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EntertainmentColumnistsLinda Winer

New Broadway season is surprising and lively

Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson in Nick Payne's"Constellations"

Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson in Nick Payne's"Constellations" at Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Credit: Joan Marcus

Autumn on Broadway may have seemed hectic and healthy, but the winter-spring lineup makes the first half of the 2014-2015 season seem like just a warm-up.

The fall's 15 openings were dominated by star-driven revivals of good but familiar material, with just a single new musical, Sting's "The Last Ship." In contrast, between this week and the April 23 season cutoff, we have 19 confirmed openings (20 if the tryout of "Gigi" goes well in Washington). There will be plenty of unpredictable Broadway debuts (Larry David, Jake Gyllenhaal, even opera luminary Renée Fleming) along with returning favorites (Helen Mirren, Kelli O'Hara, Matthew Morrison).

Still, the real headlines in the statistics are the eight new plays and seven new musicals, even if five of them are adaptations of movies. And the four revivals (two plays, two musicals) have been away long enough, just maybe, to feel new again.

Constellations (opens Tuesday, Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St.) Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson (Showtime's "The Affair") portray a beekeeper (him) and a cosmological physicist (her) in this much- anticipated American premiere of what promises to be a heady drama by British playwright Nick Payne.

Honeymoon in Vegas (opens Thursday, Nederlander Theatre, 208 W. 41st St.) Andrew Bergman, who wrote and directed the 1992 hit movie, has adapted it for this musical that stars Tony Danza and Rob McClure as characters created by James Caan and Nicolas Cage. Jason Robert Brown, who wrote the hyper-romantic score for last season's "The Bridges of Madison County" does a tonal flip-flop into musical comedy jollity.

Fish in the Dark (opens March 5, Cort Theatre, 138 W. 48th St.) Who could have dreamed it? Larry David, whose obsessively revealing character in "Curb Your Enthusiasm" never seemed to harbor Broadway ambitions (except, of course, for those episodes about "The Producers") has written his first play, a dark comedy about a death in the family, starring himself.

The Audience (opens March 8, Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45th St.) Helen Mirren would be theater royalty even if she didn't keep playing members of the royal family. But here she is as Elizabeth II in Peter Morgan's London hit about the queen and her long list of prime ministers.

On the Twentieth Century (opens March 12, American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42nd St.) Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher, both away from Broadway for too long, return for this revival of the 1978 musical comedy about former lovers on a luxury train back to Broadway.

The Heidi Chronicles (opens March 19, Music Box Theatre, 239 W. 45th St.) This is Broadway's first revival of a Wendy Wasserstein play since her shocking death at 55 from lymphoma in 2006. Elisabeth Moss, plucky ad-executive pioneer in "Mad Men," plays Heidi, the art historian who grows up, sad and wise, through significant baby-boom decades.

The Heart of Robin Hood (opens March 29, Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway.) Was Robin really such a self-sacrificing hero-crook, or did Marion do an ethical rescue? This is one of the questions in David Farr's revisionist fantasy, first produced at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011 and at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2013.

Skylight (opens April 2, Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45th St.) David Hare's lean and provocative 1995 drama returns to Broadway with Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy as former lovers with opposing world views.

Hand to God (opens April 7, Booth Theatre, 222 W. 45th St.) This is the dark horse of the season, the transfer from Off-Broadway of Robert Askins' surreal and irreverent comedy about a boy whose hand puppet is the devil.

Wolf Hall: Parts One & Two (opens April 9, Winter Garden Theatre, 1634 Broadway.) Coming intact from its London smash, the season's historical epic is a two-part marathon adapted from Hilary Mantel's award-winning novels about the court of Henry VIII.

An American in Paris (opens April 12, Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway.) Former New York City dancer and star choreographer Christopher Wheeldon takes his gifts to Broadway with this adaptation of the classic Gershwin musical. American playwright Craig Lucas has written the book for the show, currently being acclaimed in its Paris premiere.

It Shoulda Been You (opens April 14, Atkinson Theatre, 256 W. 47th St.) David Hyde Pierce makes his Broadway directing debut in this new musical about a culture clash at a wedding. Book and lyrics are by Brian Hargrove, music by Barbara Anselmi, with a cast that includes Tyne Daly, Sierra Boggess and David Burtka.

Finding Neverland (opens April 15, Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 W. 46th St.) J.M. Barrie meets the family that inspired "Peter Pan" in this quasi-biographical adaptation of the 2004 movie that starred Johnny Depp. Matthew Morrison, a Broadway favorite before the Gleeks discovered him, co-stars with Kelsey Grammer and Carolee Carmello. After several high-profile changes in its creative team since 2012, the show is now directed by hit-making innovator Diane Paulus ("Pippin").

The King and I (opens April 16, Beaumont at the Lincoln Center Theater.) Director Bartlett Sher, Kelli O'Hara and much of the creative team behind the triumphant revival of "South Pacific" reunite for another Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.

Fun Home (opens April 19, Circle in the Square Theatre, 1633 Broadway.) This wonderful and poignant musical won just about every eligible award during its run at the Public Theater in 2013. Now the coming-of-age adaptation of Alison Bechdel's graphic novel, with music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, transfers to Broadway, where Tonys are now possible.

Living on Love (opens April 20, Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St.) Last summer, opera super-star Renée Fleming surprised the music and theater worlds when she starred as half of a long-married couple in Joe DiPietro's comedy at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Now she makes her Broadway debut in the romp, based on a Garson Kanin play, and Kathleen Marshall, DiPietro's 2012 collaborator on "Nice Work If You Can Get It," directs.

Doctor Zhivago (opens April 21, Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway.) Des McAnuff ("Jersey Boys") directs Michael Weller's adaptation of the Boris Pasternak novel and epic movie about love amid the sweep of the Russian Revolution.

Something Rotten (opens April 22, St. James Theatre, 246 W. 44th St.) Did a couple of brothers accidentally write the first musical in the Renaissance while trying to one-up Shakespeare? Casey Nicholaw, the directing ace behind "Aladdin" and "The Book of Mormon," stages and choreographs this new musical comedy.

Airline Highway (opens April 23, Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St.) This latest import from Chicago's hyper-achieving Steppenwolf Theatre Company is Lisa D'Amour's play about denizens of a faded motel in New Orleans. Joe Mantello ("Wicked") directs.

The official Broadway season ends April 23. The Tony Awards telecast is June 7 on CBS.

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