2005_07_arts_aveq.jpg Though there are festivals running and a few small ones still opening, after several weeks of festival posting Gothamist is taking a break and looking at what else is going on in theatre. First, we were glad to hear in the latest backstage news that Avenue Q is going to splash across the pond and premiere in London early next year. It would be better if it could go sooner, but in Gothamist’s mind this is sort of New York theatre’s way of showing solidarity with recently terrorized Londoners. What better rejoinder could we have than these songs sung by a cast of multicultural, goofy, slightly naughty but utterly lovable puppets?

In other foreign theatre news, the cast of the inevitable Lord of the Rings stage adaptation was announced yesterday. Not surprisingly, it’s huge – 65 performers will be directed by Matthew Warchus, with Brent Carver anchoring it all as Gandalf, in this premiere production, which begins previews in Toronto next February. The show is touting itself as “the biggest, most ambitious theatrical production ever staged,” which makes Gothamist curious (or maybe 'irked' is the better word) as to why it’s not opening in New York or London. Doubtless the creators are just hedging their bets and not going all out with something that might not work, but it’s hard to imagine Peter Jackson being so cautious. In any case, unless it’s just a complete, unmitigated disaster, it probably won’t be too long before it’s breaking box office records here.

2005_07_arts_lane.jpg Speaking of shattered box office records, a good friend of Broadway has sort of slipped into the cast of a rather smaller production than he may be accustomed to. Nathan Lane will star alongside Marian Seldes in Terrence McNally’s Dedication or the Stuff of Dreams, which starts previews today at the perpetually busy 59E59 Theaters. Lane is on-the-go nonstop, too; he’s part of this show in between doing a new film version of The Producers and the beginning of this season’s Broadway blockbuster, The Odd Couple with Matthew Broderick (no, obviously it hasn’t even begun previews yet, so it’s not technically a blockbuster at this point, but is there a doubt in anyone’s mind?) Anyway, that Lane is adding Dedication… to his stuffed schedule speaks well for the material; it’s a play about a “life-changing encounter” between a couple that runs a children’s theater (that would be Lane and Seldes) and a woman who owns an abandoned theater that they want to take over. If that premise doesn’t grab you, just trust the cast – they’re surely going to make sparks fly.

Finally, even though Dedication… may not be quite the hot ticket that the Odd Couple already is, it’s on the pricey side of off-Broadway, and the cast of award-winners will surely mean lots of sold-out shows. So in keeping with Gothamist’s love of affordable, accessible theater, let’s not neglect a free show opening this week: Measure for Measure. It’s Shakespeare in the Park, except instead of the Public Theater it’s a company called Palpable Hit, and instead of Central Park it’s Riverside Park, and instead of having to line up for tickets early in the morning you can just head over and sprawl out on a picnic blanket and have dinner while you watch. Sounds like an excellent way to spend an evening this weekend.

Details: Dedication or the Stuff of Dreams is at 59E59 Theaters, 59 E. 59th Street, starting today through Sept. 18. Shows are Tues. at 7pm, Wed.-Sat. 8pm, Wed. & Sat. at 2pm. Tickets can be bought online via Ticket Central
Measure for Measure is in Riverside Park on the North Lawn (79th St.). It opens on Friday 7/29 and runs through August 7; shows are Fri.-Sun. at 7:30 (Thurs.-Sun. next week).

Photo of Avenue Q by Carol Rosegg. Photo of Nathan Lane by Tristram Kenton.