Broadway Week opens autumn in New York

"Bring It On: The Musical" is playing at

"Bring It On: The Musical" is playing at the St. James Theatre in Manhattan;. (Credit: Joan Marcus)

We're in an awkward age here in the world of people who love theater too much. Summer, face it, is just feeling a bit old for real news. Meanwhile, the fall season -- when, as in the school year, plans commit to a shape -- is just now clearing its throat for the hawking and the hoping ahead.

Sadnesses have been expressed about Gore Vidal and Marvin Hamlisch, who, for all their radical differences, both left the community feeling less full. And unless one counts the upcoming political conventions or the new ways producers will invent to raise Broadway ticket prices to guarantee record grosses again this year, the genuine drama is on a brief hold.

BUT NOT SO FAST

Broadway on Broadway -- the annual free outdoor concert -- kicks off the season at 11 a.m. Sept. 9 in Times Square, with entertainment from new shows, last season's hits and long-running staples.

And tickets went on sale this week for the big sale called Broadway Week, Sept. 4-16. For the fourth year, NYC & Company, the city's tourism and marketing organization, is offering 2-for-1 discounts to 19 newbies and veteran shows. Depending on availability, it could be possible to bring a pal for free to such recent enticements as the Tony-winning "Once," "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," "Evita," "Nice Work If You Can Get It," "Bring It On" and "Peter and the Starcatcher." Yes, the same good deal is offered for "War Horse," "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," "The Lion King," "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Wicked."

I'm amused that the freebie is not considered enough incentive this year. A ticket stub from one of the participating shows also will get you a free dessert at more than 25 area restaurants. Visit nycgo.com/broadwayweek for the facts.

Back-to-school and Fashion Week may be good for clothing stores, but Broadway isn't the only theater that can use a push in early September. Thanks to the sixth 20at20 promotion by the nonprofit Off Broadway Alliance, you can buy $20 cash-only tickets for more than 30 Off-Broadway productions between Sept. 4 and 23. The catch is that these seats only become available 20 minutes before curtain time. As far as I know, no dessert. Visit 20at20.com for information.

AND NOT INCIDENTALLY

"Once" won eight Tony Awards and has been selling out at the Jacobs Theatre for months. But in the hard-nose reality of Broadway, the show wasn't officially declared a hit until a couple of weeks ago. In other words, a hit isn't what we think it is until a production recoups its investment.

For "Once," an enchanting but peculiar no-star romance based on the 2006 indie film and featuring music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, that special day happened in just 21 weeks on Broadway. Since only 20 percent to 30 percent of shows ever recoup their capitalization -- and those that do usually take years -- the fact and the speed of the offbeat musical's success are worth noting.

True, the budget was $5.5 million -- about half to two-thirds of most big shows -- but this transfer was far from a sure thing. When "Once" opened last fall at the 199-seat New York Theatre Workshop, even the gentle musical's biggest admirers wondered if the charm would be lost in a 1,000-seat house at Broadway prices. All this, and nobody flies.

OTHER THEATER NEWS

It took almost a quarter of a century and more than a little shame, but "Carrie" will finally have a cast album. At the end of September, Ghostlight Records, a hero in the theater community, will release the recording of the recent Off-Broadway revision of the infamous 1988 Broadway flop. Although the Off-Broadway production was a major improvement on the original, the new version ran just a month at MCC Theater.

The only other known recording was made in a high school in Denmark in 2001. In Danish.

Jeremy Jordan was arguably the breakout star of the past season, admired for shouldering the strenuous leads in both the short-lived "Bonnie & Clyde" and Disney's hit "Newsies." On Sept. 4, the young actor will leave the show about New York's late 19th century newsboy strike. Corey Cott succeeds him. Jordan moves onto a major role in NBC's "Smash." Not a bad year, right?

"Bring It On: The Musical" -- the highflying cheerleader musical that first appeared to be a summer Broadway entertainment -- is doing so well that the show has been extended into a Christmas entertainment.

SPEAKING OF CHRISTMAS -- YES, NOW

Is anyone ready for five big holiday shows this year? For reasons that may never be clear, producers are banking on enough family audience to justify a return of "Elf," the New York premiere of "A Christmas Story: The Musical," "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" and a four-week visit from the Swiss masked-theater troupe, Mummenschanz. Also, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is celebrating 85 years of Rockettes.

But first, Labor Day.