By now, audiences are pretty sharp about the ebbs and flows of the theater season. Like the school year, Broadway begins in earnest in September and steadily builds until, say, midterms in mid-December. Everything stops -- except the tourists -- for the holidays, while producers hustle to stockpile much of the real money most will make before summer.
Then comes the shivery, creaky restart through January and February, followed by spring craziness until the Tony cutoff at the end of April.
But what have we here?
Even before superstorm Sandy tossed ambitions as if they were plastic blow-up toys in a breeze, this has been an oddly shaped autumn for theater. The fall promised a respectable 16 openings -- 15 after the implosion of "Rebecca." History and reason led us to expect an incremental sprinkling of shows before the hotels filled up.
Even with the storm-driven postponement of Al Pacino in "Glengarry Glen Ross" from Sunday to Dec. 8, there is a backup of five major Broadway openings in the next eight days -- as if producers are getting a running start before Thanksgiving. (And I'm not even going to list the big Off-Broadway openings until later in this column.) This is madness. Even Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the Broadway league, tells me she has never seen a November -- much less a single November week -- like this one.
The onslaught actually begins this week with "Annie." But that's so last week.
Let's start with Nov. 13, when the first Broadway revival of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" opens, with a cast that includes Chita Rivera as Princess Puffer. (Studio 54, 254 W. 54th St.)
On Nov. 14 is "The Performers," a new adult comedy about high school buddies who reconnect in Vegas at the Adult Film Awards, starring Henry Winkler, Alicia Silverstone, Cheyenne Jackson and Ari Graynor (Longacre Theatre, 220 W. 48th St.)
Nov. 15 brings "Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson," the brainchild of Kathie Lee Gifford, who wrote the book and lyrics. It stars Carolee Carmello as the woman billed here as the world's first media superstar evangelist. (Neil Simon Theatre, 250 W. 52nd St.)
Nov. 18 comes the return of "Elf," the musical adaptation based on the 2003 Will Ferrell movie. (Hirschfeld Theatre, 302 W. 45th St.)
And on Nov. 19 comes the New York premiere of "A Christmas Story, The Musical," based on the popular 1983 movie. (Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 W. 46th St.)
Now look at Off-Broadway, with most productions scrambling after a terrible time with too much water and no power.
Nov. 12: "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," Christopher Durang's Chekhov mashup starring Sigourney Weaver and David Hyde Pierce. (Newhouse Theater, Lincoln Center Theater.)
Also Nov. 12 is "Emotional Creatures," built on stories from girls around the world, created by Eve Ensler ("The Vagina Monologues.") (Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St.)
Nov. 13: "Giant," the highly regarded Michael John LaChiusa musical, based on Edna Ferber's Texas saga, starring Kate Baldwin and Brian d'Arcy James, and directed by Michael Greif ("Rent," "Next to Normal"). (Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St.)
Also Nov. 13 is "Golden Child," the start of the Signature Theatre's yearlong celebration of the work of David Henry Hwang. (Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St.)
Nov. 14: "Cotton Club Parade," a seven-performance return of the revue about Duke Ellington's Harlem years, which was a hit last year. (New York City Center, 131 W. 55th St.)
Nov. 15: "Murder Ballad," a new Upper West Side musical starring such Broadway luminaries as Karen Olivo, Will Swenson and John Ellison Conlee. (Manhattan Theatre Club Stage II, 131 W. 55th St.)
Also Nov. 15 comes "The Good Mother," a contemporary psychological thriller starring Gretchen Mol ("Boardwalk Empire"). (The New Group, 410 W. 42nd St.)
Nov. 18: "The Piano Lesson," August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson. (Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St.)
Also Nov. 18: "Forever Dusty," a new musical about the life and music of Dusty Springfield. (New World Stages, 340 W. 50th St.) and "The Twenty-Seventh Man," about Yiddish writers in a Soviet prison, with a cast of theater luminaries including Ron Rifkin, Chip Zien and Byron Jennings. (Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St.)
This is not to suggest that the 2012 theater year stops before New Yorkers sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, though this does make me especially glad I don't cook.
Katie Holmes and Norbert Leo Butz play siblings in Theresa Rebeck's "Dead Accounts" (Nov. 29), Patti LuPone and Debra Winger play a prisoner and a guard in David Mamet's "The Anarchist" (Dec. 2), Seth Numrich (Joey the stallion's best friend in "War Horse") turns to boxing for the 75th-anniversary production of Clifford Odets' "Golden Boy" (Dec. 6), and, finally, the much-anticipated, delayed "Glengarry," Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning excoriation of small-potato salesman, starring Pacino, Bobby Cannavale, Richard Schiff and Jeremy Shamos (Dec. 8). Off-Broadway, playwright Terrence McNally returns to his beloved opera with
"Golden Age," which reunites Bebe Neuwirth and director Walter Bobbie for the first time since "Chicago" (Dec. 4).
The ill-advised temptation is to be wishing everyone a happy new year. The way these openings are flying by, however, it might as well be spring.