Broadway’s first female-penned play in two years
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 celebrates one year of the American Stages column with reports of rare vintage revivals, explains why James Corden’s new TV job is bad news for Broadway and advises you wear to comfortable shoes if you’re visiting New York Theatre Workshop…
Scenes from a Marriage previews begin
Previews begin at the time of publishing for a new stage version of Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage at New York Theatre Workshop, adapted by McCarter Theatre artistic director Emily Mann, but conceived and directed by Ivo von Hove in his seventh production for NYTW. In an interesting note on the company’s website, patrons are advised, “Scenes from a Marriage is a fluid theatrical piece in which audience members will move from room to room to experience an intimate look into the marriage of Johan and Marianne. There will be no assigned seating and light walking between scenes.” I’ll put on appropriate footwear.
Airline Highway is the first new Broadway play by a female writer in two years
A new play from Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company will break a recent and depressing drought when Lisa d’Amour’s Airline Highway becomes the first new play by a female writer on Broadway in two years. While it’s not due in New York until April 2015, the show will begin its Chicago run in December.
The New York Times reports that, following a run at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2006 and a full production in Australia (see video, above) in 2011, a musical of Doctor Zhivago will reach Broadway in 2015, after Cinderella departs her current home at the start of the year. Since there’s no official announcement as yet, credits aren’t set, but when last seen the show had a book by Michael Weller, lyrics by Michael Korie and Amy Powers and a score by Lucy Simon (The Secret Garden). Des McAnuff is expected to return as director. In the same report, The Times’s Patrick Healy noted that the booking of Doctor Zhivago at the Broadway Theatre may be depriving King Kong of a home (as was also thought the case when On The Town booked The Lyric), but Healy indicated the creative team for the great ape musical is in flux, with Marsha Norman succeeding Craig Lucas as bookwriter, and no one announced to take on directing duties.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum isn’t happening
Save for the eternally troubled musical of Rebecca, it’s rare when something not happening becomes theatre news, but James Corden’s hiring to succeed chat show host Craig Ferguson on The Late Late Show has derailed, at least for the moment, the planned Broadway revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. That opens up another slot in a musical house for the spring, no doubt to be filled shortly.
There are many obvious jokes that can be made about a character whose specialty is putting people to sleep, and a play built around that character, but don’t try them around Hartford Stage, where Horace Wells, the protagonist of Elizabeth Egloff’s Ether Dome is a local boy made good. Wells’ pioneering work in anaesthesia took place not far from the company’s home back in 1846, giving local resonance to the production, which began at the La Jolla Playhouse before moving on to Hartford for performances beginning last night, after which it will head to Boston’s Huntington Theatre. Former Hartford Stage artistic director Michael Wilson helms the production at each stop, as he did for the play’s world premiere in 2011 at Houston’s Alley Theatre.
Holiday Inn and Bull Durham make the move from celluloid to stage
This week in film-to-stage adaptations, there are two new entries. Holiday Inn begins performances next week at Goodspeed Musicals in Connecticut, a transposition of the Bing Crosby-Fred Astaire picture with a score by Irving Berlin. A few years ago, White Christmas (also featuring a Berlin score from a Bing Crosby-Danny Kaye film) began playing seasonal engagements in theatres around the country and on Broadway, but Holiday Inn has the benefit of featuring multiple holidays, including Valentine’s Day and American Independence Day (which may limit appeal for British audiences). The stage script is by Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge, and Greenberg directs. Already underway at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, through October 5 is the musical of the modern baseball classic Bull Durham, with Will Swenson (formerly of the current Les Miserables) and Melissa Errico (seen last season in CSC’s Passion revival) taking on the roles played on film by Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon. Ron Shelton adapted his own screenplay; the score is by Susan Werner and Kip Fagan directs.
Booty Candy opens at Playwrights Horizons
My friend Peter Marks, drama critic for The Washington Post, called Robert O’Hara’s Booty Candy, “funny, smutty and, on the whole, enticingly subversive” in its 2011 world premiere at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, where it was accompanied by a saucy and effective social media campaign, so I’ve been waiting for it to arrive in New York for a while now. It opened this week at Off-Broadway’s Playwrights Horizons, once again under the direction of the playwright, with four of the five DC cast members reprising their roles in this collection of short plays about being black and gay.
Gigi and Can-Can on the revival hit list
Believe it or not, there are still a few vintage musicals that haven’t yet been revived of late on Broadway, but this year it looks likely that two more will be struck from that shrinking list. Earlier this week, an adapted version of Lerner and Loewe’s Gigi, first seen on film in 1958 and briefly on Broadway in 1973 was announced for production at The Kennedy Center in the new year, with its designs on Broadway having been announced at least as early as last year. High School Musical leading lady Vanessa Hudgens will make her Broadway debut, inheriting the role from Audrey Hepburn and Leslie Caron, among others. Eric Schaeffer directs, with a new book by Call The Midwife’s Heidi Thomas. Another musical with its roots in the 1950s is Cole Porter’s Can-Can, a hit in 1953 and an exceptionally fast flop in 1981, which begins performances October 1 at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse, which launched Newsies to Broadway and will soon see Honeymoon in Vegas landing there as well. The new Can-Can features the luminous Kate Baldwin, and boasts a new book adapted by Joel Fields and David Lee, with direction by Lee.
For musical theatre addicts only
When I began this column a year ago (this is the first column of my second year), it took me a few editions to realise that I was writing something Sondheim-related every fortnight. While I’ve consciously scaled back on those admiring references, I’d like to celebrate my anniversary with something that might be considered ‘Sondheim-adjacent’, namely this bizarre video from 1994 of comedian Chris Elliott inexplicably and eccentrically spoofing Elaine Stritch and DA Pennebaker’s documentary of the recording session for Company for chat show host David Letterman. Truly for musical theatre addicts only.
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