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‘SpongeBob SquarePants,’ ‘Meteor Shower’ and more head to Broadway this fall

Danny Skinner, Lilli Cooper and Ethan Slater in

Danny Skinner, Lilli Cooper and Ethan Slater in "SpongeBob SquarePants." Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Amy Schumer is able to deliver “serious funny,” says Steve Martin, explaining why he wanted her in his play “Meteor Shower,” already a hot ticket for the coming fall theater season.

Martin, in a recent phone interview, said he came to know Schumer through her television show, “where I saw her play, with depth, various comic characters.” And the play, he makes very clear, “is a comedy first.”

Set in the ’90s, it’s the story of two couples, not really close friends, who spend an evening in an Ojai, California, backyard as sparks fly — not all of which are from the meteor shower swirling around them. “I’ve always been interested in astronomy,” said Martin (recall his 2016 Broadway effort, “Bright Star.”) But, he continues, “it’s also metaphoric . . . something coming from the heavens that strikes you and means something to you.”

“Meteor Shower” is set to open Nov. 29, followed the next day by “A Parisian Woman” with Uma Thurman making her Broadway debut in a play with politics very much on the table — the writer is Beau Willimon, best known for his Netflix hit “House of Cards.”

Before that last week in November, though, the fall theater season has much to offer.

There’s rock royalty. Bruce Springsteen brings his music and his life story to Broadway, where it will be interesting to see how it plays in a theater with less than 1,000 seats as opposed to an arena that holds tens of thousands. A bunch of rockers and pop stars — Steven Tyler, Cyndi Lauper, Lady Antebellum, Sara Bareilles, John Legend, to name a few — have contributed music to “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Inspired by the much-loved Nickelodeon cartoon series, the musical finds the inhabitants of Bikini Bottom fighting to save their undersea world from complete annihilation.

And there’s Broadway royalty. Julie Taymor returns after her well-documented troubles with “Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark” to direct Clive Owen in a revival of David Henry Hwang’s 1988 drama, “M. Butterfly.” And three-time Tony winner Mark Rylance stars as King Philippe V of Spain in “Farinelli and the King,” a play about a famous castrato, written by his wife, Claire van Kampen.

Though it’s really too soon, there’s already been some Tony buzz surrounding “The Band’s Visit,” making the move to Broadway after a production at the Atlantic last year ended up on a lot of “best of 2016” lists. Inspired by the 2007 movie, the story of an Egyptian police band that gets stranded in a small Israeli town stars Tony Shaloub and Katrina Lenk. Needless to say, any musical opening this fall will have to take on the Anna-Elsa-Harry juggernaut as the spring 2018 season awaits “Frozen” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”

Around town, Off-Broadway has some intriguing offerings for fall. The Public Theater marks the 50th anniversary of its home on Astor Place with “Illyria,” a play by Richard Nelson that explores Joseph Papp’s efforts to bring free Shakespeare to the people of New York. Anyone who’s waited in line for a ticket to Shakespeare in the Park knows how it all worked out, but the story of how we got there may be illuminating.

Harvey Fierstein is doing some minor reworking of “Torch Song Trilogy,” his 1982 Tony winner with a title that’s now condensed to just “Torch Song.” Michael Urie stars in the role that made Fierstein famous. “The Wolves,” Sarah DeLappe’s play at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, delves into the lives of young women on an indoor soccer team. And Ars Nova, the adventurous institution that gave us “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” turns its attention from 19th century Moscow to Korean pop music with “KPOP,” described as an immersive tour of a K-pop music factory.

With all that, do we really need to go back to “Jersey Boys”? Apparently. Less than a year after striking the production that ran 11 years on Broadway, the Tony-winning jukebox musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons pares down for an Off-Broadway run at New World Stages. We’ll have to wait until November to find out if smaller is better for the guys from across the river.

In the meantime, theater lovers will find plenty to keep them busy until next spring’s onslaught.

TIME AND THE CONWAYS (Roundabout, American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42nd St., Oct. 10.) Elizabeth McGovern (“Downton Abbey”), last on Broadway in 1992 as Ophelia in Roundabout’s “Hamlet,” goes back to the manor born in this time-traveling play by J.B. Priestly (“An Inspector Calls”). Starting out in 1919 Britain, the play jumps 19 years into the future to 1938, which is when the play premiered — and last appeared — on Broadway.

