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Sting’s The Last Ship opens and Halloween on stage

Rebecca Benson in the West End production of Let The Right One In. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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In honour of Halloween, it’s appropriate to begin this week’s column with something scary and supernatural, so I have to thank St Ann’s Warehouse for announcing earlier this week that they’ll start the new year with the American debut of the vampire tale Let The Right One In.

Let the Right One In

Director John Tiffany and associate director Steven Hoggett will be making a US homecoming of sorts (a prior incarnation of the Warehouse was where Black Watch made its US debut in 2007). Let The Right One In will have a UK cast, though not necessarily all of the company members that appeared in London or Scotland, and while the spacious and flexible warehouse offers a multitude of staging options, designer Christine Jones tells me that the show will be presented very much as it was at the Royal Court and in the West End. I’m ready to bare my neck in Brooklyn, where the production plays from January 20 through February 15 in association with Bill Kenwright and Marla Rubin. I wonder whether The Right One will, like all undead creatures of the night, reappear elsewhere to spread its chill.

Kneehigh’s Tristan and Yseult visits Brooklyn

Before the spooky winter of Right One arrives, another British import will be in residence at St Ann’s, the New York premiere of Kneehigh’s Tristan and Yseult. St Ann’s has also been an NYC base for Kneehigh, which previously brought Brief Encounter and The Wild Bride to the Brooklyn waterfront. Adapted and directed by Emma Rice, Tristan and Yseult runs from November 15 to December 14.

It Shoulda Been You arrives on Broadway

[pullquote]See if you can keep up with the connections[/pullquote]

Family connections, both professional and personal, abound in the just-announced new musical It Shoulda Been You, about a wedding from hell, starring Tyne Daly and Harriet Harris, written by Barbara Anselmi and Brian Hargrove, and directed by David Hyde Pierce. Let’s see if I can track the connections without confusing all concerned. Hargrove and Pierce are married. Pierce and Harris worked together on the superb ensemble TV comedy Frasier, and they’ll be joined in this Broadway venture by Edward Hibbert, who played food critic Gil Chesterton on the series. The groom will be played by David Burtka, husband of recent Hedwig sensation Neil Patrick Harris; the bride is Sierra Boggess, who appeared with Ms Daly in Master Class. Got all that? It Shoulda Been You was first seen at New Jersey’s George Street Playhouse in 2011, also directed by Pierce; the Broadway run opens on April 14.

The Band Wagon rolls into Encores!

Tracey Ullman, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Laura Osnes in Band Wagon. Photo: Joan Marcus
Tracey Ullman, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Laura Osnes in Band Wagon. Photo: Joan Marcus

The Encores! series at New York’s City Center has really written the book in the US for how to present classic and rarely seen musicals in concert, and their success has led them to expand into a summer season and even beyond their one-weekend-only schedule for each run. Next Thursday, for 12 performances through November 16, Encores! opens its production of The Band Wagon, best known from the 1953 MGM film with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse and a Comden and Green screenplay. The cast includes Brian Stokes Mitchell, Tracey Ullman, Tony Sheldon, Michael McKean and Broadway’s reigning female ingenue, Laura Osnes. It’s directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall. Douglas Carter Beane adapts the screenplay for the stage, as he did in 2008 in a Band Wagon version called Dancing in the Dark, produced at The Old Globe in San Diego. They both have their origin in the Howard Dietz-Arthur Schwartz-George S Kaufman version seen on Broadway in 1931.

Can On the Town prove Broadway sceptics wrong?

Clyde Alves and Elizabeth Stanley in On The Town. Photo: Joan Marcus
Clyde Alves and Elizabeth Stanley in On the Town. Photo: Joan Marcus

John Rando’s vision of On the Town, with choreography by Joshua Bergasse, appears to be succeeding where two prior Broadway revivals of the show have failed, opening to strong reviews and sales and setting itself up for a good run. Some were skeptical when the classic show was announced for the newly renamed Lyric Theatre, one of Broadway’s largest houses and most recently home to Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. They wondered how a revival without stars – one rather different from its film incarnation, which had jettisoned much of the Leonard Bernstein score – might fare. But it looks like Ambassador Theatre Group has a solid booking in its first tenant (in which it also has a producing stake) since taking over the Lyric, especially heading into the lucrative holiday season.

