Audra McDonald
Audra McDonald
Happy New Year! What better way to ring in 2005 (now that the famous Times Square ball has dropped) than with four-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald? The grand star of stage, concerts, and television will kick off Lincoln Center's 2005 American Songbook series with three evenings of her inimitable song stylings covering the works of old and new composers alike. Catch her at the Rose Theater on January 6, 7, and 8.

But there are plenty of other exciting offerings this month. If it's musical theater you're interested in, you have a number of unique opportunities. Two musicals are opening on Broadway: Little Women, the new adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, premieres at the Virginia on January 23, starring Sutton Foster (Thoroughly Modern Millie) and Maureen McGovern. And Good Vibrations, utilizing the pop hits of the Beach Boys, bows at the Eugene O'Neill on January 27.

Off-Broadway, you may want to check out Under the Bridge, a musical adaptation of Natalie Savage Carson's The Family Under the Bridge, with book and lyrics by TV personality Kathie Lee Gifford, music by David Pomeranz, and direction by Eric Schaeffer; it opens on January 6. January 7 sees the first performance of a gala 125th anniversary production of the classic The Pirates of Penzance from the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players, and starring stage and TV notable Hal Linden. (The production runs at City Center through January 23.) And the Manhattan Ensemble Theater will host an intriguing new show, Fire on the Mountain, that combines traditional music and interviews with coal miners from West Virginia and Kentucky. It opens January 26.

If you prefer plays, I have one word for you: Hurlyburly. David Rabe's searing 1984 drama is receiving a star-studded production by The New Group. Ethan Hawke, Bobby Cannavale, Parker Posey, Wallace Shawn, Catherine Kellner, and Josh Hamilton are all in the cast, making this one of the month's must-see shows. It opens at Theatre Row's Acorn Theatre on January 27.

The Peccadillo Theater Company is also bringing back its acclaimed production of Elmer Rice's 1911 play Counsellor-at-Law this month; the play about a cynical attorney's attempts to avoid disbarment, stars John Rubinstein (Pippin, Ragtime) and opens at the Theatre at St. Clement's on January 30.

Finally, fans of live music and cabaret won't want to miss the 2005 Nightlife Awards, which will be held at The Town Hall on January 31. The show is unique, because instead of lengthy acceptance speeches, winners in categories covering cabaret, jazz, and comedy perform for the audience, making it one of the most jam-packed evenings of entertainment of the year.