Onstage in 2007: A megamusical, 'magical thinking,' and dancing scissors

With the first days of 2007 comes the perennial quest to find Broadway's next dazzling hit along with the revival of familiar favorites. In New York and across the country, a new crop of musicals, dance productions, and plays are preparing to take the stage.

From Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, the team that gave us "Les Misérables," comes another megamusical, The Pirate Queen. Based on the 16th-century Irish pirate, Grace O'Malley, "The Pirate Queen" sails onto Broadway on March 6, following its Chicago tryout last fall. Les Misérables is also currently back on Broadway.

Another revival on the New York schedule is 110 In The Shade, opening April 13. The 1963 musical, based on "The Rainmaker," will return Audra MacDonald to the Broadway stage for the first time since "Ragtime." The musical version of Legally Blonde, based on the film about the ditzy sorority girl who enrolls at Harvard Law School, previews in San Francisco, Jan. 23-Feb. 24, before an April 3 world première in New York.

Überdirector Frank Galati is helming both "The Pirate Queen" and serving as adaptor and director of Chicago's Goodman Theatre production of Oedipus Complex, which mixes Sophocles's ancient drama and the musings of Sigmund Freud. It opens April 28. Another new play for Chicago, opening at Victory Gardens Theater Feb. 2, is Court Martial at Fort Devens, a drama based on a true incident from 1943 about a confrontation between a group of young black women privates and a white colonel determined to keep them in their place.

Broadway continues to launch new plays, if sparingly. Joan Didion will join the ranks of dramatists on March 6 with The Year of Magical Thinking, based on her bestselling memoir. Vanessa Redgrave takes the lead; David Hare will stage the work, opening in March. Another theatrical diva, Kate Burton, leads the cast of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, directed by Nicholas Martin at Boston's Huntington Theatre, opening Friday.

The national touring schedule of New York shows is filled with musicals. Chita Rivera, the glistening talent of a dancer who rocketed to fame in the original Broadway production of "West Side Story," is taking her show, Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, to Seattle; Tempe, Ariz.; and Costa Mesa, Calif.; in March and back to the East Coast in May. The Color Purple opens its national tour in Chicago in April. Oprah Winfrey, who played Sofia in the movie version, brings her first producing venture to her home town. Dancemaker Matthew Bourne's adaptation of the film Edward Scissorhands continues its US tour.

Elsewhere in the dance scene, Seattle's Pacific Northwest Ballet hosts Celebrate Seattle April 17-27, featuring works by choreographers with Seattle connections. Both New York City Ballet (NYCB) and American Ballet Theatre (ABT) are planning new versions of the classics for their spring home seasons: Peter Martins will present Romeo and Juliet at NYCB on May 1; ABT's Kevin McKenzie, with the help of former ballerina Gelsey Kirkland, will deliver The Sleeping Beauty June 1.

As always,Shakespeare continues to be the most produced playwright in America. The Kennedy Center leads a six-month Shakespeare Festival in the Washington, D.C. area, January through June, featuring more than 100 attractions, from King Lear by the Classical Theatre of Harlem, to Hamlet in Hebrew (with simultaneous translation) by the Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv, to Alaska's Perseverance Theatre's Macbeth with an all Alaskan-native cast.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will open three plays by the Bard on consecutive nights, June 5-7: The Tempest, The Taming of the Shrew, and Romeo and Juliet. But even this festival has musicals in mind, opening a new musical version of William Saroyan's Tracy's Tiger, on March 28.

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