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'Hedwig' (and Neil Patrick Harris) on Broadway: 6 things to expect

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Put on some makeup, turn up the eight-track, and pull the wig down from the shelf, because cult musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch is coming to Broadway for the very first time. But does a swanky new setting mean this version of the show will be kinder, gentler, and altogether less gritty?

In a word: nein. “I don’t want the Broadway version of Hedwig to be all jazz hands,” says star Neil Patrick Harris, who plays the musical’s titular gender-bending rocker. “It needs to be rough around the edges at all times.”

That said, Harris and his cohort — director Michael Mayer, book writer (and original star) John Cameron Mitchell, composer/lyricist Stephen Trask, and costar Lena Hall — have made a few necessary alterations to Hedwig as they prepare to mount the production, which begins previews March 29 and opens April 22. Here’s what fans and Hedwig virgins alike can expect to see from the show:

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Estelle Parsons on her Molotov-cocktail-tossing return to Broadway in 'The Velocity of Autumn' -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

Oscar winner and former Roseanne star Estelle Parsons will soon have another feisty leading role on Broadway. Beginning April 1 at the Booth Theatre (“a magical theater,” says the 86-year-old actress), Parsons will play her first full-fledged starring role on the Great White Way since her celebrated turn as Violet Weston in August: Osage County in 2008-09 (when she took over for Tony winner Deanna Dunagan). In Eric Coble’s dark comedy, The Velocity of Autumn, Parsons portrays a near-octogenerian named Alexandra who arms herself with Molotov cocktails to resist her eviction from her Brooklyn brownstone — only to have her estranged son (Stephen Spinella) climb through her window in an effort to make peace. READ FULL STORY

Report: Giant-size 'King Kong' musical will replace 'Spider-Man' on Broadway

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Out swings Spider-Man, and in swings a giant monkey puppet?

King Kong, a musical spectacle that premiered in June 2013 in Melbourne, Australia, will reportedly go ape on Broadway this December at the Foxwoods Theatre, where the big-budget Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark shuttered earlier this month, according to The New York Times. However, in a statement to EW, producers of King Kong said: “Plans for the Broadway production of King Kong are not confirmed at this time. We hope to have details about the future of the show shortly.”

It’s long been expected that Kong would follow Spidey into the Foxwoods, and the Times reports that producer Gerry Ryan of Global Creatures, the company behind King Kong and other puppet-heavy shows like Walking With DinosaursWar Horse, and How to Train Your Dragon, broke the news of the Broadway transfer himself on a Melbourne radio show last Friday.

After opening last summer, King Kong extended four times during the season at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre, where it will finally end its run on Feb. 16. The show boasts music by Marius de Vries, lyrics by Michael Mitnick, and a book by Craig Lucas, as well as additional songs by Sarah McLachlan, Justice, 3D, Guy Garvey, and The Avalanches and period standards like “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” and “Get Happy.” Despite Kong’s many adaptations over the years, the musical is based on the original 1933 film’s story by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace.

King Kong received relatively mixed reviews, though critics praised the show’s impressive special effects. The big draw here is the 20-foot-tall, 1.1-ton Kong puppet, built by creature designer Sonny Tilders of steel, aluminum, lycra, and latex. The giant creature is operated onstage by 10 circus artists, plus a crew of puppeteers working off stage. The Aussie production also includes a 50-member ensemble. See the puppet in action below:
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This Week on Stage: Debra Messing's Broadway debut and Christopher Plummer in L.A.

Two-time Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper announced this week (in an EW exclusive) that he’ll be returning to Broadway this fall to star in a revival of The Elephant Man opposite Patricia Clarkson and Alessandro Nivola. (Yes, it sounds like a stretch for People‘s former Sexiest Man Alive — especially since Bernard Pomerance’s play does not require any prosthetics for the title role.) The David Byrne-Fatboy Slim musical Here Lies Love, which made EW’s Top 10 list last year, will return to the Public Theater in March for an open-ended run. And there were a handful of notable openings on both coasts, including the Broadway debut of Will & Grace star Debra Messing. For full reviews, click on the links below.

