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The Last Ship leads winter Broadway closures

Sally Ann Triplett and Sting in The Last Ship. Photo: Matthew Murphy
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The biggest news of the new year, while hardly a surprise to those paying attention, was that despite the valiant efforts of its composer, Sting, The Last Ship will be hauled into drydock and depart Broadway on 24 January. That coincides with Sting’s final performance in the show, which he had joined last month in an effort to boost sales (which it did but only for the period he’s in the show). The rock star’s support of his show has been unstinting: he’s done every interview imaginable, including podcasts, and has even turned up in cabaret variety shows when he’s not performing.

Sienna Miller to join final weeks of Cabaret

Overshadowed by the closing of The Last Ship is the news that the Roundabout rerevival of Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall’s production of Cabaret will be closing on March 29. While the show has been doing strong business since Emma Stone joined the production as Sally Bowles, her extended stay continues only through February 15. The final weeks of the run will see Sienna Miller in her Broadway musical debut in the pivotal role of the musical’s central chanteuse. Miller made her Broadway debut with Roundabout in 2009 opposite Johnny Lee Miller in Patrick Marber’s After Miss Julie. The closing date coincides with the end of Alan Cumming’s contract – he’s played the MC for the entire run, having first played the role at the Donmar and subsequently repeated it for the Roundabout’s first go-round with Cabaret, which began in 1998 and ran for 2,377 performances, closing in early 2004.

Disgraced also closing

Sorry for the run of Broadway closings (though remember, the result will be new openings), but there’s one more to mention. Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced will end its Broadway run on March 1. Despite the major gong and critical kudos, the show has been a steady but unspectacular performer at the box office, and will end its run having played 27 previews and 149 regular performances.

The 39 Steps at New World Stages
The 39 Steps at New World Stages

Boomerang effect of The 39 Steps

In happier news, Patrick Barlow’s The 39 Steps is proving amazingly resilient, unlike few New York shows I can remember. Having first played at the Roundabout’s American Airlines Theatre, it subsequently moved to the Cort Theatre and the Helen Hayes Theatre, amassing a run of almost 800 performances from 2008 to 2010. It then moved Off-Broadway to New World Stages, where it played for another nine months before closing four years ago. And now it’s coming back. The show will reopen again Off-Broadway in April, this time at the Union Square Theatre downtown – even after becoming one of the most produced plays in the US over the past several years. Remarkable.

The Flick to reopen at Barrow Street Theatre

Also reopening, at long last, will be Annie Baker’s The Flick, another Pulitzer Prize-winner, first seen Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons for a two-month run in 2013. The intimate, realistic melancholy comedy about cinema employees will reopen in May at Off-Broadway’s Barrow Street Theatre, currently home to Every Brilliant Thing.

Winter festivals in New York City

While summer festivals of all shapes and sizes proliferate everywhere, New York has a second festival season in the early weeks of January, which while not as sprawling as those in the hottest months, often showcases very choice shows that played brief previous runs in New York and elsewhere.

Taylor Mac in a previous Decades performance. Photo: Kevin Yatarola
Taylor Mac in a previous Decades performance. Photo: Kevin Yatarola

At the Public Theater’s Under The Radar one can find Mariano Pensotti’s Argentinian ‘filmic drama’ Cineastas, Timeloss from Iran’s Mehr Theatre Group, and an “indictment of rampant consumerism”, Brickman Brando Bubble Boom, from Spain’s Agrupacion Senor Serrano. A particular highlight of the UTR Festival is Taylor Mac’s A 24-decade History of American Popular Music 1900-1950, a huge chunk of Mac’s ongoing exploration of songs from every decade of the country’s history, which has been ongoing with monthly concerts for some time now. He will perform all six decades in one marathon performance on January 25, while offering select decades nightly from January 13.

The other major festival is Performance Space 122’s Coil Festival, with an equally diverse and eclectic lineup. Among the highlights are Mike Iveson’s “satirical, sentimental, song-studded spaz opera”, Sorry Robot, and the intriguing historical mashup RoosevElvis, in which a turn of the century US president heads out on a road trip with the King of Rock and Roll. A production of The Team, RoosevElvis was a hit when it played at Brooklyn’s Bushwick Starr, and also got some unwanted attention last year when a US senator, in a shameless press play, singled it out as an example of wasteful government spending – knowing nothing more about it than its title and premise. Those who’ve seen it say the senator, now retired, didn’t know what he was talking about.

Looking back: Meryl Streep in Alice At the Palace

Finally this week, with Meryl Streep in cinemas worldwide as the Witch in Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into The Woods, the famed revisionary look at classic and newly invented fairy tales, it seems an apt moment to look at an early performance by Streep in a new interpretation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Elizabeth Swados’s ‘music hall’ Alice at the Palace from 1983. The complete television version, produced by the legendary Joseph Papp for the New York Shakespeare Festival is online in its entirety, and a must for Streep completists.

Read more US theatre columns from Howard Sherman

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