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Leighton Meester to make Broadway debut in 'Of Mice and Men' with James Franco and Chris O'Dowd

Leighton Meester is going from the Upper East Side to the California country.

The former Gossip Girl starlet has joined the cast of the upcoming Broadway revival of Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck’s literary classic about migrant field workers who seek new prospects of success and the American dream during the Great Depression. Previously announced stars James Franco and Chris O’Dowd will also make their debuts as George and Lennie.

Meester will play Curley’s wife, the beauty-obsessed youth who tempts the duo while also incurring the jealous wrath of her hard-headed husband Curley. Additional casting for the roles of Curley and ranch hands Slim, Candy, and the Boss (among others) have not yet been announced.

Tony winner Anna D. Shapiro (August: Osage County) will take the reins and direct the production, the first on Broadway in 40 years. The play will bow on March 19 at the Longacre Theatre, with official opening night set for April 16. Move quickly though: This limited engagement is strictly ending on July 27.

'Spring Awakening': Lea Michele, Jonathan Groff, and original cast reunite -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

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It’s been seven whole years since the off-Broadway premiere of Spring Awakening, the youth-oriented musical that became a Tony-winning Broadway musical hit and introduced the world to such breakout stars as Lea Michele (Glee), Jonathan Groff (Frozen), and John Gallagher Jr. (The Newsroom).

Now, the Atlantic Theatre Company has reassembled the entire original cast to launch a new social-media campaign, ATC Uncovered, which aims to connect fans to the inner-workings of the off-Broadway company. In addition to the the exclusive video below, in which Michele and Groff recall the first performances of Spring Awakening in ATC’s tiny 199-seat theater, the program will include a live-stream Facebook Q&A event with the cast on Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. ET, hosted by original castmate Brian Charles Johnson.

“This is where our love blossomed,” Michele and Groff say of the reunion, captured in this exclusive video clip. It’s really an amazing thing to watch these twentysomethings rekindle their friendship. Watch below, and prepare to have your “Totally F—ed” memories come flooding back!
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'The Sound of Music': We rank every song

With a few exceptions, there are no bad songs in The Sound of Music. (Which exceptions? We’ll get to that.) But even though this musical contains what might be Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s most consistently hummable score, every number in it isn’t created equal.

So on the eve of NBC’s big live production — which airs Thursday at 8 p.m. ET — EW has taken the liberty of ranking every song that’s ever appeared in Music, including both the original Broadway production and the movie. We’re not talking about specific performances; we’re talking about the tunes themselves, and how they stack up when pitted against their musical brethren.

How did your most beloved tunes — your favorite things, if you will — fare? Finding out is much easier than making a romper out of a pair of curtains:
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A brief history of 'Turkey Lurkey Time,' the best turkey-related Broadway song you don’t know -- VIDEO

As Thanksgiving dinner looms, allow me to take you back into the Broadway vault with the legend of “Turkey Lurkey Time,” an unassuming dance number from a late ’60s musical that has reached iconic status in the musical theater world. Quite frankly, I can’t think of another song in the Broadway lexicon that co-exists with “Turkey Lurkey” in that unique space between wondrous and WTF.

The song is from a 1968 show called Promises, Promises — a musical adaptation of the 1960 classic The Apartment — which featured music by Burt Bacharach, lyrics by Hal David, and a book by Neil Simon. The show follows insurance salesman Chuck Baxter as he gets caught up in the corporate ladder by offering his bosses the use of his apartment for romantic trysts.

During the show’s out-of-town runs in New Haven, Connecticut, and Boston, the creators were having a hard time ending the first act; the show was already running long, and the creative team was stumped. Enter choreographer Michael Bennett, a rising star who had six Broadway credits but hadn’t yet shined (he would later go on to choreograph and direct A Chorus Line and Dreamgirls). Neil Simon equated him to an eager college football player begging the coach to be let in the game. The team gave him a chance, and so, inspired by West Side Story genius Jerome Robbins, Bennett and his assistant Bob Avian took Bacharach’s quickly written “Turkey Lurkey Time” and transformed it into a legend.

Behold, “Turkey Lurkey Time” as performed by the original cast on the 1968 Tony Awards:
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James Franco and Chris O'Dowd to make Broadway debuts in 'Of Mice and Men'

Hollywood golden boy James Franco and Irish comedian Chris O’Dowd will make their Broadway debuts this spring in a new revival of John Steinbeck’s literary classic Of Mice and Men.

Franco will star as George, a sharp-witted migrant field worker who dreams of a better life during the Great Depression. Bridesmaids breakout Chris O’Dowd will make his debut opposite Franco as the gentle, mentally disabled Lennie. Additional casting for the play’s other iconic roles (including Slim, Candy, Curley, and his wife) — as well as members of the design team — will be announced soon.

Tony-winning director Anna D. Shapiro (August: Osage County) is set to direct the play, which has not been seen on Broadway since a 1974 revival starring James Earl Jones. Steinbeck’s stage adaptation of his 1937 novel first premiered that same year at the Music Box Theatre.

