As autumn turns the Manhattan air crisp and cool, Broadway is gearing up for another season. In the 2012-2013 lineup are new plays, star-driven revivals, lavish musicals and shows inspired by movies, books, TV shows and one very well-known comic strip.
The stars that should make box offices glow just a little brighter this season include Al Pacino (in the revival of David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross"), Jessica Chastain (playing the title role in "The Heiress"), Katie Holmes (moving on from Tom Cruise in "Dead Accounts"), the always fabulous Chita Rivera (in "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" revival), Debra Winger (opposite Patti LuPone in Mamet's new "The Anarchist"), Paul Rudd (with Ed Asner and "Boardwalk Empire's" Michael Shannon in "Grace"), Alec Baldwin (in a planned spring revival of "Orphans") and Henry ("The Fonz") Winkler (as a retired porn star, believe it or not, in "The Performers").
Kids and their families will have plenty of Broadway (and close-to-Broadway) options this season, from a revival of "Annie" to a stage version of the TV musical "Cinderella" to the British hit "Matilda." There's also family-friendly holiday fare such as "Elf," "A Christmas Story" and two large-scale shows, "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical" (at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, theateratmsg.com ) and that beloved perennial, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular (at Radio City Music Hall, radiocity.com ).
The season's best bet (so far) for fans of take-no-prisoners drama on Broadway is the Steppenwolf revival of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" starring company members Amy Morton and Tracy Letts (he won the Pulitzer Prize for writing "August: Osage").
As always, consider what off-Broadway has to offer if you're making New York theater plans. Christopher Durang's Chekovian comedy "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," starring Sigourney Weaver and David Hyde Pierce, runs at Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse Theater Oct. 25-Jan. 13 (lct.org ). "Giant," a musical version of the Edna Ferber novel set in Texas plays the redesigned Public Theater Oct. 26-Dec. 2 (publictheater.org ). Two other musicals at the Public, Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron's "Fun Home" (Oct. 17-Nov. 4) and "Here Lies Love" by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim (April 2-May 5) also sound promising.
Movie hottie Jake Gyllenhaal is making his stage debut in the play "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet" at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for theatre (roundabouttheatre.org ). Other stars who will show up Off-Broadway this season include Bebe Neuwirth in Terrence McNally's "Golden Age" (Nov. 13-Jan. 6) and Edie Falco in Liz Flahive's "The Madrid" (Feb. 5-April 14), Manhattan Theatre Club productions at the New York City Center (manhattantheatreclub.com ).
Other Off-Broadway plays to look out for include Quiara Alegria Hudes' Pulitzer Prize-winning "Water by the Spoonful" at Second Stage ( http://www.2st.com ) and the Playwrights Horizons world premiere of hot playwright Amy Herzog's "The Great God Pan" (Nov. 24-Dec. 30; http://www.playwrightshorizons.org ).
Here are snapshots of the shows that will open on Broadway during the fall and early winter. Most sell tickets through Telecharge ( 800-432-7250 or telecharge.com ) or Ticketmaster ( 800-745-3000 or ticketmaster.com ).
"The Anarchist," John Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45th St.; $59-$134.50; previews Nov. 13, opens Dec. 2, closes Feb. 17; Telecharge or theanarchistbroadway.com: David Mamet directs Patti LuPone and Debra Winger in his new play about an inmate trying to convince her warden she's ready to be paroled.
"Annie," Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway; $67.50-$137.50; previews started Oct. 3, opens Nov. 8; Ticketmaster or http://www.anniethemusical.com: Eleven-year-old Lilla Crawford gets the star-making title role in this James Lapine-directed revival, with two-time Tony Award winner Katie Finneran as the orphan-hating Miss Hannigan.
"The Assembled Parties," Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St.; $67-$120; previews March 19, opens April 17, closes June 2; Telecharge: Tony Award winner Richard Greenberg has a new play, starring Judith Light and Jessica Hecht, about a wealthy Upper West Side Jewish family and a personal drama spanning 21 years.
"A Christmas Story, the Musical!" Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 W. 46th St.; $49-$143.50; Ticketmaster or http://www.luntfontannetheatre.com: The hilarious holiday story of the BB gun-craving Ralphie and his disapproving, dysfunctional family is a stage musical starring Dan Lauria (TV's "The Wonder Years" and "Sullivan & Son") as author Jean Shepherd.
"Cinderella," Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway; $45-$137; previews Jan. 21, opens Feb. 21; Telecharge: Laura Osnes plays the abused young woman-turned-prince's dream in the Broadway premiere of this Rodgers and Hammerstein made-for-TV musical, with a book updated by Douglas Carter Beane. Harriet Harris is the evil stepmom, Victoria Clark the fairy godmother and Santino Fontana as Prince Charming.
"Dead Accounts," Music Box Theatre, 249 W. 45th St.; $67-$175; previews Nov. 3, opens Nov. 29; Telecharge or http://www.deadaccountsonbroadway.com: For her first post-divorce gig, Katie Holmes has chosen Theresa Rebeck's new comedy about a guy (played by Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz) who comes home to Cincinnati under mysterious circumstances.
"Elf," Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 302 W. 45th St; $49-$160; previews Nov. 9, closes Jan. 6; Telecharge: The stage musical version of the hit Will Ferrell movie about a kid adopted by Santa and raised as an elf gets a limited holiday run.
"Glengarry Glen Ross," Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45th St.; $72-$152; previews Oct. 16, opens Nov. 11, closes Dec. 30; Telecharge or glengarrybroadway.com: Dan Sullivan directs Al Pacino and Bobby Cannavale in the latest revival of David Mamet's searing play about shady, desperate Chicago real estate salesmen.
"Grace," Cort Theatre, 138 W. 48th St.; $32-$132; opens Oct. 4, closes Dec. 16; Telecharge or http://www.graceonbroadway.com: Before Paul Rudd made a killing in raunchy movie comedies, he was a go-to theater star. He's back in Craig Wright's new play — along with Ed Asner and Michael Shannon (of "Boardwalk Empire") — about a couple opening a Gospel-themed motel chain.
"The Heiress," Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 W. 48th St.; $50-$145; previews started Oct. 6, opens Nov. 1, closes Feb. 10; Telecharge or theheiressonbroadway.com: Red-hot movie actress Jessica Chastain plays the plain-Jane daughter of a controlling David Strathairn as her doctor-father in this Moises Kaufman-directed revival of the play based on Henry James' Washington Square .
"The Mystery of Edwin Drood," Studio 54, 254 W. 54th St.; $43-$137; previews Oct. 19, opens Nov. 13, closes Feb. 10; 212-719-1300 or roundabouttheatre.org: Rupert Holmes' Tony Award-winning whodunit, in which each audience gets to pick the killer, gets a starry revival featuring Chita Rivera, Stephanie J. Block ("Wicked") and Will Chase ("Smash").
"The Performers," Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St.; $34.50-$137; previews Oct. 23, opens Nov. 14; Telecharge: Alicia Silverstone and Cheyenne Jackson star alongside Henry Winkler (the Fonz on "Happy Days") in this comedy about porn stars.
"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Booth Theatre, 222 W. 45th St.; $66.50-$126.50; opened Oct. 13; Telecharge or virginiawoolfbroadway.com: Steppenwolf Theatre's acclaimed revival of Edward Albee's scalding classic about a dysfunctional, vicious couple whose sexually charged "games" psychologically batter a younger couple stars Amy Morton as Martha and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts as George.