Outside Mullingar The new romantic comedy by John Patrick Shanley (MoonstruckDoubt) stars Brían F. O’Byrne and Debra Messing as middle-aged loners living side by side on Irish farms but struggling to connect with each other. I found it to be a “sweet but peculiar” play that’s “wispier than the smoke from a peat bog.” How does Messing fare? “Though she seems ill at ease through the first half of the show, too aware of the audience and of the effort to keep up her accent, she settles in toward the end when she’s able to deploy her gifts for physical comedy.” EW grade: B

A Word or Two Christopher Plummer’s one-man show in L.A., first performed at the Stratford festival in his native Canada, is less a staged memoir than a reflection on life incorporating influential texts from Lewis Carroll to the Bard. As EW’s Jake Perlman writes, “His commanding stage presence makes you want to watch. But in A Word or Two, he also makes you want to listen.” EW grade: A

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner In a new stage adaptation of Alan Sillitoe’s 1959 short story at the Off Broadway Atlantic Theater Company, Sheldon Best plays a 17-year-old at a youth correctional facility who has a mixed response to his innate athletic skills. “While moving and at times inventive as a showcase for Best’s athletic charisma,” Stephan Lee writes, the play “doesn’t inject enough new energy into the tired tropes.” EW grade: B

Andrew Rannells, Jonathan Groff, Laura Benanti, and more star in Russia's fake Broadway musical -- VIDEO

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How does a community band together to protest Russia’s anti-gay legislation? A musical, of course.

Dozens of New York stage stars have produced a fake musical that finds Russia’s fictional Broadway community (“The Great Red Way,” as they say) staging a protest show in response to the Russian government stance on homosexual propaganda via theatrical performance. In the U.S., who better to satirize than a group of musical theater actors?

There’s a little something for everyone here: Jonathan Groff and Jeremy Jordan as two ill-fated Olympians, Laura Benanti and Stephanie J. Block as lesbian astronauts, Michael Cerveris as a soliloquizing Putin, and Michael Urie giving his best Chorus Line. Tons of Broadway performers and creatives lent their support to the hilarious fictional musical, directed by John Walton West and composed by Jason Michael Snow — the same guys who brought us last year’s Downton Abbey: The Musical.

But despite the comedy, there’s a real social message here, and the Broadway community (which has never shied away from using art as activism, à la the Prop 8 musical) is the perfect group to tackle the gravely important anti-gay issues that are at the forefront of the conversation as we enter the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Perhaps narrator Rannells (bringing the ushanka back) sums it up best: “If we can help bring joy, inspire, and call people on bullsh–, that’s a night of theater.”

Watch the clip below:
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Bradley Cooper to star in 'The Elephant Man' on Broadway this fall -- EXCLUSIVE

If you’ve ever had the burning desire to see one of the hottest film stars of the moment bray, “I am not an animal!” you’re in luck. Bradley Cooper, who just received his second Oscar nomination in as many years for his fussy, conflicted G-man in David O. Russell’s American Hustle, will be returning to Broadway after an eight-year absence, the actor’s reps tell EW. (His last appearance was opposite Julia Roberts and Paul Rudd in 2006′s Three Days of Rain, for which he got very good notices.)

The red-hot actor will headline a revival of Bernard Pomerance’s The Elephant Man, playing John Merrick, the severely deformed, soulful figure memorably embodied on film in David Lynch’s 1980 film version by John Hurt. The play, unlike the film, has the leading actor suggest deformity through physicality without the aid of makeup or prosthetics, so you’ll get to see Cooper in all his golden-boy glory, just like in the large pic right here, which highlights Mr. Cooper’s 2012 performance in the play at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. This marks the second Broadway revival of Pomerance’s Tony-winning play, after a 2002 production starring Billy Crudup and Kate Burton, who were both nominated for Tonys for their work.

No word yet on whether Patricia Clarkson (who played Mrs. Kendal, the actress who befriends Merrick) or Alessandro Nivola (who played Dr. Treves, and also happens to costar in Hustle with Cooper) will rejoin People‘s former Sexiest Man Alive for the Broadway run, but further details are promised at a later date.

This Week On Stage: Rebecca Hall and Frank Langella take on the classics

The winter chill may still be in the air but the theater season hasn’t cooled down too much; an extension has been granted for the Patrick Stewart/Ian McKellen Pinter-Beckett duo on the Great White Way, the Mark Rylance Shakespeare plays recently entered the top 10 weekly Broadway grossers (an astonishing feat for classic plays), Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh will take on Off Broadway’s Public Theater with a new play by frequent collaborator Scott Z. Burns to star Chloe Grace Moretz (Carrie), and lots more big stars are soon to be touching down.

