Folks, Times Square is troubled. I'm not talking about empty theaters or sky-high ticket prices, I'm talking about the “Spider-Man” musical, whose 42nd Street marquee is trumpeting music by Bono and the Edge. Not yet in rehearsals, “Spidey” has already run low on cash! If you've got an extra dollar or two, send it to the poor musicians or to starving actors Alan Cummings (aka, the Green Goblin) and Rachel Evan Wood (Mary Jane, Spidey's squeeze)!
But don't despair, Broadway is still a great place to see stars. This autumn, the hot ticket is Jude Law as Hamlet (but not who we're most excited to see; for that, skip to the last paragraph!). Law is no theater rookie: he earned a Tony nom in '95 (at age 23!), and has dabbled occasionally in stagework since then. This production of Shakespeare's melancholy Dane got good reviews in its premiere at London's illustrious Donmar Warehouse.
Coincidentally, one of Law's ex-flames, Sienna Miller, makes her Broadway bow a week later. She trades her skintight “GI Joe” battle armor for the psychological repression of “After Miss Julie.” It's an adaptation of the original battle-of-the-sexes psychodrama by August Strindberg. A true star vehicle (there are only two other actors), Miller will try to prove she's more than a sex symbol.
The young Julia Stiles stars in another male/female death-struggle, the modern classic “Oleanna” by David Mamet. Set on a college campus, this two-hander treks into the minefield of sexual harassment with a truly ambiguous opening scene (FYI, it's a terrible date play). Stiles' scene partner is Bill Pullman, whose last appearance on Broadway propelled Ed Albee's “The Goat” to earn a Tony.
Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig might be the most rugged men in film. So yeah, you'd expect them to co-star in a cop drama set on Chicago's dirty streets. Just not on Broadway. But don't fall into the trap of type-casting: they’ve scooped up this script, by little-known Chicago scribe Keith Huff, because the roles (and there are only two) are so good. If their chemistry is right, “A Steady Rain” could be something special.
Even though he doesn't act, David Mamet could be considered a star himself. He's certainly the only living playwright capable of opening a new show on Broadway. But there's extra buzz around his latest, “Race,” because he won't let anybody read it except his actors, James Spader and David Alan Grier! We can only guess the play's subject—race, maybe?
All this drama gets a little heavy though, doesn't it? Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher, rides to our rescue with her one-woman autobio, “Wishful Drinking.” Fisher offers anecdotes from her early years, when she partied with John Belushi during “The Blues Brothers” and snorted coke in her famous gold bikini on the set of “Return of the Jedi.” And fittingly, the show's at Studio 54.
But some of this autumn's most exciting actors eschew the shine of a Broadway marquee. Local thesp Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Iago in an electric version of “Othello” at the high-tech Skirball Center. But be warned, it's helmed by a modernist opera director, Peter Sellars, so don't expect it to be straightforward.
And we save our favorite for last. Across the bridge in Brooklyn, BAM hosts Cate Blanchett on her world tour of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” We could gush about Blanchett's talent (Meryl who?) or Tennessee Williams' classic script. But this show goes beyond star casting to why we love theater. With Blanchett (and with Hoffman and the others), we get the chance see a great artist play an immortal role and move us with a deeper understanding of human nature. So pick your show and book your tickets—we're sure they'll sell quickly.