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There is so much good theater to see in New York that it is tempting to wonder what ever happened to the supposed new world of video games, the Internet and the communications superhighway. The most fun, it turns out, is on stage, and for a change the shows that are the brightest and the most original are also the most professionally done. For instance, the biggest hit on Broadway — some say the biggest hit in 25 years — is the totally rude and hilarious musical, “The Producers,” whose off-the-wall humor includes a singing and dancing Hitler along with cheerful gibes at Jews, blacks, homosexuals and stroke victims who dance while using walkers, not to mention nuns dancing the hora. As everyone must by now know, last weekend’s winner of multiple Tony Awards — including best musical — is the work of director-composer-writer Mel Brooks, the man responsible for such giddy offensibles as “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein.” In the case of “The Producers,” which Brooks first wrote as a movie, he has replaced Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, who are two parallel clowns in the same (Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello) tradition of fat-and-skinny. They and their show make for a very hot ticket at the St. James Theater, 248 W. 44th St., (212) 239-5800. Cheerfully subversive, too, if not on so grand a scale, is a musical with the intentionally awful name of “Urinetown,” but the subtitle indicates the sense of humor: “An Appalling Idea, Fully Realized.” While spoofing musical comedy conventions, and mocking shows from “The Threepenny Opera” to “Les Miserables,” this hilarious musical even manages to kid itself (“How about bad subject matter?” says one character, “Or a bad title? That could kill a show pretty good.”). With catchy songs, funny dances and professional confidence, “Urinetown” even has a star in John Cullum (of television’s “Northern Exposure”). As the show’s villain, a ruthless capitalist oppressing the people of an Everycity, he is in top form singing “Don’t Be The Bunny,” a number that ought to be performed every day somewhere in the civilized world. This wonderfully original musical is at the little American Theater of Actors, 314 W. 54th St., (212) 239-6200. REVIVALS REALLY CAN BE FUN What “The Producers” and “Urinetown” are proving is that there can still be good, fresh new American shows, despite the glut of revivals that has been suffocating the musical theater for the last 10 or 15 years. That doesn’t mean that revivals can’t be fun, and by far the best new one is “42nd Street,” which seems even sharper, more exhilarating and more spectacular than the original production of some 20 years ago. This stage version of the classic movie musical takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the original’s familiar story of the chorus girl who becomes an overnight star. The production is dazzling to look at from its opening moment, as the curtain rises just a few feet to reveal several dozen tap-dancing legs. What follows are two and a half hours of laughs, tap dancing, and such grand old songs as “The Lullaby of Broadway,” “I Only Have Eyes For You” and “You’re Getting to be a Habit With Me.” At the Ford Center, 213 W. 42nd St., (212) 307-4100. Another revival that stands out from the others is “Annie Get Your Gun,” but that is due to a peculiar turn of events. The original star was Bernadette Peters, certainly an audience favorite but she wasn’t suited to this title role. Peters is cute and sexy, while Annie Oakley is what used to be called a “tomboy,” a Wild West Show’s sharpshooter who isn’t “as soft and as pink as a nursery,” which is how the male sharpshooter thinks of “The Girl That I Marry.” Of course, Annie fears that “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun.” Those and all the others of this show’s great old Irving Berlin songs were going unappreciated until Peters left the show and was replaced by the popular country singer Reba McIntire. With that cast change, “Annie Get Your Gun” has become a very big and popular hit at the Marquis Theater, Broadway and 46th Street, (212) 307-4100. NOT YOUR USUAL MUSICAL Yet another kind of musical entertainment, and a big, spectacular one, is “Blast,” which might be described as “Riverdance” for brass. It features a huge company of young people, dancers and musicians. The instruments — all part of the on-stage show — are percussive and brass, including, besides the usual trombones and trumpets, French horns, tubas and such exotica as Mellophones, Euphoniums, a didgerydoo and something called a “trombonium.” Playing music that ranges from Ravel’s “Bolero” and Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” to spirituals and Latin rhythms, the musicians also dance while they are playing — one fellow even plays a horn while standing on a swing suspended high above the stage. And they are all joined by a large company of dancers and rather amazing flag throwers. One curious note: There is, just as in “The Producers” and “Urinetown,” something subversive going on with this show, too, but in this instance the subversion isn’t aimed at establishment conventions. Rather, there is a sense of New Age about “Blast!” — whether in the performers’ slightly weird look of radiant serenity or in the Chinese references of the costumes and movement. Suspiciously, perhaps, the producer is not in show business. According to the program, The Cook Group makes and sells “diagnostic and minimally invasive surgical devices and instruments.” The company’s aim, it says there, is for the show to be “a life changing, positive experience.” That sounds more like Los Angeles than New York, but it’s OK as long as nobody is recruiting for a cult or asking for contributions. New Age or not, “Blast” is unique and spectacular fun at the Broadway Theater, which is on Broadway, of course, at 53rd Street, (212) 239-6200. Just the opposite, and thoroughly of the New York theater, is the very special musical, “A Class Act,” a wonderful show for the selective. This is a small-scale production about the life of the late stage composer-lyricist, Edward Kleban, whose only hit was “A Chorus Line.” In telling about the man, his problems and loves and frustrations and peculiarly paranoid optimism, “A Class Act” is tremendously human. It also has a lot of appealing show tunes that Kleban wrote, songs that he never got to hear, as the script has him say, “in a theater where there are a lot of people who have paid a lot of money to hear my songs.” It may require something of the insider to catch all the references to Broadway notables like Neil Simon, Marvin Hamlisch and director Michael