This summer's hottest stage productions are...

By EW Staff
Updated July 13, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

Clybourne Park2012

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A Curtain Call for 3 Beloved Stars

Amy Adams
Into the Woods (Off Broadway)

When Amy Adams first considered doing the Public Theater’s Central Park production of Into the Woods (July 23–Aug. 25), she sorted the pros and cons. On the plus side: She could reconnect with her stage roots (her last live musical was a Minnesota production of Good News! in 1999), perform with a cast that includes Tony winner Donna Murphy as the Witch, and sing in Central Park for the first time since 2007’s Enchanted. And the cons? ”There was nothing in the negative column except fear,” says the three-time Oscar nominee, who will play the Baker’s Wife in Stephen Sondheim’s fractured-fairy-tale musical. Adams, back on screen this October in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, still expects some jitters this summer. ”I know there’ll be a moment where I’m like, ‘Why did I leave my nice, safe film career where we can do take 2?”’ ( —Adam Markovitz

Bradley Cooper
The Elephant Man (Williamstown, Mass.)

Bradley Cooper was 12 when he watched David Lynch’s 1980 film The Elephant Man, about a severely deformed man named John Merrick in 19th-century London. It changed Cooper’s life. ”That movie is the reason why I wanted to be an actor,” he says. ”It invoked a level of sadness that I’d never felt in my life. It was intoxicating. I didn’t know a movie could do that.” As a grad student at NYC’s Actors Studio in 2000, Cooper chose to perform Bernard Pomerance’s acclaimed 1979 play of the same name as his thesis project. This summer he’ll portray Merrick again, opposite Patricia Clarkson at the Williamstown Theatre Festival (July 25–Aug. 5). ”I feel like I have a relationship with this guy that hasn’t left me since I was 12 years old,” he says. Fans of People‘s Sexiest Man Alive need not fret. Unlike the Lynch film, Pomerance’s play requires no facial prosthetics. ( —Sara Vilkomerson

Jim Parsons
Harvey (Broadway)

First, let’s address the 6-foot-3 rabbit in the room: Jim Parsons has never seen the classic 1950 film version of Harvey, Mary Chase’s play about a man and his invisible lapin friend. ”I didn’t want to end up doing a Jimmy Stewart impression,” says Parsons, who stars in a new Broadway revival opening June 14 and running through Aug. 5. ”You never know how your subconscious will be affected.” On paper, Harvey’s winsome and eternally friendly Elwood P. Dowd is miles away from the socially incapable Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. But Parsons, who made his Broadway debut in last year’s Tony-winning revival of The Normal Heart, sees some unintentional similarities between the characters. ”They have two things in common,” says the actor. ”They’re both outside the norm, and they both say what they mean and mean what they say.” ( —Keith Staskiewicz

5 New Must-See Shows

Clybourne Park (Broadway)

Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer-winning drama takes place in the same Chicago house during two different years — 1959 and 2009. Superbly acted and caustically funny, the play reveals how little America has evolved with regard to some of its main hang-ups: community, race relations, and real estate. (

End of the Rainbow (Broadway)

Tracie Bennett is sensational as a pill-popping Judy Garland months before her 1969 death at age 47. But the British actress is no mere impersonator. Her manic, Ritalin-spiked rendition of “Come Rain or Come Shine” oozes both raw talent and aching tragedy. (

Newsies (Broadway)

Who’da thunk it? The 1992 big-screen flop starring Christian Bale is now an energetic, defiantly old-fashioned stage hit about singing and dancing newsboys in turn-of-the-20th-century New York. Star Jeremy Jordan and his fellow urchins have a spark that could light up Times Square. (

One man, Two Guvnors (Broadway)

A doltish guy (Gavin & Stacey’s nimble James Corden) hilariously tries to juggle two increasingly demanding bosses. This British update of an 18th-century comedy should carry an air-traffic warning: Beware of flying buttons from all the busted guts and split sides. (

Tribes (Off Broadway)

Nina Raine’s perceptive drama depicts a fractious, highly literate family that seems to feed on verbal sparring. But where does that leave son Billy (Russell Harvard), who was born deaf? When Billy learns sign language in his 20s, he belatedly finds his voice. ( —Thom Geier

Episode Recaps

Clybourne Park2012

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