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New shows light up dreary Broadway

Critically acclaimed productions are attracting audiences.

November 27, 2003|Michael Kuchwara | Associated Press

NEW YORK — What's this? Is that a little bit of sun peeking out from behind the clouds of doom and gloom that have enveloped Broadway this season?

After a disappointing October and much of November, New York theater has seen, in less than a week, the best reviewed shows of the fall: an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Henry IV," starring a rapturously received Kevin Kline, and a revival of "Wonderful Town," the Bernstein-Comden and Green musical, with the equally acclaimed Donna Murphy.

And their critical approval has been met with an equally warm response at the box office.

The weekend after "Henry" opened, it took in $762,000, said Bernard Gersten, executive producer of Lincoln Center Theater.

The run, which ends Jan. 11 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, most likely will be sold out by the end of the week, he added.

"Wonderful Town" arrived on Broadway with a meager advance and plagued by the cancellation of preview performances after Murphy came down with the flu. It played only eight previews before opening because producer Barry Weissler wanted to open the musical before the lucrative Thanksgiving holiday weekend. His gamble paid off.

The show grossed $400,000 (including only a smattering of group sales) Monday, the day after the favorable reviews came out.

And we haven't even gotten to the last two Broadway productions before Christmas: "I am My Own Wife," about a German transvestite who survived both the Nazi and communist regimes, and "Never Gonna Dance," loosely based on a Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film and using a cavalcade of music by Jerome Kern.

Still, it hasn't been a fun fall for performers such as Jackie Mason, Farrah Fawcett, Polly Bergen, Mark Hamill and Ellen Burstyn. All were in shows that were panned and closed rapidly.

One of the glummest theater events of the fall occurred in Washington, D.C., where "Bounce," the first new Stephen Sondheim musical in nearly 10 years, folded Nov. 16 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, without booking a New York opening.

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