As Winter Thaws, Broadway Heats Up

BROADWAY is on the rebound. After a dismal start, with only two shows that opened last fall surviving thus far, Broadway has had two solid hits in the past three weeks.

And even some of the most conservative theater veterans are forecasting that the 1993-94 season will end on an upbeat note as it increasingly relies on big names of the past.

A revival of ``Carousel,'' which was a hit in London last year, opened at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theatre March 24 and received many positive reviews.

And British TV and film star Diana Rigg just scored a major triumph in the title role of ``Medea,'' which was also done in London last year.

``I'm always optimistic at this time of year as I was early last fall,'' says Gerald Schoenfeld, chairman of the Shubert Organization, New York's largest owner of Broadway theaters. ``My optimism last fall was short-lived but now I think there's really room for optimism.''

More than a dozen new Broadway shows are scheduled to open in the next month.

These include a major revival of ``Grease,'' which was first produced on Broadway in 1972; a brand new Arthur Miller play, ``Broken Glass''; and Disney's ``Beauty and the Beast,'' which opens April 18 and is perhaps the most eagerly awaited show of the season.

``There are a large number of impressive credentials in the shows that will open,'' Mr. Schoenfeld said in an interview in his office atop the Shubert Theater, where the Gershwin musical ``Crazy for You'' is enjoying a long run.

Schoenfeld ticked off the list of anticipated openings: ``Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine have a new musical, `Passion' and `The Inspector Calls' is opening here soon after being such a big hit in London. Anna Deavere Smith, in a one-woman show called `Twilight: Los Angeles,' (about the 1992 Los Angeles riots) is a major talent. And there's Diana Rigg in `Medea,' another production from London. The theaters on the south side of 45th Street were dark for the last four months and now they're lit and there's excitement in the air,'' he says.

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