Sierra Boggess, Derrick Baskin, Tyler Maynard, and Sherie Rene Scott in The Little Mermaid
(© Joan Marcus)
Sierra Boggess, Derrick Baskin, Tyler Maynard,
and Sherie Rene Scott in The Little Mermaid
(© Joan Marcus)
Reports of the Great White Way's demise are, as always, greatly exaggerated. Indeed, 2008 is shaping up to be one of Broadway's best and busiest times, with more shows slated for the boards than available houses. And what shows! Two chances to hear the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim -- and one to hear the words of his mentor, Oscar Hammerstein -- provocative work by such singular talents as David Mamet, Caryl Churchill, and Stew, revivals of classic dramas by Clifford Odets, William Inge, and Tennessee Williams, and some of the greatest actors on the planet gracing the stage. Here, in order of their official opening dates, is the current 2008 line-up.

The Little Mermaid (Lunt-Fontanne Theatre; in previews now; opening January 10)
Disney's prayers for another long-running Broadway hit may well be answered by this lavish adaptation of the beloved animated film musical, directed by Francesca Zambello and featuring a score by Alan Menken, the late Howard Ashman, and Glenn Slater. Broadway newcomer Sierra Boggess seems to be an ideal fit for the title character, and she's sure to get more-than-solid support from Sherie Rene Scott as the evil sea witch, Ursula, Norm Lewis as her dad, Triton, and Sean Palmer as her charming suitor, Prince Eric.

The 39 Steps (American Airlines Theatre; previews begin January 4; opening January 15)
This highly comic adaptation of John Buchan's novel -- and Alfred Hitchcock's film -- about a man lured into a world of intrigue by a mysterious woman has already earned tons of laughs (not to mention great reviews) in London and Boston. British import Charles Edwards and former soap starlet Jennifer Ferrin take on the leading roles, while expert clowns Arnie Burton and Cliff Saunders tackle the remaining dozens of characters.

November (Barrymore Theatre; in previews now, opening January 17)
For his first new Broadway play in over 10 years, David Mamet sets his sights on the world of presidential politics. The estimable five-person cast, under the direction of Tony Award winner Joe Mantello, is led by the brilliant Nathan Lane, the long-absent Laurie Metcalf, and the always reliable Dylan Baker.

S. Epatha Merkersonin Come Back Little Sheba
(© Craig Schwartz)
S. Epatha Merkerson
in Come Back Little Sheba
(© Craig Schwartz)
Come Back, Little Sheba (Biltmore Theatre; previews begin January 3; opening January 24)
The first Broadway revival of William Inge's bracing 1950 drama about an unhappily married couple is already raising some eyebrows due to the interracial casting of the great S. Epatha Merkerson and Kevin Anderson as Lola and Doc. The rising young theater star Zoe Kazan is sure to add to the volatile mix as Marie, the pretty young thing who comes between the troubled couple.

Sunday in the Park with George (Studio 54; previews begin January 25; opening February 21)
The Roundabout, which has been New York's most consistent showcase for the works of Stephen Sondheim, has imported Sam Buntrock's award-winning British production of Sondheim's Pulitzer-Prize wining musical about the artist Georges Seurat and his conflicted (and fictional) great-grandson. English stars Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell, who earned great acclaim across the Pond, will share the stage with such American top-tier talents as Michael Cumpsty, Alexander Gemignani, Jessica Molaskey, and Mary Beth Peil.

Passing Strange (Belasco; previews begin February 8; opening February 28)
The Public Theater takes another chance on moving uptown with this inventive, affecting, and slightly messy autobiographical musical from the singularly-named) Stew. The extraordinary Daniel Breaker stars as the young man searching -- literally and figuratively -- for his place in the world, while the equally gifted ensemble includes Eisa Davis, de'Adre Aziza, Colman Domingo, Chad Goodridge, Rebecca Naomi Jones, and Stew himself.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Broadhurst; previews begin February 12; opening March 6)
Tennessee Williams' searing exploration of a southern family torn apart by "mendacity" returns to the Great White Way for the fifth time -- but never before like Debbie Allen's all African-American production. Watching the fireworks fly among film star Terrence Howard and Tony Award winners Anika Noni Rose, Phylicia Rashad, and the peerless James Earl Jones should prove nothing short of electrifying.

