The All Arts Council and Broadway Theaters, Inc., present the Franklin County Broadway Festival. The first curtain rises tomorrow evening at the Collins-Perley Sports Complex.
      Broadway. The lights. The sounds. The stars. Joel Grey, Ashton Kutcher, Daniel Radcliffe, Chris Rock, Jessica Stone and Jessica Walter, Robin Williams, Sarah Jo Willey, Bruce Willis, and even Tom Wopat grace the stage this year.
      The musical is the heartbeat of New York and well loved in northwestern Vermont. The smash hit, Memphis, grabbed four Tony Awards this year. The creators of South Park will bring a new musical to the stage this spring, alongside SuperGym, How to Succeed in Business, Wonderland, Anything Goes, Bengal Tiger in the Baghdad Zoo, and more.
      Many of those shows are in preview now.
      The Broadway preview has largely replaced the traditional (and expensive) out-of-town trial run, offering fully staged performances in which ticket prices are a little lower, the actors a little looser, the writers still tinkering, and the critics largely silent. But it doesn't give the same leg up as an out-of-town audience.
      Famed Broadway producer Philip W. Philip wants to return to playing New Haven and Phoenix and Philadelphia but with a twist.
      "We've lost a lot with New York-only previews so we're going to travel several shows together to make a mini-Festival," Mr. Philip said. "We'll do a lot of audience building and we can turn back some of the gate to the community."
      The Franklin County Broadway Festival opens this weekend as Bengal Tiger in the Baghdad Zoo takes over the Collins-Perley Sports Complex tomorrow evening at 8 p.m. Anything Goes comes to the MVU stage on Saturday at 8 p.m. SuperGym has both a matinee and evening performance at the Opera House at Enosburg Falls on Sunday at 2 and 8 p.m. And How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying finishes the run back in the Collins-Perley on Monday at 8 p.m.
Check the Date
      "We have eight shows in the runout mix this season," Mr. Philip said. "Lots of music and comedy and drama. We're doing these mini-festivals with four shows each in Connecticut, Pennsy, and Vermont."
      The first Broadway preview for Anything Goes at the Stephen Sondheim Theater began March 10 for an opening on April 7. The Cole Porter classic features You're the Top, Blow, Gabriel, Blow, It's De-Lovely, I Get A Kick Out of You and Anything Goes with a cast led by Sutton Foster, Joel Grey, and the two Jessicas.
      Bengal Tiger in the Baghdad Zoo at the Richard Rodgers Theater began previews on March 11 with a graying Robin Williams as a tiger who roams the streets of Baghdad with two American marines and an Iraqi gardener in search of friendship, redemption and a toilet seat made of gold.
      Jim Belushi and Nina Arianda head the cast in the revival of Garson Kanin's comedy on sex and politics, Born Yesterday. The still timely story gives us an ever-so-slightly-not-quite-honest tycoon and a not-quite-so-dumb blonde as they "capitalize" on Washington. Previews begin tonight leading to opening night April 24.
      Meanwhile Daniel Radcliffe brings his magic to the Al Hirschfield Theater in the role of J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
      In Jez Butterworth's new play, Jerusalem, Mark Rylance recreates his acclaimed, award-winning performance as Johnny 'Rooster' Byron to the Music Box Theater on April 2.
      Trey Parker and Matt Stone have Book of Mormon opening at the Eugene O'Neil Theater. This hilarious musical has a pair of mismatched Mormon boys on a mission a world away from Salt Lake City.
      Emily Frappier's musical, SuperGym, is set in the near-future city of Sveltania where health guru/dictator Bruce Willis as Benjamin Pratt obsesses over becoming the healthiest city in the world. Sexy, empty-headed trainer Thor, played by Ashton Kutcher, falls in love with Sarah Jo Willey as Ava, Pratt's oldest daughter and a woman with junk in the trunk. Together, they push Fat Camp where "You won't leave until you're perfect."
      Ms. Frappier received a N.A.S.A grant from the Flynnspace to develop SuperGym. Click here to view clips from her work in progress.
      Wonderland, Alice's New Musical Adventure at the Marquis Theater brings a new spin to the looking-glass world. The modern-day Alice has a life-changing adventure far below the streets of New York City accompanied by a pop score from the creator of Jekyll and Hyde. In previews now, Wonderland opens April 17.
Remember the Date
      Broadway has 40 large professional 500-plus seat theaters plus Lincoln Center in Manhattan. Shows there sold over a billion dollars worth of tickets last year. The Vermont shows are the final stop of the Broadway Festival runout tour. The previews began in New Haven March 18 and in West Chester, PA, last weekend.
      Admission is $60 per person for each show but series tickets are still available for $180 for all for previews. Tickets are available at Proceeds will benefit local art projects in Franklin County.

After reading this report, you may think that your favorite arts council chair has eaten too much grease paint. Rest assured that
it is again April 1, and you have been fooled.

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A small closing note: People regularly asked me about tickets in the week or so before this event and still tell me how sorry they are to have missed it.

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