The Broadway stage gets crowded as latecomers look for their Tony seats

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With the May 5 cutoff date for Tony eligibility, there's no lack of Broadway arrivals springing into action. On Thursday, Alan Ayckbourn's "Round and Round the Garden," the first in his trilogy "The Norman Conquests," debuted at the Circle in the Square, directed by Matthew Warchus. The cast is intact from the 2008 Old Vic production in London, spearheaded by artistic director Kevin Spacey.

Meanwhile, Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane return next week to Broadway, where together they piled up mucho awards and grosses with 2001's "The Producers" and the 2005 revival of "The Odd Couple."

This time, however, they'll be working 12 blocks apart.

Broderick opens Christopher Hampton's "The Philanthropist" on Sunday at the American Airlines Theatre. The comedy, directed by David Grindley and featuring a cast that includes Steven Weber, is in for a limited nine-week run through June 28.

Lane takes his opening-night bows Thursday at Studio 54 in the Anthony Page-directed revival of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot," co-starring Bill Irwin, John Goodman and John Glover.

"Godot" was last seen in this town in a 1988 Lincoln Center revival directed by Mike Nichols that also toplined Irwin. That time, he teamed with Steve Martin, Robin Williams, F. Murray Abraham and Lukas Haas.

Also on tap is the much-heralded revival of Eugene O'Neill's "Desire Under the Elms" from Chicago's Goodman Theatre. It makes its Broadway bow Monday at the St. James, again directed by Robert Falls and with the Chicago cast in place, headed by Brian Dennehy, Carla Gugino and Pablo Schreiber.

That's followed Wednesday by the curtain rising on David Hyde Pierce in another of the week's revivals, Samson Raphaelson's 1934 comedy "Accent on Youth." The Manhattan Theatre Club production is at the Samuel Friedman (still better known as the Biltmore).

On Thursday, the same day "Godot" opens, the new, musicalized "9 to 5" arrives at the Marquis. It is directed by Joe Mantello, with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, and features a cast that includes Allison Janney and Stephanie J. Block.

The musical got a tryout last year at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles, where word-of-mouth was so-so.

Loss of a friend

Film festivals only work and survive if there's someone in charge with tenacity, a passion for film and a willingness to do without sleep, vacations or adequate financial compensation in return for the pleasure of connecting film enthusiasts with product — new and old — they otherwise might not have a chance to see.

Such a fellow was Peter Simpson, for the past 10 years the heart and soul of the Port Townsend Film Festival, a stone's throw from Seattle in the Pacific Northwest. Under his guidance, the PTFF has been an enormous success, attracting all sorts of talented film luminaries — Tony Curtis, Eva Marie Saint, Patricia Neal, Malcolm McDowell, Jane Powell, Debra Winger, Piper Laurie, Elliott Gould and Shirley Knight, among others — and championing young filmmakers.

Simpson was well into planning the festival's big 10th anniversary gala, set for September, when he died suddenly April 16 of cardiac arrest. It's a deep loss to his family, those of us who were entrenched deeply as his friends, the city and certainly to new filmmakers he strove so conscientiously to showcase.

He was one of the good guys, and he'll be sorely missed.

Robert Osborne is the primetime host and anchor of Turner Classic Movies.
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