The Last Ship casts anchor

Rachel Tucker and Michael Esper in The Last Ship. Photo: Joan Marcus
Rachel Tucker and Michael Esper in The Last Ship. Photo: Joan Marcus

Sting’s The Last Ship has at last docked at the Neil Simon Theatre on 52nd Street, and while there were mixed reviews for the book, Sting’s score, featuring some rousing ensemble numbers, was consistently singled out for praise. Drawn from Sting’s memories of his youth in North Tyneside, The Last Ship is also a musical without big names beyond that of its composer, though it features auspicious Broadway debuts from Jimmy Naill and Rachel Tucker, as well as the return after 26 years of Sally Ann Triplett. But the former Police frontman is doing his part to lend his celebrity to the sales effort, even going so far as to lead streetside sing-alongs outside the theatre weekly. He also took to the stage at Sunday’s opening night to speak about his emotional ties to the show at the curtain call.

The Oldest Boy inhabits Lincoln Center Theater

James Saito, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Jon Norman Schneider in The Oldest Boy. Photo: T Charles Erickson
James Saito, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Jon Norman Schneider in The Oldest Boy. Photo: T Charles Erickson

Monday night brings the opening of The Oldest Boy, the newest play from Sarah Ruhl, author of In the Next Room (Or the Vibrator Play) and The Clean House. Produced by Lincoln Center Theater in their intimate Newhouse Theater, the play is the story of an American mother whose young son is believed to be the newest incarnation of a Tibetan High Lama and the decisions she must make when monks arrive looking to take away the boy for training. Celia Keenan-Bolger leads the cast under Rebecca Taichman’s direction. The play, commissioned by LCT, is scheduled to run through December 28.

Fiddler On the Roof returning to Broadway

Numerous theatres around the US have been producing Fiddler on the Roof this year, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the perennially popular musical, which debuted in September 1964. Given that the original production ran for a then-unthinkable eight years, Broadway is going to be only slightly late to the party, as word comes that the fifth Broadway revival of Fiddler will arrive on Broadway in November of next year. The director will be Bartlett Sher, well known for his stagings of South Pacific and The Light in the Piazza, soon to be in rehearsal for Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown in the West End, which he’ll then follow with The King and I this spring at Lincoln Center Theater. Though there’s no confirmation, it’s anticipated that Sher will cast Danny Burstein in the leading role of Tevye. Burstein has previously appeared in Sher’s South Pacific, Women On the Verge and Golden Boy, all on Broadway. This means that Fiddler will have appeared on Broadway in every decade since it premiered. It’s becoming a tradition…

Our War at Arena Stage

John Lescault and Tuyet Pham in Our War. Photo: Teresa Wood
John Lescault and Tuyet Pham in Our War. Photo: Teresa Wood

The most powerful cast in the American theatre right now can be found at Washington DC’s Arena Stage in the omnibus work Our War, featuring 25 short works on The Civil War and its legacy by an array of playwrights including Lydia Diamond, Samuel D Hunter, Naomi Iizuka, David Lindsay Abaire, Taylor Mac, Lynn Nottage and Tanya Saracho. As if that wasn’t enough, Arena has supplemented a standing cast of six, with the production featuring a rotating roster of guest performers that includes Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; the district’s mayor Vincent Gray; media hosts Chris Matthews, Diane Rehm and Judy Woodruff; and two members of Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton and James P Moran. This may well be the first theatrical cast that could potentially stage a coup. The two-evening work plays through November 9.

Read more US theatre and Broadway news from Howard Sherman

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