SPRINGSTEEN ON BROADWAY (Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 W. 48th St., Oct. 12) “Just me, the guitar, the piano,” says The Boss of his one-man show that was buzzed about for months before plans were finally announced. He’ll do five performances a week (through Feb. 3) of the show he says “loosely follows the arc of my life.”

TORCH SONG (Second Stage, Tony Kiser Theatre, 307 W. 43rd, Oct. 19) “Torch Song Trilogy” gets tightened to just “Torch Song” in this version of Harvey Fierstein’s play that debuted in 1982 and won him two Tonys. Michael Urie (“Ugly Betty”) will have big shoes to fill as he takes on the demanding role of the tortured drag queen/torch singer.

M. BUTTERFLY (Cort Theatre, 138 W. 48th, Oct. 26) David Henry Hwang’s play explores gender and sexuality, topics as loaded today as they were 26 years ago when it debuted. The revival stars Clive Owen as the diplomat who falls in love with a Chinese opera singer, only to find out she’s a spy — and a man.

ILLYRIA (Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., Oct. 30) Celebrating the 50th anniversary of its home in the East Village, the Public Theater turns inward with a play about . . . the Public Theater. Richard Nelson (the Apple Family Plays) spins a play about young Joseph Papp as he fights city hall to bring free Shakespeare to Central Park.

JERSEY BOYS (New World Stages, 340 W. 50th St., November) There is life after Broadway. This musical saga of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons returns for an Off-Broadway run. You’ll still leave humming “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man” and the tune that got many of us through our youth, “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

JUNK (Vivian Beaumont Theater, Lincoln Center, Nov. 2) No, this work has nothing to do with the condition of your basement. Ayad Akhtar, who won the Pulitzer Prize for “Disgraced,” puts Wall Street under a microscope in this examination of America’s financial markets. Junk bonds, get it?

THE BAND’S VISIT (Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 W. 47th, Nov. 9) Last year’s Atlantic Theater hit moves to Broadway and, yes, there’s already Tony buzz. The musical is about an Egyptian police band that gets stuck in the Israeli desert after a mix-up at the border. Tony Shalhoub returns to the cast, which also features Katrina Lenk, who was so stunning in “Indecent.”

LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS (Studio 54, 254 W. 54th St., Nov. 15) John Leguizamo comes back to Broadway with this one-man show that seeks to uncover 3,000 years of forgotten Latino history, from the Mayans to Ricky Ricardo. It’s the fourth solo Broadway outing for Leguizamo, who got two Tony nominations for the 1998 show “Freak.”

METEOR SHOWER (Booth Theater, 222 W. 45th St., Nov. 29) Movie star, comedian, author . . . now Amy Schumer adds Broadway to her resumé. She stars with theater vets Laura Benanti, Keegan-Michael Key and Alan Tudyk in Steve Martin’s play about the fireworks between two married couples as a shower of meteorites swirls around them.

THE PARISIAN WOMAN (Hudson Theatre, 139-141 W. 44th St., Nov. 30) Uma Thurman brings her serious star power to the stage for her Broadway debut in this political drama by Beau Willimon (“House of Cards”). Never mind the title, Thurman plays a woman in Washington, D.C. coming to grips with the politics of the place after the 2016 election.

ONCE ON THIS ISLAND (Circle in the Square, 1633 Broadway, Dec. 3) Quarreling gods and goddesses, one of them played by Lea Salonga, inhabit an island somewhere in the Caribbean in this revival of the 1990 play that starred LaChanze.

SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS (Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway, Dec. 4) The squishy guy enlists the world’s most famous songwriters to save the world (guess we’re talking fantasy, here). And he’s not kidding around. Among the musicians doing original music: Steven Tyler, John Legend, Cyndia Lauper and the late David Bowie.

THE CHILDREN (Manhattan Theater Club, Samuel J. Friedman Theater, 261 W. 47th, Dec. 14) The entire London cast of the recent Royal Court Theatre production crosses the pond to tell the story of retired nuclear engineers living in a remote British cottage while the world is in total chaos.

FARINELLI AND THE KING (Belasco Theatre, 111 W. 44th, Dec. 17)

King Philippe V of Spain can’t sleep (join the club, dear sir) and being that Ambien didn’t exist back then, his wife comes up with a solution — the divine, and presumably soothing, voice of the renowned castrato Farinelli. Tony winner Mark Rylance stars as the king.— Barbara Schuler

AND KEEP IN MIND . . .

