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The Best of This Season's Broadway Offerings

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-winning musicals, some old chestnuts and at least one high-profile flop. Two of the hottest Broadway shows - a new revival of West Side Story and In the Heights - reflect a newfound attention to racial and cultural diversity, specifically Latino culture.

Here's what's on our radar.

West Side Story

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

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.

 

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

 

 

Fiddler on the Roof

The bigger mystery of the season may be the indefatigability of 74 year old Topol, who has 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.

Young Frankenstein

In the movicals department, Young Frankenstein will come to town next summer. 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.