Fall Theater Preview: 10 Shows We're Dying to See

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Image Credit: Steve Granitz/WireImage.com

Let’s face it: There are a whole lot of new stage productions opening in New York City this fall. Some shows boast legendary veterans like Al Pacino (left) and Sigourney Weaver. Others promise young stars like Jessica Chastain and Jake Gyllenhaal. For still others, the title alone (a 50th anniversary revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, anyone?) may be the biggest draw. Here are the 10 that have us most eager to line up for tickets.

Annie
(Broadway) This tale of the world’s most optimistic orphan girl searching for a family is one of our greatest musicals. Its music is iconic (“It’s a Hard Knock Life,” “Tomorrow”), and the rags-to-riches story of its endearing protagonist (played by newcomer Lilla Crawford) has been warming hearts since it debuted in 1977 and won seven Tonys. In the hands of director James Lapine, who boasts three Tonys of his own, you can bet your bottom dollar it’ll be a hit. (Previews start Oct. 3; show opens Nov. 8)

A Christmas Story, the Musical
(Broadway) The original 1983 movie in which 9-year-old Ralphie desperately pursues a Red Ryder BB Gun is the holiday classic – it’s played nonstop on TV every Christmas season. This new show’s score is by the young composer/lyricist team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who recently made a stage musical of another film, the 1991 River Phoenix drama Dogfight. We can’t wait to see how they set the tongue-on-the-flagpole scene to music. (Previews start Nov. 5; show opens Nov. 19)

Dead Accounts
(Broadway) There’s no way we’d miss Katie Holmes’ return to Broadway in her first role since the TomKat split (and her first appearance on the Main Stem since her supporting role in a 2008 revival of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons). And playwright Theresa Rebeck, who had a strong run last season with the Alan Rickman-topped academic comedy Seminar, created NBC’s pulp-theater-romp TV series Smash. (Previews start Nov. 3; show opens Nov. 29)

Glengarry Glen Ross
(Broadway) Where to begin? (1) The original 1984 production about cutthroat Chicago real estate agents was a sensation that earned Joe Montegna a Tony as slick Ricky Roma. (2) Playwright David Mamet earned a Pulitzer Prize for the play, and he’s been nominated for two Oscars in screenwriting (for The Verdict and Wag the Dog). (3) The stars of the 1992 movie adaptation — Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, and Kevin Spacey—are perhaps the best ensemble of powerful, angry men ever put on screen (The Expendables 2 is a close second). (4) In this revival, Pacino plays sad-sack salesman Shelly Levene, and Bobby Canavale plays Roma (whom Pacino portrayed on film). (Previews start Oct. 16; show opens Nov. 11)

Grace
(Broadway) This dark comedy boasts Paul Rudd (I Love You, Man), Michael Shannon (who plays the obsessive, masochistic federal agent Nelson Van Alden on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire), and 82-year-old Edward Asner (who voiced the crotchety old man in 2009’s Up). (Previews start Sept. 13; show opens Oct. 4)

The Heiress
(Broadway) Jessica Chastain’s career took off last year with her roles in Tree of Life and The Help, and this winter’s highly touted Zero Dark Thirty is sure to bolster her reputation. The rising star makes her Broadway debut in a revival of the 1947 drama about a wealthy but plain young woman who’s wooed by a good-looking charmer (Dan Stevens, best known as Matthew Crowley from Downton Abbey) despite the objections of her stern father (Good Night, and Good Luck‘s David Strathairn). Based on Henry James’ novel Washington Square, the play was adapted into a classic 1949 movie that earned an Oscar for Olivia de Havilland in the title role. (Previews start Oct. 7; show opens Nov. 1)

If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet
(Off Broadway) Nick Payne’s comic drama is certainly topical: It’s about a 15-year-old girl (Annie Funke) who becomes the target of bullies. And, oh…Jake Gyllenhaal makes his New York stage debut as the girl’s uncle. (Previews start Aug. 24; show opens Sept. 20)

The Mystery of Edwin Drood
(Broadway) Two-time Tony winner Chita Rivera stars in a revival of 1985′s Best Musical, based on the final, unfinished novel by Charles Dickens that famously left the identity of its murderer unknown. Drood is one of the kookier musical productions, and it involves a hefty dose of audience participation. Theatergoers even vote on the identity of the killer each night. How’s that for a surprise ending? (Previews start Oct. 19; show opens Nov. 13)

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
(OffBroadway) Christopher Durang’s new play mixes up a host of characters and themes from the work of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. And who wouldn’t want to see Sigourney Weaver and Frasier’s David Hyde Pierce in what’s likely to be some strange, high-minded fun? (Previews start Oct. 25; show opens Nov. 12)

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
(Broadway) Edward Albee’s play about a drunk, emotionally explosive couple (Amy Morton and Tracy Letts) was made into an equally classic movie starring screen legends Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in 1966. This revival, first staged by Chicago’s famed Steppenwolf Theatre Company, opens exactly 50 years after the original Broadway debut. (Previews start Sept. 27; show opens Oct. 13)

Read more:
Neil Patrick Harris returns to killer Broadway show for one night only
Broadway box office: ‘Bring It On’ musical could use a bigger cheering section
This Week on Stage: ‘Bring It On’ waves its spirit stick on Broadway
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