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Is Broadway getting a new theatre?

andrew-rannells-hedwig-angry-inch-credit-joan-marcus Andrew Rannells in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Photo: Joan Marcus
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Howard Sherman’s fortnightly dispatch from Broadway is your essential catch-up guide to all the latest news, rumours and castings on the other side of the Atlantic. In this edition he looks forward to post-summer openings and ponders the question on every theatre-loving New Yorker’s lips:

A new Broadway theatre, or not?

Depending who you read – or believe – there either will or won’t be a new theatre built on Eighth Avenue between 45th and 46th Streets in New York’s theatre district in the next few years. There might be a hotel. Or hotel with a theatre in it. The New York Post’s Michael Riedel reported rumors about a newly built venue by the Shubert Organization, while Jeremy Gerard of Deadline cites very specific real estate reasons why it’s not going to come to pass. For what it’s worth, I’ve been hearing the same rumours about a new theatre on that spot for several years, and it’s still an almost completely empty lot.

Andrew Rannells joins Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Nobody puts Hedwig’s wig in a box! Andrew Rannells (pictured, top) stepped into the heels of the internationally ignored title character of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, facing the unenviable task of following Tony Award winner Neil Patrick Harris. While many reports focused on the drop in the show’s box office revenue, I think it’s worth noting that Rannells, a seasoned pro but not a veteran of a long-running TV show, played to 88% capacity, a more than respectable showing. The long grift continues.

Deaf West reawakens Spring

One of the most compelling reinventions of a musical I’ve seen was DeafWest’s 2003 production of Big River at the Roundabout Theater (after a run at the Mark Taper Forum). Combining deaf, hard of hearing and hearing actors, the company’s ideal melding of spoken English and American Sign Language fluidly and movingly transformed Roger Miller and William Hauptman’s 1985 retelling of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Deaf West tackles its fifth musical, Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater’s Spring Awakening, beginning September 7 in Los Angeles. It’s directed by Michael Arden, who shared the title role in the company’s Pippin with Tyrone Giordano in 2009 at the Taper.

Allegro and A Month in the Country at Classic Stage Company

Along with the announcements of starry new Broadway shows which filled my last column comes news of an Off-Broadway show sure to appeal to viewers of two of television’s most talked-about programs, Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black. Classic Stage Company has announced that Peter Dinklage and Taylor Schilling will take leading roles this winter in Turgenev’s A Month in the Country, directed by Erica Schmidt. It follows a rare revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Allegro on the CSC stage, directed by John Doyle, who had a great success for the same company with a revival of Sondheim’s Passion. Allegro begins on November 1 and A Month in the Country begins on January 9.

Billy and Ray at The Vineyard

Mad Men fans will also be looking Off-Broadway, beginning in October, when Vincent Kartheiser plays Billy Wilder opposite Larry Pine’s Raymond Chandler in Mike Bencivenga’s Billy and Ray at the Vineyard Theatre beginning October 1. Also of note is the production’s director: Happy Days creator (sitcom, not Beckett) Garry Marshall, who directed a previous production of the show in Los Angeles.

Malcolm Jamal-Warner is Coming To Dinner

And since I’m on a roll with TV tie-ins here’s one more, from Boston. Malcolm Jamal-Warner, who played Theo on 1980s sitcom The Cosby Show, will take on the role Sidney Poitier created on film in a stage adaptation of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner at the Huntington Theatre Company beginning September 5. The adaptation by Todd Kreidler previously played at Washington DC’s Arena Stage. The cast also features Tony Award winner Adriane Lenox (Doubt) and Newhart’s Julia Duffy.

Kingdom City at La Jolla Playhouse

I’ve taken a particular interest in the world premiere of Sheri Wilner’s Kingdom City at the La Jolla Playhouse, which begins on September 4. The story of a Missouri high school production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible that gets cancelled when a New York-based director comes into conflict with a local youth minister, the subject aligns with my own advocacy efforts against school theatre censorship, and I’ve been invited out to La Jolla to speak on the issue late in the run. The play is very loosely based on a real-life incident from 2006 when a Missouri school did cancel Miller’s often-assigned play following complaints about the school’s musical. The offending production? Grease.

Plays return to Broadway

Keiran Culkin in Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s This is Our Youth. Photo: Michael Brosilow
Keiran Culkin in Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s This is Our Youth. Photo: Michael Brosilow

After a gap of several weeks, plays have begun to return to Broadway. Previews began last week for This is Our Youth, while You Can’t Take It With You with James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne kicked off on Tuesday night, and Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane (plus Rupert Grint) have just raised the curtain. Next week is quiet, but they’ll be joined on September 9 by Blythe Danner in Donald Margulies’s The Country House and on September 10 by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Going ashore with musicals

Finally, if you want to sell a musical these days, the place to head to is…the docks? Based on the above video from On The Town and the below TV ad for The Last Ship, both shot on real life locations, it certainly seems to be the place.

Read more of Howard Sherman’s Broadway columns

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