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After the Heatwave: Sizzling Winter theater from Broadway

It's September. Which means the new arts season is just around the corner. Best of Broadway is shaping up to live up to its name for the upcoming theater season.  The menu for the 2009-2010 theater season features some of the most buzzed about direct-from Broadway shows.


Plays opening in San Francisco in the coming months include Tony-winners musicals, some old chestnuts -- and at least one high profile flop.

Two of the hottest Broadway shows this past year reflect a newfound attention to racial and cultural diversity, specifically Latino culture.  The new revival of “West Side Story” and the original musical “In the Heights” arrive on San Francisco stages next Spring and Fall.

The original film adaptation of West Side Story famously raised some eyebrows when a non-Latino (Natalie Wood) was cast as Maria - and didn't even do her own singing. The new production is a long-overdue redressing of  the original’s racially iffy directorial choices and features bi-lingual book and lyrics.

“In the Heights,” set in a Dominican-American neighborhood of upper Manhattan has a score that features hip-hop, salsa, merengue and soul music. It won the Tony in 2008 for Best Musical and Universal is producing a screen version, set for a 2010 release.

In the winter, Alfred Hitchcock's “The 39 Steps” comes to town. Described as a Hitchcock masterpiece mixed with a juicy spy novel, a dash of Monty Python and 150 characters played by just 4 actors, the comedy-mystery won a 2008 Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience – which sounds fairly mysterious in and of itself.

The bigger mystery of the season may be the indefatigability of 74 year old Topol, whose been playing Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” since 1969. How in the world will Topol ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum night after night?

Topol, who starred in the 1971 film version of the play – and countless stage productions – began his farewell tour this winter and it’s been noted that his understudy has filled in often.  Let’s hope he’s still deedle deedle duming when the musical opens this winter.

In the movicals department, next summer “Young Frankenstein” will be coming to town. Even though this Broadway musical of Mel Brooks’ 1974 film comedy was created by Brooks, the adaptation didn't really wow Broadway. Brooks’ earlier adaptation of “The Producers” was such a smash, that hopes were high for a stage version of the Frankencomedy.


But for those who can’t get enough of the original Young Frankenstein (pretty much the same people who loved Spamlot because they love Monty Python) the theatrical version will be much welcomed. With book, music and lyrics by Mel Brooks, this Frankenstein may lack Gene Wilder, Terry Garr and Cloris Leachman, but it does features a song titled “He Vas My Boyfriend” a Frau Blücher line that will make any Franken fan smile.