N.Y. Notes: Bound for Broadway?

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Byline: Ivette M. Yee, Times-Union staff writer

Scratch that itch, we did.

If you tuned in to the Tony Awards Sunday, you probably want to give your regards to Broadway. So if you're heading for the bright lights of New York City, we've got just the ticket for you. Metro columnist Charlie Patton, Weekend editor Soyia Ellison and I recently returned from the metropolis with yellow-topped Playbills in hands. Here's what we thought of some of Broadway's top shows:

I saw:

-- The Elephant Man, starring Billy Crudup, Kate Burton and Rupert Graves.

The Elephant Man tells the touching story of John Merrick, an Englishman who was born so badly deformed that he was displayed as a sideshow freak during the 1890s. When a physician discovers him, Merrick is offered lifetime care in a hospital, where all sorts of people visit him.

Crudup, the handsome lead of such films as Almost Famous and Jesus' Son, earned his Tony nomination as the lead here. From the moment he hobbled on stage sans makeup or prosthetics to portray the fragile Merrick, I was struck.

Though the beginning scenes of the play are a bit choppy, it really gels once Crudup and Burton (playing an actress who befriends Merrick) are on stage together. While Crudup delivers a sensitive performance that's filled with pathos and humility, Burton (who was also nominated for a Tony this year for Hedda Gabler) is crisp and engaging.

There are moments of humor and sadness, and an interesting parallel is set up toward the end that questions who really lacks humanity. When Crudup's and Burton's characters meet for the first time and he says, "I don't know why I look this way; my mother was quite beautiful," you forget that Crudup is a movie star that makes hearts (including mine) swoon. Instead he becomes the character who makes hearts break.

Soyia saw:

-- The Producers, starring Brad Oscar and Steven Weber.

"Everything about The Producers is over-the-top -- the acting, the costumes, the sets . . . the ticket prices. But it's worth the cash. The Producers is a musical adaptation of Mel Brooks' 1968 movie about an unethical Broadway producer and a sad-sack accountant who come up with a scheme to make a fortune by producing the worst musical ever. Unfortunately for them, it's so bad it's good. The Producers sells out every show, for good reason. Original stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are gone, but Lane's replacement, Brad Oscar, looks and sounds so much like Lane that from the mezzanine, you almost believe you're watching Lane. Broderick's replacement, Steven Weber of Wings, is fine but doesn't make a big impression.

The production numbers sizzle. The songs themselves are fun, but they won't leave you wanting to run out of the theater and buy the soundtrack in the way of say, Chicago or Cabaret. …