Of Mice and Men will begin previews at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre on March 19, 2014. Opening night is slated for April 16, and the limited engagement is scheduled to end July 27.

Kristin Chenoweth, Glenn Close, Cynthia Nixon, and more put a 'Spotlight on Broadway' -- VIDEOS

If you’re an unmitigated, unapologetic theater geek like me, stepping into a Broadway theater isn’t merely a rite of passage, but a fully immersive religious experience. Having had much experience working inside many of the 40 spaces between 41st Street and 65th Street in Manhattan, you often get asked the question, “How old is this theater?” Now, thanks to the remarkable, painstakingly comprehensive new website Spotlight on Broadway, you can geek out as well by not only answering them, but explaining the entire architectural and production history of each and every one of the 40 theaters that currently occupy the Great White Way.

Spotlight on Broadway was launched this fall as a project of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, and if you are a Broadway Baby in any way, this will become as addictive to you as Candy Crush Saga in no time (except your brain will thank you). Among the many features on the website in addition to the concise five-minute mini-documentaries on each Main Stem theater are conversations with theater professionals (including very specific duties like Child Actor Guardian and Dance Captain), easy-to-use visual scrolls through theater facades and interior designs, dozens of photos of past and present productions featured throughout, and talent galore expounding on past projects, including Nathan Lane, Jeremy Irons, Laura Linney, David Hyde Pierce, Sutton Foster, Tony Kushner, and, of course, the dulcet tones of the one and only Harvey Fierstein.

Just to give you a taste of what to expect, here are two of the 40 featurettes on the Broadway houses, and after digesting these, get ready for some serious Broadway bingeing.

You can visit the official Spotlight on Broadway website here.

Click below to see Glenn Close, Cynthia Nixon, and more discuss the history of the Schoenfeld Theatre:
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Sutton Foster sets Broadway return in musical 'Violet'

Two-time Tony winner (and former Bunheads sweetheart) Sutton Foster is heading back to Broadway and re-teaming with Roundabout Theatre Company two years after she earned her second Best Actress in a Musical win for Roundabout’s 2011 revival of Anything Goes.

Foster will star in a new Broadway staging of Violet, directed by Leigh Silverman. The gospel/country/rock/R&B musical boasts a score by Jeanine Tesori and a book and lyrics by Brian Crawley. The show is based on Doris Betts’ short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim,” which tells the tale of a disfigured girl named Violet who follows an Oklahoma televangelist whom she believes can heal her. READ FULL STORY

'Six by Sondheim': Darren Criss, Jeremy Jordan, and America Ferrera sing 'Merrily We Roll Along' -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

Theater fans, Gleeks and Ugly Betty mourners (I’m all three), get ready to lose your minds!

On Dec. 9, HBO premieres Six by Sondheim, a brand-new documentary that profiles arguably the greatest composer in contemporary musical theater, Stephen Sondheim. Directed by frequent Sondheim collaborator James Lapine and produced by former Times theater critic Frank Rich, the doc takes a deep look at six of Sondheim’s greatest songs, deconstructed and defined by Sondheim himself. READ FULL STORY

Preview 'Natural Woman' and more from Broadway's new Carole King musical 'Beautiful' -- VIDEO

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You know what I’ve heard most about the new Broadway musical Beautiful? For all the great songs recorded by singer Carole King, there are dozens more that she wrote that you might not even have even known were hers. That will all change with the arrival of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, a long-in-the-works project that bounces its way onto Broadway this week with red-hot rising star Jessie Mueller in the title role as music icon King.

All of King’s iconic hits will spring to life on the Broadway stage in the show, which boasts a book by Douglas McGrath, direction by Marc Bruni and choreography by Josh Prince. It’s the infectious music that will get you buzzing, and EW’s got a sneak peek at several songs from the ‘60s tuner.

Below, get a hypnotic musical taste of what’s to come from the ever-stunning Mueller and the stacked cast, which includes Degrassi vet Jake Epstein, Anika Larsen, and Jarrod Spector. The clips include Mueller’s take on “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” (plus a version by The Shirelles), the title song “Beautiful,” and my personal karaoke classic, “Natural Woman.”
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'Spider-Man' musical runs out of web; Broadway show to close in January

After two smooth, drama-free years on Broadway, the massive musical Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark will play its final performance at the Foxwoods Theatre on January 4, 2014. And for what it’s worth, it lasted a whole lot longer than anyone expected it to.

But the Bono and the Edge-penned show (which has been the subject of SNL spoof, copious lawsuits, an off-Broadway musical parody, and a tell-all memoir, among other things) won’t be disappearing completely — a spokesman for the production says that the show’s “next destination” will be “the entertainment capital of the world: Las Vegas.” More details about Spidey’s Vegas run will be announced in the weeks to come. READ FULL STORY

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