Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman
in Kiki and Herb: Alive on Broadway
(© Joe Oppedisano)
Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman
in Kiki and Herb: Alive on Broadway
(© Joe Oppedisano)
Once upon a time, nothing much of import happened in New York theater during the summer. This started to change with the establishment of The New York International Fringe Festival (August 11-27). Believe it or not, the Fringe is celebrating its 10th anniversary! This year's edition offers shows by 216 emerging companies representing 20 of the United States and 11 countries. Presented in various Manhattan venues, the performances cover a wide range of disciplines including theater, dance, performance art, children's theater, spoken word, puppetry, and multimedia.

Now that shows like Avenue Q and Hairspray have resoundingly proved that opening a Broadway show in late summer is not necessarily a bad idea -- just witness their shelves of Tony Awards -- it's not surprising we have two Main Stem offerings on tap. The first is Kiki & Herb: Alive on Broadway, which will play just four weeks (August 11-September 10) at the Helen Hayes. Downtown favorites Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman star as their alter egos Kiki and Herb, a boozy septuagenarian chanteuse and her stalwart accompanist. According to legend, the two met in the 1930s and began an artistic collaboration and close personal relationship that would last a lifetime. Their Broadway debut vehicle will feature "reinventions" of songs by The Cure, Bob Merrill, the Wu-Tang Clan, Bright Eyes, and Dan Fogelberg.

If that doesn't sound like enough fun, head over to the Bernard B. Jacobs for Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me. Short zoomed to fame on TV's Saturday Night Live and went on to spark such films as Three Amigos, Father of the Bride, and Jiminy Glick in Lalawood. But he is also a well respected stage performer, having shone on Broadway in the musical version of The Goodbye Girl and the 1998 revisal of Little Me (for which he won the Tony Award). His new show isn't a one-man affair; the cast includes Brooks Ashmanskas, Mary Birdsong, Capathia Jenkins, Nicole Parker, and Hairspray composer/lyricist Marc Shaiman, who co-wrote some of the show, along with Scott Wittman, who directs the proceedings.

The month's true must-see event, however, brings two of the world's biggest stage and screen stars, Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline, back together for Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park (August 8-September 8). The star-laden cast also includes Jack Noseworthy, Jenifer Lewis, Austin Pendleton, and Frederick Weller. George C. Wolfe directs, and the new adaptation is by none other than Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner.

Heading to Off-Broadway, A.R. Gurney's memory play Indian Blood (Primary Stages, through September 2) is about a young man who uses his Indian ancestry as an excuse for his attacks on the genteel world around him. Rebecca Luker, John McMartin, and Pamela Payton-Wright head an impressive cast in this new work, directed by Mark Lamos. The Signature Theatre Company's begins its salute to the late August Wilson with a revival of his stirring Seven Guitars, directed by original star Ruben Santiago-Hudson (through September 23). And there's a new production of that old favorite, The Fantasticks, which ran more than 40 years in its original Off-Broadway staging, at the Snapple Theater Center. The cast includes such theater veterans as Martin Vidnovic, Leo Burmester, and Thomas Bruce (aka the show's librettist, Tom Jones).

Elsewhere, Lori Fischer's Barbara's Blue Kitchen (through September 3), a new comedy in which Fischer plays the proprietor of a small town Tennessee diner and six of her regular customers, will be the final show at the Lamb's Theatre. The show features 12 original songs, and Scott Wakefield as the voice of the local radio. Another play with music is the New Group's production of Everythings Turning Into Beautiful (Acorn Theater, through September 2), which is written by Seth Zvi Rosenfeld and features original songs by Jimmie James. Daphne Rubin-Vega and Malik Yoba star as a couple of down-on-their-luck songwriting partners who come together on Christmas Eve for a night of composing and soul searching.

Finally, you might also want to check out Anais Nin -- One of Her Own, a biographical drama about the late poet at the Beckett Theatre (August 3-26), and the Waterwell theatre troupe's revival of Marco Millions (based on lies), Eugene O'Neill's rarely seen play about Marco Polo, at the Lion Theatre (August 4-26).