Long Hot Summer

The show that will undoubtedly run forever -- and enchant scores of tourists who love spectacle -- is New York's newest megahit, Beauty and the Beast, at the Palace Theatre. It was just a matter a time before Disney married Broadway, and Michael Eisner (CEO of Walt's empire) promises a whole series of cute, sanitized musicals for the entire family.

So it would seem that the hotter months both here and up North are tingling with frolic, melody, and a meager drop of substance. Still, the Acura Broadway series at the Jackie Gleason Theater on Miami Beach for the 1994-95 season makes this column's previous listings sound like a summer of Shakespeare. We begin with The Great Radio City Musical Hall Spectacular featuring Susan Anton (the actress who used to date Dudley Moore) with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes from October 11-16. Next is another revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice classic, Jesus Christ Superstar, running from November 8-13 and containing Webber's hard-rock score. Hello, Dolly! with Carol Channing rolls in to the Beach from December 20-25. I caught this show when I was a little girl with Ms. Channing as the star; the concept of seeing the same musical with the same lead today is profoundly disturbing.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, another Webber-Rice collaboration, plays from February 14-19. Widely regarded in the past as one of Webber's flops, he and producer Cameron Mackintosh poured millions of bucks into publicity for the show when it reopened two years ago in London. The hype worked and the crowds flooded in, proving that products you couldn't cram down audiences' throats in the Sixties and Seventies can easily be marketed today, providing you hire a crafty publicist. It also demonstrates to me that Mr. Webber does not take failure of any kind graciously.

For those who missed the Pinball Wizard last year, The Who's Tommy returns from March 21-26. And the final road show entry of the season, running from April 18-23, is the only major production I'll be sure not to miss: Blood Brothers, a dark original musical about twins separated at birth, written by the talented Willy Russell (Shirley Valentine, Educating Rita) and starring Sixties pop icon Petula Clark.

As of this writing I'm not certain whether the groundbreaking and lengthy Angels in America will open at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts or possibly one of the road houses, as negotiations are still in progress. The opening and future of the Miami Skyline Theatre are similarly in question, with funds so limited after such high expectations. Questions abound for next year. Will Acme find a permanent home? Will the Public Theatre finish building its new space? Will New Theatre and the Caldwell Theatre Company continue to produce entire seasons of excellence? And what the devil is the Coconut Grove Playhouse planning?

I sit with fingers crossed and breath slightly held. I believe in optimism, in spite of circumstance.

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