The Broadway theatre scene sometimes seems to be a constellation of satellites orbiting around a single star: the Tony Awards. These key prizes, presented annually in June, are so sought after that every year sees producers making a mad dash for the "finishing line" of early May, to be eligible for them. So, in the space of roughly four to six weeks, from mid-March to the end of April, Broadway sees its biggest flurry of activity of the entire year.

This year is no exception, and a trip to Broadway during these frantic few weeks is always recommended. You can participate in the wave of gossip and rumor that floods the streets, theatrical hangouts, and the virtual communities of the internet, as the possible hits (and many of the flops) of tomorrow start arriving today to join some of the earlier, already established shows.

So what's on the itinerary for this year's trip?

New Musicals

  • A Class Act (Ambassadors, previewing now, opens 11 March), this biographical musical about the late lyricist Ed Kleban transfers from a sold-out season at off-Broadway's Manhattan Theatre Club. Before you ask "Who's Ed Kleban?", he wrote the lyrics to A Chorus Line. Whether that's enough to sustain an entire evening devoted to chronicling his life and other songs is another question. Director and co-writer Lonny Price stars as Kleban, alongside Randy Graff.
  • The Producers (at the St James Theatre, previews 21 March, opens 19 April), has already got very strong word-of-mouth and rave reviews from its Chicago try-out and is carrying a hefty advance box office as a result. Mel Brooks has supplied new songs to join the ones from the 1968 movie, with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick standing in for the film's Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. Direction and choreography are by Susan Stroman, the Broadway darling of the current hits Contact and the revival of The Music Man.
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Minskoff, previews 27 March, opens 26 April) has to battle with a negative expectation - that it is merely a warmed-up version of a previous Broadway hit, Big River, which was an adaptation of another Mark Twain classic, Huckleberry Finn. Scott Ellis (She Loves Me in the West End) directs this adaptation by book writer Ken Ludwig (Crazy for You) and newcomer composer/lyricist Don Schlitz.
  • Musical Revivals

  • Follies (Belasco, previews 8 March, opens 5 April), not seen on Broadway since its original legendary run at the Winter Garden Theatre in 1971, is the one that is most eagerly anticipated, at least by theatre aficionados. What will hotshot Brit director Matthew Warchus do to this fabulous fable of crumbling relationships played out inside a crumbling theatre? The ace cast assembled includes Broadway stalwarts Judith Ivey as Sally and Blythe Danner (better known nowadays as mother of Gwyneth Paltrow) as Phyllis, with Treat Williams and Gregory Harrison as their respective husbands. Also on the bill: Betty Garrett; Polly Bergen; Marge Champion; Donald Saddler; and Joan White. Very possibly unmissable.
  • Bells are Ringing (Plymouth, previews 13 March, opens 12 April) is a new production of the 1956 Jule Styne musical, with book and lyrics by Bette Comden and Adolph Green, staged by off-Broadway avant-garde director Tina Landau, so it should be intriguing, at least. Faith Prince takes the Judy Holliday role.
  • 42d Street (Ford Center for Performing Arts, previews 4 April, opens 2 May) is a revival of the 1980 musical that ran for a decade at the Majestic and subsequently the St James Theatre, and Drury Lane here. Gower Champion's original direction is recreated by Mark Bramble, and the cast includes New York stage stalwarts Christine Ebersole as Dorothy Brock and Michael Cumpsty as Julian Marsh.
  • New Plays

  • Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love (Lyceum, now previewing, opens 29 March) receives its New York premiere in a new production directed by Jack O'Brien, starring Robert Sean Leonard (Dead Poets’ Society) and Richard Easton as the younger and older poet AE Housman respectively.
  • Marie Jones's Stones in His Pockets (Golden, previews 23 March, opens 1 April) transfers to New York with Olivier winner Conleth Hill and Sean Campion recreating their West End roles.
  • August Wilson's King Hedley II (Virginia, previews 10April, opens 29 April) features two actors best known for their musical work, going legit: Brian Stokes Mitchell (last seen on Broadway starring in Kiss Me, Kate) and Leslie Uggams.
  • Play Revivals

  • Noel Coward's Design for Living (Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre, now previewing, opens 15 March) will star an all-British trio, Alan Cumming (Cabaret), Jennifer Ehle ({The Real Thing::E40869651}) and Dominic West in Joe Mantello's new production.
  • Abby Mann's own stage adaptation of his Oscar-winning script for Judgment at Nuremberg (Longacre, now previewing, opens 26 March) features Maximilian Schell (who starred in the original 1961 film version, but in a different role to the one he played then), George Grizzard and Michael Hayden.
  • Dale Wasserman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Royale, previews 16 March, opens 8 April), best known for the 1975 film version of Ken Kesey's novel, is revived in a production from Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company that was seen in London last summer as part of the Barbican's BITE Festival. Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump) takes the role of mental patient Randle Patrick McMurphy, made famous on film by Jack Nicholson.
  • Off-Broadway Highlights

    The action isn't all on Broadway - keep a look out for what's happening Off (and Off-Off) Broadway, too. Whatsonstage.com will be looking at the scene away from Broadway in a future column.