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New York Spotlight: December 2004

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The cast of Pacific Overtures
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
Giving is wonderful, no doubt about it. And it never seems more wonderful than this time of year, no matter what holiday you celebrate. It's great to be able to give special things to the special people in your life, but it's not always easy. In fact, sometimes it's downright difficult, and it happens to all of us sooner or later: What do you give to the person who already has everything? Or wants nothing? (Or, frequently, both?) It can make an already hectic time of year even more harried, but, believe it or not, the answers are right before your eyes this December, and TheaterMania is happy to help you out with the following list of suggestions.
  • A trip to Japan. If that's a bit pricey, the next best thing would be a trip to Studio 54 for the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of the Stephen Sondheim-John Weidman musical Pacific Overtures. B.D. Wong stars in this story of how America opened up Japan to the West, and what the repurcussions have been to history -- and the country itself. The show opens on December 2 and plays through the end of January.
  • Fine crystal. No, not Waterford or Baccarat -- Billy! The ever-popular comedian's one-man show, 700 Sundays, is packing them in at the Broadhurst; it's an hilarious and poignant trip down memory lane as he shares the people and events that shaped his life. The show opens on December 5.
  • Precious gems. Like, for example, Gem of the Ocean, the ninth in August Wilson's century-spanning tribute to the African-American experience in America. Opening at the Walter Kerr on December 6, this entry stars Tony winner Phylicia Rashad and is directed by Kenny Leon (both from this past spring's acclaimed revival of A Raisin in the Sun).
  • A rare bird. Or at least the next best thing: The Broadway revival of La Cage aux Folles, which opens on December 9 at the Marquis. Jerry Herman provided a Tony-winning score for this musical comedy about two gay men (played by Gary Beach and Daniel Davis) seeing the son they raised marry a woman from a very conservative background.
  • The finest medicine in the world. Laughter, of course! You even have two different varieties to choose from -- English or American. There'll be plenty of laughs in the Lincoln Center production of The Rivals at the Vivian Beaumont (it opens on December 16); Richard Easton, Dana Ivey, Brian Murray, Keira Naughton, and Jim Stanek star in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's classic comedy. Or, if you want something a little more parodic, check out the newest incarnation of Gerard Alessandrini's long-running spoof of Broadway musicals, Forbidden Broadway: Special Victims Unit, which reopens at the Douglas Fairbanks on December 12. Ron Bohmer, Jason Mills, Christine Pedi, and Jennifer Simard star and will skewer all of the latest and greatest (?) Broadway hits.
  • A biography of a favorite film star. Rodney's Wife, playing at Playwrights Horizons through December 19, tells the story of an esteemed film actor on the comeback trail, who's facing a series of crises in his personal life. David Strathairn and Maryann Plunkett star in this new play, written and directed by Richard Nelson.
  • A recital by one of New York's most renowed vocalists. Florence Foster Jenkins certainly qualifies! And, as embodied by musical theatre favorite Judy Kuhn in Souvenir at the York Theatre Company (it plays through January 2), you'll likely never forget the particular combination of verve and nerve (if not necessarily voice) Jenkins brought to her songs.
  • Something to think about. For that, look no further than the New York Theatre Workshop, where Caryl Churchill's latest, A Number, opens on December 7. Sam Shepard and Dallas Roberts star in this thought-provoking examination of identity, focusing on a son who confronts his father with his knowledge that he has genetically identical counterparts.
  • The gift of sophistication. What else could Noel Coward provide? The Irish Repertory Theatre is producing the American premiere of Coward's musical After the Ball (based on Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan); it opens on December 16. Tony winner Tony Walton directs and designs this production of the Victorian-themed musical about the clash of honor, duty, passion, and compromise.
As always, there's plenty more opening this month -- in New York, theater really is the gift that keeps on giving all year long -- but hopefully these ideas will get you started. Happy holidays!

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