NEW YORK -- It's never too early to think about Dec. 25 and in the theater that means "A Christmas Carol."
For the last nine years, Madison Square Garden has been the site of a lavish musical version of the Charles Dickens classic. For its 10th and final season, the production, which runs Nov. 28-Dec. 27, will star Jim Dale as the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge.
Dale is the theater veteran who starred on Broadway in "Barnum," "Me and My Girl," "Joe Egg" and "Scapin." But these days he is best known as the voice on the audio recordings of the Harry Potter books.
Dale follows such performers as F. Murray Abraham, Tim Curry, Frank Langella, Roddy McDowall and Tony Randall who all played Scrooge in past years.
For tickets, call 212-307-1000 or visit the Web site, www.thegarden.com
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Broadway ticket availability and capsule reviews of shows as of Sept. 15. Unless otherwise noted, tickets are available at the theaters' box offices for the shows listed. Details about how to obtain tickets appear at the end.
-"Aida." Toni Braxton now stars in Elton John and Tim Rice's crowd-pleaser of a musical based on the ancient Egyptian love triangle. John's music may be the show's initial lure, but audiences will be wowed by designer Bob Crowley's spectacular sets and often outlandish costumes. Palace. Ticketmaster.
-"Avenue Q." Love blossoms among the twentysomething set - a group that includes puppets - in this very funny, adult musical comedy that has transferred from off-Broadway. Golden. Telecharge.
-"Beauty and the Beast." For those who want a lavish, literal, live-action version of the delightful Disney animated feature, this is the ticket. Others may be content to rent the film. Lunt-Fontanne. Ticketmaster.
-"Cabaret." A blistering, high-concept revival of the Kander and Ebb musical set in pre-World War II Berlin. Still one of the most memorable musicals of the last four decades. A Roundabout Theatre Company production at Studio 54. Telecharge. Closes Nov. 2.
-"Chicago." A potent revival of the 1975 Bob Fosse musical with a sassy Kander and Ebb score. Broadway's longest running musical revival - and deservedly so. Melanie Griffith stars as Roxie Hart through Oct. 5. Ambassador. Telecharge.
-"42nd Street." Those tapping feet are back. A loud, relentless revival of one of the biggest musical hits of the 1980s. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Ticketmaster.
-"Gypsy." Bernadette Peters is the ultimate stage mother in a revival of the one of the best musicals Broadway has ever produced. Shubert. Telecharge.
-"Hairspray." The cult John Waters movie set in 1960s Baltimore has been turned into a hilarious, tuneful musical. Harvey Fierstein inherits the role of full-figured Edna Turnblad, played in the film by Divine. Kathy Brier plays perky teen Tracy Turnblad. Winner of eight 2003 Tony Awards, including best musical. Neil Simon. Ticketmaster. Difficult.
-"Little Shop of Horrors." The 1982 off-Broadway hit about a man-eating plant finds its way to Broadway. Now in previews. Opens Oct. 2. Virginia. Telecharge.
-"Mamma Mia!" The London musical sensation featuring the pop songs of ABBA finally makes it to Broadway. Flimsy plot and loud music but several terrific performances including lead Louise Pitre. A special "Mamma Mia!" Telecharge number 212-563-5544.
-"Movin' Out." Songs by Billy Joel. Choreography by Twyla Tharp. A dance musical about good friends, taking them from the 1960s onward. The dancing is exuberant; the story less so. Winner of two Tony Awards. Richard Rodgers. Ticketmaster.
-"Nine." Antonio Banderas stars in a smashing revival of the Maury Yeston musical about an Italian filmmaker and all the women in his life. A Roundabout Theatre Company production. Winner of two 2003 Tony Awards, including best musical revival. Banderas' last performance is Oct. 5. John Stamos takes over Oct. 7. Eugene O'Neill. Telecharge. Difficult.
-"Rent." Jonathan Larson's touching and now nostalgic look at struggling artists in New York's East Village. Loosely based on Puccini's opera "La Boheme." Nederlander. Ticketmaster.
-"Take Me Out." A gay baseball star comes out of the closet and the ramifications it has for his teammates. A play by Richard Greenberg. Winner of three 2003 Tonys, including best play. Walter Kerr. Telecharge.
-"The Boy From Oz." Hugh Jackman stars as Australian entertainer Peter Allen in this new musical that uses Allen's original songs. Now in previews. Opens Oct. 16. Imperial. Telecharge.
-"The Lion King." Director Julie Taymor is a modern-day Merlin, creating a stage version of the Disney animated hit that makes you truly believe in the magic of theater. New Amsterdam. Ticketmaster. Difficult on weekends.
-"The Phantom of the Opera." The one with the chandelier. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical about a deformed composer who haunts the Paris Opera House is the prime, Grade A example of big Brit musical excess. But all the lavishness does have a purpose in Harold Prince's intelligent production. Majestic. Telecharge.
-"The Producers." A riotous stage version of the Mel Brooks movie. The musical is even better than the film, which is saying something. St. James. A special "Producers" Telecharge number 212-239-5800.
-"Thoroughly Modern Millie." Sutton Foster is the 1920s flapper in this bubbly stage reworking of the Julie Andrews movie musical. Marquis. Ticketmaster.
-"Urinetown: The Musical." The title - and maybe the subject matter - may be outrageous, but this musical spoof is a witty, wickedly entertaining show. Henry Miller. Telecharge.
The Telecharge number is 212-239-6200 unless otherwise indicated. There is a $6 service charge per ticket, plus a $2.50 handling fee per order.
Ticketmaster is 212-307-4100. There is a $6 service charge per ticket, plus a $3 handling fee per order.
All theaters owned by Jujamcyn - the St. James, Martin Beck, Virginia, Eugene O'Neill and the Walter Kerr - have a $1 surcharge per ticket for theater restoration. Shows that opened in Shubert theaters after Jan. 1, 2001, also a "facilities" surcharge for theater restoration: $1.25 per ticket.
Both Telecharge and Ticketmaster will provide information on specific seat locations. They also have toll-free numbers for theater ticket calls outside New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. For Telecharge call 800-432-7250; for Ticketmaster call 800-755-4000.
The League of American Theaters and Producers has a special telephone line called the Broadway Line for information on most Broadway shows (except "The Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast") and how to purchase tickets. Calls must be made on a touch-tone phone. The number is 1-888-BROADWAY. The line also will provide information on Broadway touring productions. Consumers in the New York tri-state area may call 212-302-4111.
The TKTS booth in Times Square at Broadway and 47th Street sells same-day discount tickets to Broadway, off-Broadway, music and dance productions. There is a $3 service charge per ticket. Cash or travelers checks only. Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday evening performances, 3 p.m.-8 p.m.; matinees Wednesday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
The downtown TKTS booth is in the South Street Seaport at the corner of Front and John Streets. Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Matinee tickets must be purchased at South Street Seaport the day before, meaning Wednesday matinee tickets are available Tuesday, Saturday matinee tickets are available Friday and Sunday matinee tickets are available Saturday.
In addition, full-price tickets and information on Broadway and off-Broadway shows are available at the Broadway Ticket Center, located on the east side of Broadway between 46th Street and 47th Street. There is a $4.50 service charge per ticket.
For 24-hour information on theater, dance and music performances in New York's five boroughs, call the Theater Development Fund's New York City-On Stage, 212-768-1818.
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