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Stage preview: "Ben Hur: The Musical" and others

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If you’re not buying into the disco nostalgia of Saturday Night Fever (TM), the stages of New York (and elsewhere) will offer plenty of alternatives this fall. First up on Broadway is Woody Harrelson, who offers hope and love to the denizens of a drought-ridden town in a revival of the 1954 play The Rainmaker (in previews; TM)….

In Putting It Together (previews begin Oct. 30; TC), Carol Burnett, Bronson Pinchot, and company sing a revue of Stephen Sondheim songs; starting Dec. 7, Kathie Lee Gifford will sub for Burnett on Tuesdays. (Sondheim’s next Broadway outing, Wise Guys, starring Nathan Lane and Victor Garber and directed by Sam Mendes, will open in the spring after being developed this fall)…. A revival of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate (Oct. 25; TC) stars the Ragtime duo Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie….

Another Ragtime vet, three-time Tony winner Audra McDonald, gets her first Broadway leading role as a singing Medea in Marie Christine (Oct. 28; TC)…. Julie Harris stars in the family drama Scent of the Roses (Nov. 28; TC)…. In the American premiere of Noel Coward’s Waiting in the Wings (Dec. 3; TC), Lauren Bacall returns to the stage after nearly two decades…. Peter Shaffer’s popular Amadeus, now playing in Los Angeles, gets a Broadway revival (Dec. 7; TC)…. Recent Emmy winner Susan Lucci takes over in Annie Get Your Gun (TM) from Dec. 23 to Jan. 16 while Bernadette Peters is on vacation…. And two-time Tony winner James Naughton (Chicago) shows up on both sides of the footlights as director of Arthur Miller’s The Price (Oct. 29; TC) and star of the timely Off Broadway cyberthriller Y2K (Nov. 9; TC).

Off Broadway you can also find Scream 2‘s Liev Schreiber as Hamlet (Nov. 23; TC) at Manhattan’s Public Theater…. Christopher Walken stars in an Off Broadway musical version of James Joyce’s The Dead (Oct. 28; 212-279-4200)…. More proof that fortysomethings are a hot topic: Off Broadway’s Dinner With Friends (Oct. 21; TC), a divorce comedy by Donald Margulies…. In Minneapolis, the Guthrie Theater is staging a Broadway-bound musical adaptation of Martin Guerre (now running; 612-377-2224), from the producers of Les Miz and Miss Saigon…. In Chicago, Elton John’s Aida (Nov. 12; 312-902-1500) continues its pre-Broadway tryout…. And in Orlando, the $8 million epic Ben-Hur: The Musical (Nov. 13; 877-3BENHUR) features a wall of fire and a chariot race. Say your prayers.