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Glenn Close returns to Broadway after 20 years

Claybourne Elder and Malcolm Gets in Allegro. Photo: Matthew Murphy
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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, Glenn Close returns to Broadway, Rock of Ages drops out of the charts and Eve Ensler’s new play suffers more setbacks…

Stripped down Allegro at Classic Stage

Five Rogers and Hammerstein musicals are theatre staples – Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of e created for other mediums – State Fair and Cinderella. One was revised for modern sensibilities a decade ago – Flower Drum Song. Three others are rarities – Pipe Dream, Me and Juliet and Allegro. The latter, last seen in a major New York outing 20 years ago in the City Center Encores! concert series, is now back onstage in a revised form at Off-Broadway’s Classic Stage. Pared down into a chamber musical by director John Doyle, with the cast playing a variety of instruments, predominantly strings, Allegro now sharply contrasts with the original, with a company of only 15 and a run time of only 90 minutes. Malcolm Gets and Claybourne Elder lead the cast as the father and son doctors whose sense of ambition and commitment diverge as the story unfolds.

More new theatres for Manhattan

With the long-gestating Ground Zero Arts Center still in the planning stages and a new facility called the Culture Shed due to start construction next summer, it comes as a bit of a surprise that a new project from media mogul Barry Diller will include three performance spaces along with an urban park. According to the New York Times, the $170 million project which is to be built just off the western Manhattan shoreline at 14th Street and designed by London architect Thomas Heatherwick, has a $130 million commitment from Diller, whose wife, designer Diane von Furstenberg, has donated $10 million towards the $600 million Culture Shed, to be built on the west side as well. Diller’s theatres in the Pier 55 project have a high powered team to lead them – producer Scott Rudin, directors George C Wolfe and Stephen Daldry, and former National Theatre deputy executive director Kate Horton.

Rock of Ages closing

A scene from Rock of Ages. Photo: Paul Kolnik
Amy Spanger and Constantine Maroulis in Rock of Ages. Photo: Paul Kolnik

Contrary to the Journey anthem featured in the show, it’s time to stop believin’ in Rock of Ages, which will close on Broadway in January. This rather unlikely hit racked up a run that most musicals would envy and will have played 2,328 performances by its last call at the Helen Hayes Theatre. Also noteworthy is that some members of the original cast are still in the show (though not necessarily without hiatuses), including Constantine Maroulis, an American Idol discovery, along with Paul Schoeffler and Adam Dannheisser. But hey hey my my, as Neil Young said years ago, rock and roll will never die, and I suspect this tribute to 1980s pop and hair metal will be turning up in many venues for years to come, performed by the children of those who originally rocked out to the show’s tunes when they were new, in the cassette tape era.

Glenn Close returns to Broadway in A Delicate Balance

John Lithgow and Glenn Close in A Delicate Balance. Photo: Brigitte Lacombe
John Lithgow and Glenn Close in A Delicate Balance. Photo: Brigitte Lacombe

Edward Albee’s elegant enigmatic drama of suburban dread has returned to Broadway with the opening of A Delicate Balance, the 1966 play which brought America’s greatest living playwright his first Pulitzer Prize, reportedly after the Pulitzer people denied him one for the deserving Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? The new production puts Bob Balaban, Glenn Close (in her first Broadway show in 20 years), Lindsay Duncan, Clare Higgins, John Lithgow, and Martha Plimpton into contention this year, under the direction of Pam MacKinnon.

Little Dancer at the Kennedy Center

Boyd Gaines and Tiler Peck in Little Dancer. Photo: Paul Kolnik
Boyd Gaines and Tiler Peck in Little Dancer. Photo: Paul Kolnik

Musicals about artists and works of art are a relatively small subgenre, with Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday In The Park With George standing as one of the pinnacles of reinterpreting one form of art through another. Now the estimable team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime, Once On This Island) have taken it upon themselves to tell a story inspired by the life of Marie van Goethem, the model for Edgar Degas’ sculpture Little Dancer Aged 14. The musical, shortened to Little Dancer, is playing its world premiere at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center, with Tiler Peck of the New York City Ballet as young Marie, Rebecca Luker as adult Marie and Boyd Gaines as Degas, directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman (The Scottsboro Boys). Reminder to Elton John fans: it’s Little Dancer, not Tiny Dancer.

Stephen Karam’s The Humans premieres at American Theater Company

A scene from The Humans. Photo: Michael Brosilow
A scene from The Humans. Photo: Michael Brosilow

Back in September, Roundabout Theatre Company announced that they would be producing Stephen Karam’s The Humans in the fall of 2015, but Chicagoans have gotten the jump on New York. The new play by the author of Columbinus, Speech and Debate, and Sons of the Prophet is having its world premiere right now at the American Theater Company, where Columbinus, co-written with the company’s artistic director PJ Paparelli, premiered. The reviews from Chicago’s two major newspapers were extremely enthusiastic, making this tragicomedy of a family’s Thanksgiving dinner, told in real time, even more eagerly anticipated by this New Yorker.

A Particle of Dread at Signature Theatre Company

Stephen Rea and Brid Brennan in A Particle of Dread. Photo: Matthew Murphy
Stephen Rea and Brid Brennan in A Particle of Dread. Photo: Matthew Murphy

Sam Shepard’s new play A Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations) is making its US premiere at New York’s Signature Theatre Company, opening officially this Sunday, following its debut with Ireland’s Field Day company and with Stephen Rea repeating his performance as Oedipus/Otto in New York. Shepard has had an association with Signature since they devoted one of their earliest seasons to his work, and most recently they premiered his play Heartless in 2012. It’s interesting to note that Particle is directed by Shared Experience veteran Nancy Meckler, while Heartless was directed by her son Daniel Aukin.

Melissa Leo leaves Eve Ensler’s OPC at American Repertory Theater

Cast changes at subsidised companies for their limited runs are rare, so it’s with great sympathy that I report on the travails of the newest play by Eve Ensler, author of the galvanizing The Vagina Monologues. OPC is set to begin performances in one week at Cambridge Massachusett’s American Repertory Theater, but it just lost its leading lady, Oscar winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter) over “artistic differences”. The production had already lost its original male lead, Stephen Collins, when child abuse allegations surfaced prior to the start of rehearsals. As of Tuesday ART told The Boston Globe that the show would go on as scheduled, with news of Leo’s replacement expected any minute.

Read more New York theatre news from Howard Sherman

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