Aaron Tveit, Alice Ripley, and J. Robert Spencer
in Next to Normal
(© Joan Marcus)
Aaron Tveit, Alice Ripley, and J. Robert Spencer
in Next to Normal
(© Joan Marcus)
This month's Broadway musical debuts all started life Off-Broadway. Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's Next to Normal played New York last season, underwent a revamp at Washington D.C.'s Arena Stage, and now comes to Broadway's Booth Theatre (beginning March 27), directed by Michael Greif and with a cast including Alice Ripley, J. Robert Spencer, and Aaron Tveit. The Public Theater's acclaimed revival of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical (Al Hirschfeld Theatre, beginning March 6), directed by Diane Paulus, reunites most of the cast from the Central Park mounting, including the fabulous Will Swenson, while also welcoming new cast members Gavin Creel, Sasha Allen, and Caissie Levy. Meanwhile American Idol's Constantine Maroulis reprises his star turn in Rock of Ages (Brooks Atkinson Theatre, beginning March 17), and is joined by James Carpinello and Amy Spanger for this jukebox musical full of hits from the 1980s.

On the dramatic front, Academy Award winners Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon are joined by Lauren Ambrose, Andrea Martin, William Sadler, and Brian Hutchison for Eugene Ionesco's absurdist comedy Exit the King (Barrymore Theatre, March 7-June 14). Tony Award winner Janet McTeer and Olivier Award winner Harriet Walter portray Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I, respectively in Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart (Broadhurst Theatre, March 30-August 16), with a cast that includes such noted actors as Michael Countryman, Brian Murray, and Maria Tucci.

Two other new shows also had their origins Off-Broadway: Tovah Feldshuh stars in Irena's Vow (Walter Kerr Theatre, beginning March 10), as a Polish Catholic housekeeper who helps Jewish refugees to hide from the Nazis. Playwright Neil LaBute makes his Broadway debut with reasons to be pretty (Lyceum Theatre, beginning March 13), starring Piper Perabo and Thomas Sadoski from the Off-Broadway cast, along with Marin Ireland and Steven Pasquale.

Wrapping up Broadway, Lincoln Center Theatre mounts a new production of August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone (Belasco Theatre, beginning March 19), directed by Tony winner Bartlett Sher and featuring a cast that includes Arliss Howard, Ernie Hudson, and LaTanya Richardson Jackson.

Tony Award winner LaChanze headlines the world premiere of Christina Anderson's Inked Baby (Playwrights Horizons, March 5-April 5) about a woman who enlists the aid of her sister to make the child she and her husband can't. Jane Alexander and Lynn Cohen head the cast of Primary Stages' world premiere of Tina Howe's Chasing Manet (59E59 Theaters, March 24-May 2) about a rebellious painter from a distinguished family in Boston and an ebullient Jewish woman with a huge adoring family.

Laura Benanti, Kristine Nielsen, and John Pankow star in The Public Theater's world premiere of Christopher Durang's Why Torture Is Wrong, And the People Who Love Them (March 24-April 26) about a young woman who wonders if her new husband is a terrorist. In addition, The Public is presenting Tracey Scott Wilson's The Good Negro (March 3-April 19), about a trio of emerging black leaders in the South during the 1960s American Civil Rights movement, as well as Darrell Dennis' solo show, Tales of an Urban Indian (through March 15).

Signature Theatre Company concludes its 2008-2009 season celebrating the Negro Ensemble Company with a revival of Charles Fuller's Zooman and the Sign, with a cast including Rosalyn Coleman, Peter Jay Fernandez, Lynda Gravatt, and Portia. Craig Wright's psychological potboiler The Unseen (Cherry Lane Theatre, March 5-28) is about two men imprisoned by a brutal, totalitarian regime who are confronted with more questions than answers with the arrival of a new prisoner.

The Transport Group presents the new musical Being Audrey (Connelly Theatre, March 27-April 26), about a Manhattan socialite inspired by the films of her heroine, Audrey Hepburn. Another new Off-Broadway tuner, The Toxic Avenger (New World Stages, beginning March 18), is based on the classic 1985 cult film by Lloyd Kaufman, and features a book by Joe DiPietro and a score by Bon Jovi's David Bryan, with direction by John Rando.

The Actors Company Theatre (TACT) presents a rare revival of Arthur Miller's Incident at Vichy (Beckett Theatre, March 8-April 11), set in a detention room in France during the German occupation where ten men are brought in for "questioning." Theatre for a New Audience stages Shakespeare's Hamlet (Duke on 42nd Street, March 15-April 19), with Christian Camargo in the title role. Classic Stage Company presents An Oresteia (March 22-April 19), from the works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, translated by Anne Carson. Also in a classical vein, Aquila Theatre presents The Iliad: Book One (Lucille Lortel Theatre, March 31-April 25), which is inspired by the cover of Stanley Lombardo's translation -- a photograph of the D-day landings entitled, "Into the Jaws of Death." Speaking of adaptations, Godlight Theatre Company presents its version of George Orwell's 1984 at 59E59 Theaters (March 12-April 19).

Soho Think Tank presents Robert Lyons' Red-Haired Thomas (Ohio Theatre, March 7-28), about a professional gambler who just might be saved by Thomas Jefferson. The Nature Theatre of Oklahoma returns to Soho Rep with Rambo Solo (March 19-April 12), company member Zachary Oberzan's solo exploration of his deep connection with the film Rambo: First Blood. Richard Edwin Knipe, Jr.'s Schooling Giacomo (American Theatre of Actors, March 6-April 26) is a bittersweet comedy about an ethnically mixed child raised by three know-it-all Italian uncles, a neighborhood wise guy, and a drunken Irish/German mother. Colin McKenna's The Secret Agenda of Trees (Wild Project, March 15-April 11) is a dysfunctional mother-daughter story set in a rural community in the backwoods of America.