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Radcliffe on Broadway, King and I rumours and Carole King off stage

Jessica Naimy, Cary Tedder, Priscilla Lopez, Michael Rosen and Zachary Infante in Somewhere at Hartford Stage. Photo: T Charles Erickson
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When Norm Lewis takes on the title role of The Phantom of the Opera next month, it will mark the first time that a black actor has played the role on Broadway and a great deal of media attention has surrounded this important step in non-traditional casting.But it’s worth noting that Lewis follows in the footsteps of actor Robert Guillaume, who played the role way back in 1990 in the Los Angeles production, succeeding Michael Crawford. Click here to see Guillame performing.

 

Playwright Kenneth Lonergan will make his Broadway debut next season when Scott Rudin brings a revival of This is Our Youth to Broadway. First produced by The New Group Off-Broadway in 1996, the play was the launching pad for Lonergan and actor Mark Ruffalo. The new production, which will first be seen at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre this summer, will feature Michael Cera of Juno and Arrested Development alongside Kieran Culkin and 17-year-old web magazine editor Tavi Gevinson in her acting debut. Anna D Shapiro, who staged the current Broadway production of Of Mice And Men, directs.

 

Save for confirmation that there will be a revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I next year at Lincoln Center Theater, everything about the production is rumour and supposition but Kelli O’Hara, currently in The Bridges of Madison County, is widely expected to play Anna Leonowens, which strongly suggests a reunion of the team behind the very successful revival of South Pacific at LCT in 2008, led by director Bartlett Sher. Casting O’Hara is practically inevitable; now someone needs to get on the ball and put Laura Benanti in a production of My Fair Lady.

 

Playwright Christopher Durang is no stranger to performing in his own plays, having appeared in the premieres of both Laughing Wild and The Marriage of Bette and Boo, in the latter case playing a character closely modeled on himself. Durang will return to the stage in one of his own works this summer when his Tony Award-winning Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike plays a brief run at the Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania, taking on the role created by David Hyde Pierce. It’s only fitting: Durang lives in Bucks County and the play is set there as well.

 

Previews begin tomorrow night for the Broadway run of Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan, a transfer of the Michael Grandage production with Daniel Radcliffe in the title role (click here to see Radcliffe on The Tonight Show). It’s one of a number of British productions on US shores right now. Adrian Lester is out in Brooklyn at St Ann’s Warehouse reprising his role as Ira Aldridge in the Tricycle Theatre production of Lolita Chakrabarti’s Red Velvet; Kneehigh’s Brief Encounter continues to tour the country, having completed a run at the new Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills and now in residence at Washington DC’s Shakespeare Theatre; and the ongoing Brits Off Broadway series at 59E59 Theaters has both the Traverse Theatre Company production of Douglas Maxwell’s A Respectable Widow Takes To Vulgarity and Jaye Griffiths in Don’t Wake Me: The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong, with David Rudkin’s The Love Song of Alfred J Hitchcock due starting May 1.

Following its rapturously received production of Frank Loesser’s The Most Happy Fella last week, next up for the City Center Encores! series is the musical Irma la Douce, which hasn’t had a major New York production since the 1961 Broadway debut directed by Peter Brook. John Doyle will direct the limited run at the beginning of May.

 

When the musical of her early life and career, Beautiful, debuted on Broadway, singer-songwriter Carole King let it be known that she found it too painful to watch her own story, including the collapse of her marriage to songwriting partner Gerry Goffin played out in front of her. Well, she let down her defenses last week and saw the show at last, even taking to the stage to join the cast in a song and raise funds for the charity Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Click here to see a clip of King taking the stage.

 

A new play with music at the Hartford Stage Company in Connecticut has links to two classic musicals. In the play, titled Somewhere, Matthew Lopez, whose The Whipping Man has become one of the most produced plays in the country in the past few years, tells the tale of a Latina mom who dreams of show business careers for her children just as West Side Story prepares to make the transition to the silver screen. The show has previously been produced at San Diego’s Old Globe and TheaterWorks in Palo Alto CA. Appearing in the play’s maternal role is Lopez’s aunt Priscilla Lopez, familiar to countless musical theatre fans as Diana Morales from the original cast of A Chorus Line and, more recently, as Camila in In The Heights.

 

The “Perspectives in Criticism” talk at a meeting of the American Theatre Critics Association was given last week at the Humana Festival for New Plays in Louisville and for the first time since they began in 1992, was given by …a playwright. Lauren Gunderson, who later received the 2014 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award for I And You from the ATCA, opened by speaking of areas where critics and theatremakers share common ground:

“In pre-revolutionary France actors and executioners weren’t allowed to be full citizens because of their morally questionable professions. I don’t know where playwrights and critics fit on that morality scale but wherever it is, we’re probably right next to each other.”

 

Finally this week, instead of my usual parting video treat, I want to share in the discovery of not one but two superb comic strip series focused on theatre (see above gallery). Next time things are a bit tough around your theatre, or someone is taking themselves a bit too seriously, you might want to refer them to Q2QComics by Steve Younkins or Good Tickle Brain by Mya Gosling. But whatever your motivation, you’ll want to share them.Unknown 

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