THE RED LETTER PLAYS (Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St., Sept. 11 and 17) Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” is revisited by Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks in two plays offering different takes on the world’s best-known adulteress, Hester Prynne. The first play, with a title we can’t print, opens Sept. 11; “In the Blood” opens Sept. 17.

ON THE SHORE OF THE WIDE WORLD (Atlantic Theatre, 336 W. 20th, Sept. 12) Simon Stephens (“A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”) returns with another family drama. The title comes from a Keats sonnet.

FOR PETER PAN ON HER 70TH BIRTHDAY (Playwrights Horizon, 416 W. 42nd, Sept. 13) Sarah Ruhl (“In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play”) wrote this for her mother’s 70th birthday. Kathleen Chalfant (“Wit,” “Angels in America”) stars.

CHARM (MCC, Lucille Lortel, 121 Christopher St., Sept. 18) Philip Dawkins’ play concerns an idealistic 67-year-old black, transgender woman who teaches an etiquette class at Chicago’s LGBTQ community center.

KPOP, (Ars Nova, A.R.T./New York Theatres, 502 W. 53rd., Sept. 22) Ars Nova, where “The Great Comet” got its start in 2012, teams with Ma-Yi Theater for what’s described as a high-octane, immersive event that takes you behind the scenes of a K-pop music factory.

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (New World Stages, 340 W. 50th St., Sept. 25) The stage version of Anthony Burgess’ frightening dystopian novel about teen gangs comes from London’s Park Theater to make its New York debut.

MEASURE FOR MEASURE (Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., Oct. 10) How to resist this combo: Shakespeare and the Marx Brothers? The Public joins forces with theater ensemble Elevator Repair Service in a slapstick version of the comedy.

STUFFED (Westside Theatre, 407 W. 43rd St., Oct. 19) Lisa Lampanelli takes on women’s relationships with food, weight and body images in this play that features Great Neck’s Nikki Blonsky, star of the 2007 film “Hairspray.”

THE LAST MATCH (Roundabout, Laura Pels, 111 W. 46th St., Oct. 24) Not sure how much love there is in Anna Ziegler’s play about two tennis champs — an aging all-American favorite and his up-and-coming challenger — as they face off in the semifinals of the U.S. Open.

HOWARD CRABTREE’S WHEN PIGS FLY (Stage 42, 422 W. 42nd St., Oct. 30) Any show with Bob Mackie on costumes get our attention, so it will be fascinating to see what he does with this revival of a 1996 Drama Desk-winning play about a guy named Howard and his attempts to stage a lavish revue.

BRIGADOON, New York City Center, 131 W. 55th St. (Nov. 15-19) The Lerner and Loewe classic about a Scottish town that appears every 100 years rematerializes for City Center’s annual gala performance series. Choreography is by Christoper Wheeldon, the former New York City Ballet dancer who won a Tony for “An American in Paris.” The score includes the beautiful “Almost Like Being in Love.”

SCHOOL GIRLS; OR, THE AFRICAN MEAN GIRLS PLAY (MCC Theater, Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St., Nov. 19) “Mean Girls,” the Tina Fey musical looking at a spring opening, just announced the cast for its D.C. tryout. But before that we have this Jocelyn Bioh play about young women in an elite boarding school in Ghana.

THE WOLVES (Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, Lincoln Center, Nov. 20) These girls just want to score. Mind out of the gutter, we’re talking soccer in this play by 2017 Pulitzer finalist Sarah Delappe about a team of young women who navigate life’s issues as they warm up for the field.— Barbara Schuler

HOLIDAY TRADITIONS

RADIO CITY CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR (Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Ave., Nov. 10 to Jan. 1) The Music Hall’s annual gift to the city, wooden soldiers and all.

GEORGE BALANCHINE’S THE NUTCRACKER (David Koch Theater, Lincoln Center, Nov. 24 to Dec. 31) The New York City Ballet’s annual gift to the city, adorable children, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and that famous Christmas tree that grows.

ELF THE MUSICAL (Theater at Madison Square Garden, Dec. 13 to 29) Based on the 2003 film, it’s the story of poor orphan Buddy who gets trapped in Santa’s bag and ends up at the North Pole.

BERNSTEIN ON BROADWAY (David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, Dec. 31) Ring in the New Year with the New York Philharmonic and the music of Leonard Bernstein.

— Barbara Schuler

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