Aug. 15 opening.

The most traditional of the new shows, and perhaps the chanciest, is "First Date," an intimate new musical about a couple on a blind date.

It'll need to find an audience without a major name attached, or other kind of hook. The couple will be played by Zachary Levi, who had the title role in the TV series "Chuck," and Krysta Rodriguez, who appeared on Broadway in "The Addams Family."

The show's creators, Austin Winsberg, Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, are all Broadway first-timers.

The show begins previews July 9 for an Aug. 8 opening at the Longacre Theatre.

From the perspective of theater owners, the four new productions are welcome, gap-filling tenants.

For many years, it was tough for shows to find a playing space on Broadway. Productions would circle in a holding pattern, ready to swoop in when a theater became available.

But there was an increase in theater vacancies last season, for several reasons, including a large number of fast-closing flops and the growing trend for plays to come in for limited runs of three months or so.

Before booking "Forever Tango," the Walter Kerr, a highly desirable theater, would have been vacant until mid-November, when the musical "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" is scheduled to begin previews.

The prestigious St. James, which is housing "Let It Be," has booked "Bullets Over Broadway," a musical based on the Woody Allen movie, but that isn't due to arrive until April.

The Longacre, which will be home to "First Date," has suffered through a run of fast failures, the last being "The Performers," which closed in less than a week last November.

Finally, Circle in the Square, which will host "Soul Doctor," hadn't had a show since "Godspell" closed a year ago. With its oblong playing space, surrounded by the audience on three sides, it's not ideal for all shows.

What all of this means for audiences is some fresh pickings this summer.

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.

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