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'Sopranos' New Season: The Rise of Johnny Sack

'Sopranos' Scoop Lauper to Light Up Broadway Fox411 Causes Jacko Flip-flop

'Sopranos' New Season: The Rise of Johnny Sack

I have a little "Sopranos" information for you. Are you ready?

The new season won’t begin airing until March 2004, and the episodes are not finished yet. According to my sources, the cast and crew do not know exactly how the new season will end.

“No one but David Chase has seen the script for Episode 13,” says my source. I could tell you his/her name. But then you’d have to be killed.

“The main thing about this season is that we see the rise of Johnny Sack.” Johnny is played in a wise and world-weary fashion by the understated Vince Curatola. “This is really his season.”

If so, expect the new "Sopranos" to be more about the mob than ever before. You may recall Johnny Sack almost went to war last year over barbed remarks made about his overweight wife.

Curatola, by the way, spends his free time harmonizing as a vocalist with the rock group Chicago.

Meanwhile, as we all know by now, Furio -- played by our old pal Federico Castelluccio -- does not return from Italy. “He hasn’t worked on the show at all this season,” my spy says. It’s just as well; his flirtation with Carmela would probably have gotten Furio killed.

On the other hand, even though he’s been touring with Bruce Springsteen, Steve Van Zandt is definitely back as the wryly funny Silvio. The show has been shooting around him, leaving “spaces” where Van Zandt will be fit in when he returns from the E Street Band’s work shortly.

As far as reports went that Dominic Chianese’s character of Uncle Junior going to that big family dinner in the sky, they were all apparently unfounded. Uncle Junior, a show favorite, will be back and as prickly as ever.

Cyndi Lauper Headed for Broadway

I’ll tell you this: The really important theatre director Joe Mantello and the really important theatre producer Jimmy Nederlander made sure to catch Cyndi Lauper’s show at Joe’s Pub. Now they’re talking about expanding it for off or maybe even on Broadway.

Over the four shows, many celebs from the New York music scene stopped by, Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson among them.

What they witnessed was a total transformation of Lauper from wisecracker to siren. She sang like a bird, getting notes where it didn’t seem possible on hard to sing songs like “Unchained Melody” and “Walk on By.”

When Lauper’s album “At Last” hits stores November 18th, watch for a stampede from smart, older record buyers who want to hear one of their heroes triumph over less talented types of today. What Lauper does with these cover songs is make them her own.

In concert, it was even more so. And she has not lost her sense of humor. “You don’t wanna go home thinking this was 'Girls Just Wanna Cry,'” she quipped toward the end of last night’s set before heading into a New Orleans jazz version of “On the Sunny Side of the Street.”

And wait: she’s changed some of the lyrics to Nina Simone’s classic “My Baby Just Cares for Me.” I think Brad Pitt, Queen Latifah and Jennifer Aniston will get a kick out of making the cut. There are some others; let their names remain a surprise for now.

The album “At Last” was produced by Russ Titelman, the longtime Warner Bros. expert whose most recent hit was James Taylor’s last album -- a top 10 hit. Now Russ, if only some of the other great singers from the 70s and 80s will call you. Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, etc. Call me, I’ll give you the number.

Jacko Drops Scientology as Beneficiary

You can thank this column for the following news. Michael Jackson has dropped Scientology as a beneficiary of his charity fundraising. At least publicly.

I told you exclusively that Jackson had included HELP, a Scientology literacy group, as one of the organizations which would get “some” of the proceeds from the $2 download of “What More Can I Give?”

Yesterday all reference to HELP was dropped from the download Web site, www.musicforgiving.com. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Jackson himself won’t be donating funds to Scientology. But that’s his business.

Still, though, there remains no accounting for recent Jackson charity efforts. That should make anyone wary about “buying” “What More Can I Give?” over the Internet. My advice: if you want to, send a charitable donation directly to International Child Art Foundation or Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation. They’re each worthwhile, and you don’t need a middle man to help you support them.