Bennett, but then, doesn’t everyone consider himself an insider? Based on a legendary class in musical theater and called “A Class Act” for the same reason that “Chorus Line” was called “A Chorus Line” (to be at the top of The New York Times alphabetical show listings), this loving and touching musical is at the Ambassador Theater, 219 W. 49th St., (212) 239-6200. Last among the new musicals is “The Full Monty,” which was the first hit of the season. Movies seldom translate into successful musicals, notwithstanding “The Lion King” and “Beauty and The Beast.” This show is a generally faithful adaptation of the charming little British movie that was such a surprise hit a few years ago. Tickets should be easier to get than for some of the other musicals. Eugene O’Neill Theater, 230 W. 49th St., (212) 239-6200. IS A PLAY YOUR THING? As for the plays, there is, first of all, that rarest of commodities, a comedy. Once a staple of Broadway, funny plays disappeared when television began providing the same thing for nothing. But not since “Seinfeld” has television had any situation comedy as funny as “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife.” Putting it neatly, a woman sitting behind me said, “This is a play that Neil Simon would have written if he had any guts,” and that is accurate. The title character is what used to be called “a culture vulture.” She is the well-to-do wife of a smug, pontifical doctor, and is as stereotypical as he is — in her case museum-going, interior decorator-hiring, good book-reading, living on Central Park West and shriekingly neurotic. When her psychiatrist becomes unavailable, she goes into crisis, until a childhood friend happens to appear at the door. The friend is no ordinary woman. Taken to extravagant extremes by playwright Charles Busch, she recounts exotic worldwide travels and adventures with statesmen, movie stars and virtually every famous person of the 20th century. The question is whether this old friend is really what she says she is, and whether she can get the good doctor’s wife — pricelessly played by Linda Lavin — to change her life. This very funny play is at the Barrymore Theater, 249 W. 47th St., (212) 239-6200. Funny in a different way is “Lobby Hero,” written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, who has been getting high praise for his movie (“You Can Count on Me”) as well as his stage work. This stage work is set in the real-looking lobby of an apartment building and involves the most familiar, and most ordinary, of characters: a lobby guard, a detective and a policewoman. Yet as the play proceeds, each of them proves to be both more and less than the usual. They are absurd versions of the ordinary, suggesting that perhaps all of us are that way, too. The quirky and provocative “Lobby Hero” is at the John Houseman Theater, 450 W. 42nd St., (212) 239-6200. “Proof” is a more serious kind of play. It won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama (as well as the Tony for best play at last weekend’s awards ceremony), and deserved to, beautifully written by David Auburn and just as beautifully performed. It manages to be involving as a human story, and stimulating, too. The title refers, among other things, to mathematics. A young woman is caring for a father who had been a brilliant mathematician but is now afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease. A graduate student has been going through the man’s papers and finds what appears to be the solution to a famous, hitherto baffling mathematical puzzle. The question arises: Did the father really solve the puzzle? Or did the daughter? And what makes this so stimulating is that the playwright gives the situation the quality of a murder mystery with an intellectual edge. The wonderful actress, Mary Louise Parker, is still playing the daughter, and the play is still at the Walter Kerr Theater at 219 W. 48th St., (212) 239-6200. AND MORE BEST PLAYS Just as “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” was a nominee for this year’s Tony Award as Best Play, so was “King Hedley II.” This is the eighth and latest work in August Wilson’s projected 10-play cycle of plays about the African-American experience. Like the others, it is set in Pittsburgh, and if it does not have the story involvement of Wilson’s previous installment in the cycle, “Jitney,” it is just as beautifully written and richly characterized. Moreover, it features a fine central performance by Brian Stokes Mitchell, who usually can only be seen in musicals (“Ragtime,” “Kiss Me, Kate”). “King Hedley II” is at the Virginia Theater, 245 W. 52nd St., (212) 239-6200. All but last, any play by England’s Tom Stoppard is going to be worthwhile in a brainy way, and “The Invention of Love” is certainly that. It deals with the life, especially the university years, of A.E. Houseman, a relatively obscure Latin scholar and poet in turn-of-the-century England. “A Shropshire Lad” is the only work of his that remains in print, and just barely at that. Yet playwright Stoppard manages to celebrate the intellect and the emotional yearnings of this man, creating a character imprisoned in his own self. Especially striking is the contrast between Houseman’s constrained homosexuality, to which he is not yet prepared to admit, and the flamboyance of his fellow student at Oxford, Oscar Wilde. In this elegant production by Lincoln Center Theater, the emphasis is on language and ideas, in both of which this playwright always revels. The entertainment is mental for sure, but if that is what one has in mind, the rewards will be considerable. The Lyceum Theater, 149 W. 45th St., (212) 239-6200. Not least, and likewise rewarding, if in a more emotional way, is “Madame Melville,” a lovely play about a young man’s introduction to sexuality. Written and directed by Richard Nelson, an American who tends to introduce his plays in England, this compact and endearing play features the same cast that was acclaimed last season in the West End of London. Macaulay Culkin, now all of 20 and grown up from his “Home Alone” days, plays the young man who is remembering an adolescent interlude with a teacher. The place was Paris and the teacher was seeking momentary escape from her own unhappy romance. As the flashback is played out, her Kama Sutra-based instructions are giddy, his reactions race from frightened to eager, and her girlfriend looks on in benign amazement. The boy’s parents, of course, are another story, and the acting is superlative, both by Culkin and by yet another talented member of the Redgrave family, Vanessa’s daughter Joely. At the Promenade Theater, Broadway at 76th Street, (212) 239-6200.

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