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Braxton, Griffith Belt for Broadway

04/16/2003 01:20PM

Despite reports of Broadway's demise in the wake of New York's dwindling tourist business, there are signs that the boards are booming -- given an influx of stars that include Toni Braxton, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, and singer Angie Stone.

On June 30, R&B star Braxton will return to the Palace Theater in the title role of the Disney production of Elton John and Tim Rice's "Aida," in a stint slated to run for four months, Billboard reports.

In 1998, Braxton made her Broadway debut as Belle in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," which also played the Palace. (Just last week, she gave birth to a second son, Diezel Ky Braxton Lewis. Braxton, 34, and husband Keri Lewis, 32, also have a 1-year-old son, Denim.)

"I am very excited to be coming back to Broadway as Aida," Braxton said in a statement. "Ever since I was a little girl, I have been a fan of Elton John's music, and to be able to sing the wonderful score he wrote with Tim Rice will be a terrific challenge both as a singer and as an actress."

As for Banderas, 42, the sexy star opened last Thursday in "Nine," in a revival that received mostly positive reviews. As a result (and thanks to Banderas's drawing power at the box office), the six-week limited run that was scheduled to end Aug. 10 has been extended another six weeks.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Banderas, Melanie Griffith, will make her Broadway debut July 11 as Roxie Hart in the Tony-winning revival of Kander and Ebb's "Chicago." (The role was played by Renee Zellweger in the Oscar-winning movie version.)

Griffith, 45, is due to wrap up the gig Sept. 28, just about the time Banderas leaves his show.

Also joining "Chicago" starting April 14 is R&B singer Angie Stone, who makes her Broadway debut as jail warden Matron "Mama" Morton (portrayed in the movie by Queen Latifah).

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