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Broadway beckons with yet another gay season – Wisconsin Gazette

A quick tour of theater marquees now on Broadway: “A Little Night Music,” “The Addams Family,” Promises, Promises,” American Idiot,” “Fela!” – and “Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party.”

Dance Party? Gay? Abraham Lincoln? (Only his really good friend Joshua Speed knew for sure.)

LGBT themes are alive and well (and in some cases, dancing the night away – after bar time, of course) in the Big Apple. Following are some choice theatrical recommendations if you’re heading for NYC and looking for great shows that highlight LGBT themes.

What better way to start the Broadway season than with a new play by one of the theater’s most respected out playwrights? Edward Albee’s “Me, Myself & I” takes an absurdist route with twins OTTO and otto and Mother (played by Elizabeth Ashley), who can’t tell them apart. (Playwrights Horizons Mainstage Theater, scheduled to close Oct. 31).

Another out playwright takes up the entire season at The Signature Theater Company with the first ever NYC revival of Tony Kushner’s two-part epic, “Angels In America.” Signature will run both “Millennium Approaches” and “Perestroika” in repertory. For those who missed the original production, here’s a chance to see this groundbreaking, Pulitzer Prize-winning work about the AIDS epidemic in the Reagan years. (Signature Theater Company, runs Oct. 28 through Jan. 30, 2011).

For sheer classic comedy (with a Wisconsin tie-in), Moliere’s “La Bête” (French for “the beast”) stars former Milwaukeean-turned-international star Mark Rylance (he won a Tony Award for his hilarious performance in “Boeing Boeing”) and out actor David Hyde Pierce (brother Niles in “Frasier”) as a pair of rivals in the theater. Pierce plays the playwriting snob and Rylance the clownish “beast.” Joanna Lumley (“Absolutely Fabulous”) also stars. Rylance began acting at UW-Milwaukee, where his father taught English. (Music Box Theater, runs Oct. 14 through Feb. 23, 2011.)

Speaking of “Frasier,” Kelsey Grammer is currently onstage in the Tony Award-winning revival of “La Cage Aux Folles” as nightclub owner Georges. He’s partnered with number one drag queen “Zaza,” the excellent British actor Douglas Hodge, who’s won numerous awards for his portrayal. See this delightful duo before the replacements step in. (Longacre Theater, runs through Feb. 13, 2011.)

New actors often take over for others in long-running shows. One worth seeing is the current revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music.” Theater celeb junkies get a two-for-one at this show, with Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch (taking over from Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury, respectively). Based on the Ingmar Bergman film “Smiles of a Summer Night,” this production emphasizes the sometimes dark, unpredictable escapades of romantic couples. This is the show that launched the song “Send in the Clowns.” Peters does this theater classic justice (and then some), making it as touching as it is timeless. (Walter Kerr Theater, open run.)

All the ensuing entanglements of romance can be found in this season’s most highly anticipated show, “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” a musical based on gay filmmaker Pedro Almodovar’s 1988 comedic paean to females troubled in love. Patti LuPone, Sheri Renee Scott, Laura Benanti (who won a Tony playing Gypsy Rose Lee in the 2009 revival of “Gypsy” starring LuPone) and the ever-dashing Brian Stokes Mitchell (“Kiss Me, Kate,” “Ragtime”) share the stage, with book and music by the duo who brought us the musical version of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” Director Bartlett Sher’s (“Light in the Piazza” and “South Pacific”) touch seems to turn to theatrical gold wherever he turns up. (Belasco Theater, previews begin Oct. 2 with a Nov. 4 opening through Jan. 23).

Other shows of note this fall:

“Priscilla Queen of the Desert” – The stage musical of the cult film opens in Toronto at the Princess of Wales Theater for a month run (Oct. 26-Nov. 28).

“Orlando” – Contemporary playwright Sara Ruhl adapts Virginia Woolf’s gender-twisting tale, loosely based on Woolf’s relationship with author and poet Vita Sackville-West (Sept. 23-Oct 17, Classic Stage Company).

“Mrs. Warren’s Profession” – Out actor Cherry Jones (“Doubt,” TV’s “24” series) plays the title character in this Shaw classic about a troubled mother-daughter relationship. The daughter is played by Sally Hawkins of “Happy-Go-Lucky.” (American Airlines Theater, Oct. 3- Nov. 28.)

“The Pitman Painters” – “Billy Elliott” creator Lee Hall’s London hit is a play this time around and once again, the male sex appears in what seems to be the unlikeliest of places. This time, Hall trades in dancing shoes for paint palettes. Taken from William Weaver’s book, the play is based on a true story of miners in the 1930s who invited a teacher to instruct them in art appreciation. The miners unearth their hidden artistic talents with amazing results. (Opens Sept. 28, The Samuel J. Friedman Theater.)

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