Daniel Radcliffe will return to NYC to take on the lead role in Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan (for which he got rave reviews in London last year). The dream-team cast of The Realistic Joneses (Michael C. Hall, Toni Collette, Tracy Letts and Marisa Tomei) are definitely setting up camp this season, though curiously still have no theater (hmmm…). And some little birdies are chirping that megastar Hugh Jackman is eyeballing a Jez Butterworth play called The River as a return to Broadway in 2015 now that Houdini has vanished from the lineup. And this week marks an unusually busy week of openings for January, including the Broadway debut of rising British star Rebecca Hall, Frank Langella’s go to the Bard’s ultimate patriarch, and the auspicious breakthrough by one of our great new musical leading ladies (click on the links below to read the full reviews): READ FULL STORY

Daniel Radcliffe will return to Broadway in 'The Cripple of Inishmaan'

If you didn’t get a chance to see Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe in 2008′s Equus or the 2011 revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, you’ve got another opportunity to catch the Boy Who Acted on the Great White Way.

Radcliffe will star in the title role in a Broadway mounting of Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy The Cripple of Inishmaan, reprising his role from last year’s West End revival at the Noel Coward Theater. The entire cast from the Michael Grandage-directed revival will transfer to Broadway, where it will follow Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen’s double-header Waiting for Godot and No Man’s Land at the Cort Theater.

The Cripple of Inishmaan tells the story of a young handicapped boy from a small community off the coast of Ireland who dreams of Hollywood when a film crew arrives to make a documentary about a neighboring island. The cast includes Ingrid Craigie, Padraic Delaney, Sarah Greene, Gillian Hanna, Gary Lilburn, Conor MacNeill, Pat Shortt and June Watson.

The new production will run from April 12 through July 20, with opening night scheduled for April 20 (just in time to make the cut-off for Tony Award nomination eligibility on April 24). In an interesting bit of ticketing news, the production will make 10,000 tickets available for $27 during the limited run.

Broadway's 'The Realistic Joneses' sets dates with Michael C. Hall, Toni Collette, Marisa Tomei, and Tracy Letts

Star wattage will be in full supply in Will Eno’s new play The Realistic Joneses, which producers announced will begin preview performances in mid-March in anticipation of an April 6 opening night on Broadway.

Toni Collette (Hostages), Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Tracy Letts (Homeland), and Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny) will all star in the comedy about Bob and Jennifer Jones (Letts and Collette) and their new neighbors, John and Pony Jones (Hall and Tomei), two suburban couples who share much more than a surname when their relationships begin to intertwine.

Each of the four actors has a theatrical pedigree: Emmy winner Collette was a 2000 Tony nominee for LaChiusa’s The Wild Party; Hall appeared in the musicals Cabaret and Chicago and a handful of well-received off-Broadway dramas; Oscar winner Tomei starred on Broadway in Top GirlsSalome, and Wait Until Dark; and Letts is a Tony-winning actor (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and playwright (August: Osage County).

The Realistic Joneses will be directed by Sam Gold and will play a Shubert theater to be announced. The show first bowed at Yale Rep in 2012. The play was announced for Broadway in fall 2013.

Tupac Shakur musical 'Holler If Ya Hear Me' set for Broadway

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After the January closure of Annie, Broadway’s Palace Theatre has found its next tenant.

Holler If Ya Hear Me, a new musical featuring the music of rapper Tupac Shakur, will open on Broadway at the Palace on June 19. Preview performances for the brand-new show begin May 26. Casting for the show has not yet been announced.

Written by Todd Kreidler and directed by Tony nominee Kenny Leon (who will also direct Denzel Washington in this season’s forthcoming A Raisin in the Sun revival), Holler If Ya Hear Me is an original, non-biographical story about two friends in the inner-city in the Midwest.

For what it’s worth, the musical takes its title from an autobiographical song by the late rapper off his second solo album, released in 1993. In the music video, a girl witnesses her father’s death, finds money to buy a gun, and subsequently rallies her young friends to ostensibly avenge his death. The show does not purport to tell the story of Tupac Shakur, but will use his poetic music and lyrics to offer “a window into the realities of the streets still relevant today.”

The packed design team includes choreographer Wayne Cilento, set designer David Gallo, costumer Reggie Ray, and lighting designer Mike Baldassari. Shakur’s mother, Afeni, will serve as one of the show’s producers.

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