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This Week on Stage: Hugh Jackman's back!

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It seems Hugh Jackman can’t get Broadway out of his system. After the May 23 opening of the supersized Marvel opus X-Men: Days of Future Past, he will preside over the 2014 Tony Awards on CBS June 8 (where we can possibly see a taste of the song-and-dance man of The Boy From Oz and Oklahoma!), and it was just announced that he will return to the NYC stage this fall in a brand-new play by acclaimed playwright Jez Butterworth (Jerusalem) called The River, set in a remote rural cabin and featuring only three actors. And despite the fact that Jackman could likely sell out Radio City Music Hall (the site of the current Tonys), the play will take shape on the 776-seat thrust stage of Circle in the Square, where the back row is still only mere feet away from the performers. And even better news: there will be $35 seats reserved for each performance so that the premium-seat gobblers do not claim all the glory (much like what was done with the smash-hit Shakespeare revivals with Mark Rylance this past season to ensure a broader audience). The River begins previews on Oct. 31, and will open on Nov. 16.

And on the complete opposite size spectrum, the mammoth Lyric Theatre (formerly the Foxwoods, where Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark swung through controversy for several seasons), will host a revival of the beloved musical On the Town (come to think of it, wouldn’t Jackman make an amazing Gabey in this?), which begins previews Sept. 20 for a scheduled opening on Oct. 16. And if you’re not in the New York City area but need some theater fixes this fall, you’re in luck: PBS will broadcast the live NY Philharmonic concert version of Sweeney Todd starring Oscar-winner Emma Thompson on Sept. 26, and the network will also present the filmed production of The Nance from last year. Nathan Lane (delighting us on The Good Wife this season), who earned a Tony nomination and starred in the period comedy about the vaudeville era, gave one of his greatest performances to date. One will not want to miss his tour-de-force work in it; The Nance is slated to air sometime in the fall. And EW continues covering the new weekly openings, including Off Broadway favorite Forbidden Broadway, back to skewer all the past year’s new Great White Way contenders (click on the links below for full reviews):

The City of Conversation  Five-time Tony nominee Jan Maxwell returns to the stage in a new play about a Georgetown hostess dealing with the ever-changing political climate of Washington, D.C. circa 1979. Senior editor Thom Geier certainly agrees that more Jan Maxwell is always a good thing, indicating her role is played with “cultured confidence…while some of the plotting in the second act feels a tad gerrymandered for the most extreme effect, The City of Conversation provides a stirring and entertaining reminder that all politics really is local.” EW grade: B+

The Few  Award-winning playwright Samuel D. Hunter (The Whale) returns with a new play about a small group of smalltown folks struggling to keep a newspaper afloat in the creaky era of Y2K, starring Spring Awakening‘s Gideon Glick. I checked out this new NYC premiere and found it to be an impressive piece alongside Mr. Hunter’s recent, also terrific plays. Says the review: “[Hunter] is nearly unparalleled in depicting the sad and disenfranchised without a trace of pity or condescension. And he brings ample humor to individuals seem decidedly bleak. These Few may be down in the dumps, but they make for excellent company.” EW grade: B+

Forbidden Broadway Comes Out Swinging!  What would NYC theater be without Gerard Alessandrini’s celebrated parody revue to send it up on an ongoing basis? Among the new targets are Pippin, Cabaret, Rocky and the soon-to-be-late Bridges of Madison County, and Thom Geier finds the new edition sharper than ever. “After three decades of needling Broadway in the musical-theater sendup Forbidden Broadway, Gerard Alessandrini has lost none of his rapier edge….the consistently terrific cast of four quick-change artists are gifted mimics as well as singers.” EW grade: A-

Sea Marks Those looking for a small, sweet romantic tale could do much worse than a revival of Gardner McKay’s star-crossed lovers comedy, given a pleasant revival by NYC’s Irish Repertory Theatre. My review states that “the delightful wordplay doesn’t quite mask the serious lack of narrative progress”, but high marks are given to its two and only stars: “The well-matched [Patrick[ Fitzgerald and [Xanthe] Elbrick are such fun to watch — and so unrushed by director Ciarán O’Reilly — that their gentle duet smooths over some of the play’s occasional lapses.” EW grade: B