In The Heights (Richard Rodgers; previews begin February 14; opening March 9)
The year's second Off-Broadway-to-Broadway transfer is Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hudes' joyous, sprawling musical about a group of tight-knit residents in Washington Heights. In addition to heralding Miranda's considerable talents as songwriter and performer, the musical is a first-rate showcase for young performers like Mandy Gonzalez and Karen Olivo and more seasoned veterans like Priscilla Lopez, Andrea Burns, and Olga Merediz.

Laura Benanti in Gypsy
(© Joan Marcus)
Laura Benanti in Gypsy
(© Joan Marcus)
Gypsy (St. James, previews begin March 3; opening March 27)
City Center Encores! acclaimed summer production of Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim's classic musical, helmed by its librettist Arthur Laurents, will finally return for a longer run. And why not? It's not only one of the greatest musicals ever written, but watching the amazing Patti LuPone as stage mother-monster Mama Rose, the sensational Laura Benanti as shy Louise turned brazen Gypsy Rose Lee, and the superb Boyd Gaines as an all-too-human Herbie is a chemistry lesson of the highest order.

South Pacific (Vivian Beaumont; previews begin March 1; opening April 3)
Perhaps the season's most anticipated production is the first-ever Broadway revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein's classic 1949 musical about the potentially star-crossed love affair between a naïve American nurse and a wealthy European widower, set against the backdrop of World War II. Director Bartlett Sher has recruited two members of his Light in the Piazza cast --Kelli O'Hara as Nellie and Matthew Morrison as Lt. Cable -- along with his Tony-winning design team for this undertaking. Add hunky Brazilian opera singer Paulo Szot as Emile DeBecque, famed Hawaiian actress Loretta Ables Sayre as Bloody Mary, and invaluable Broadway veteran Danny Burstein as cut-up Luther Billis into the mix, and an enchanted evening seems like a sure thing.

A Catered Affair (Walter Kerr; previews begin March 25; opening April 17)
The one-and-only Harvey Fierstein (who also stars) and the super-talented John Bucchino have translated Paddy Chayefsky's film about a middle-class couple torn over paying for their daughter's wedding into a chamber-like musical. With Tony winner John Doyle at the helm, old pals Faith Prince and Tom Wopat as the parents, and the hot-hot-hot Leslie Kritzer and Matt Cavenaugh portraying the soon-to-be newlyweds, this is likely to be an Affair to remember at awards time.

Thurgood (Booth; previews begin March 30; opening April 20)
Every season brings at least one high-powered solo show, and this one's entry is George Stevens Jr.'s biodrama about the late, great Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, Jr., as portrayed by Tony winner Laurence Fishburne.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses (American Airlines; previews begin April 11; opening May 1)
Laura Linney and British star Ben Daniels (in his American debut) are poised to take on the challenge of eliminating the memory of original stage stars Lindsay Duncan and Alan Rickman (not to mention film stars Glenn Close and John Malkovich) in Rufus Norris' revival of Christopher Hampton's riveting drama about seduction and sin among the French aristocracy. The top-flight supporting cast includes Mamie Gummer, Kristine Nielsen, and the priceless Sian Phillips.

Top Girls (Biltmore, previews begin April 15; opening May 7)
Caryl Churchill's 1980s all-female drama, first produced stateside by the Public Theatre, finally makes it to the Main Stem, courtesy of Manhattan Theatre Club. Mary Catherine Garrison, Elizabeth Marvel, Martha Plimpton, and Marisa Tomei are among the lucky ladies charged with bringing Churchill's fascinating characters to life.

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Cry-Baby (Theater and dates TBA)
Following in the footsteps of Hairspray is this even more subversive musical version of John Waters' film about a rebel who shakes up a small town. The cast includes newcomer James Snyder, the lovely Elizabeth Stanley, the scene-stealing Alli Mauzey, and, best of all, the always hilarious Harriet Harris.

The Country Girl (Theater and dates TBA)
Clifford Odets' drama about a down-on-his luck actor and his long-suffering wife is best remembered now as the film that earned Grace Kelly an Oscar before she fled for Monaco (and besting Judy Garland in A Star is Born in the process). Master director Mike Nichols intends to reminds us all how great a play it is, and has employed Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Frances McDormand, along with Peter Gallagher, to make his point.