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Hollywood Stars Michelle Williams, James Franco and Zach Braff Walk the Broadway Boards (VIDEOS)

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by Anne Thompson and Ryan Lattanzio
April 16, 2014 2:16 PM
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Michelle Williams in 'Cabaret'

Why is Sam Mendes back in New York with "Cabaret?" Michelle Williams. She's the talk of the town as she makes her Broadway debut as song-and-dance ingenue Sally Bowles opposite Alan Cumming in Roundabout's revival of the dark musical "Cabaret," directed by Mendes, a prolific stage director before foraying into film with his Oscar-winning debut "American Beauty" in 1999. (Watch a clip from "Cabaret" below.)

While many Hollywood stars are packing up their bags and moving to television, Williams is not the only young A-lister heading to a new arena: Broadway. Scarlett Johansson won a Featured Actress Tony for her debut role in "A View from the Bridge" in 2010. And this Tony season, an unprecedented number of movie and Hollywood stars under 40 are hitting Broadway for the first time," writes the LA Times in a feature on Broadway rookies WilliamsZach Braff and James Franco, as well as a few familiar faces from TV including Chris O'Dowd and Leighton Meester.

'Bullets Over Broadway'

"Wish I Was Here" star/director Zach Braff will make his Broadway debut in theater vet Susan Stroman's musical comedy staging of Woody Allen's 1994 film "Bullets Over Broadway," now open. Braff plays up-and-coming, overeager playwright David Shayne (i.e. the Woody Allen surrogate) portrayed by John Cusack in the film.

Meanwhile, ubiquitous chameleon James Franco -- who always has a bevy of projects in the trunk --opens April 16 as George Milton opposite Chris O'Dowd's Lennie Small in Tony-winner Anna D. Shapiro's staging of John Steinbeck's tearjerking, high school syllabus staple "Of Mice and Men." (NYT interview here.)

Mendes, who directed the London revival of "Cabaret" in 1994, explains to Charlie Rose (watch below) why he returned to the enduring Bob Fosse musical, as well as his next film franchise outing, "Bond 24," which he sees as an extension of his global hit "Skyfall." (He signed on only after they gave him enough time to do a proper job--it's set to start filming in November 2014 for release a year later.) The next Bond film, again being written by John Logan ("The Aviator") will continue with Daniel Craig as agent 007, Ralph Fiennes as M, Ben Whishaw as Q and Naomie Harris as Miss Moneypenny. The new Bond Girl? It's rumored to be Penelope Cruz, whose husband Javier Bardem nailed the last Bond Villain.

The "Cabaret" director also discusses his Bridge Project collaboration with "American Beauty" Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey, who Mendes directed in the 2012 global tour of "Richard III." Spacey played the titular royal tyrant who inspired "House of Cards" and his brilliantly ruthless performance as Frank Underwood, and premieres his self-financed doc about the tour, "NOW in the Wings on the World Stage," at the Tribeca Film Festival that gets under way this week.

See "Cabaret" and "Charlie Rose" videos below.

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