Rumored for weeks, it was finally confirmed days ago that Sting would join the cast of his Broadway musical The Last Ship, which has been struggling at the box office following mixed reviews. In his second Broadway appearance – he was Macheath in a short-lived The Threepenny Opera in 1989 – the former Police frontman will take over the role of Jack White, the shipyard foreman. It’s probably the most appropriate part in the show for Sting, though he’ll be taking over from Jimmy Nail, who is making an impressive Broadway debut in the role. So while Sting’s presence will steer The Last Ship safely through the holiday season beginning December 9, the question is whether the show will be able to sustain itself after the rock star departs in mid-January.
Authors stepping into roles in their own shows is a bit of a theme this week on Broadway. Following on (or should that be in) the heels of Neil Patrick Harris, Andrew Rannells and Michael C Hall, John Cameron Mitchell will return to the title role of Hedwig and the Angry Inch in January; he wrote the show’s book, with a score by Stephen Trask. Mitchell created the role on stage in the show’s original Off-Broadway run and played the role and directed the 2001 film version. The show has been expanded and amped up for Broadway, far from its grungy start at the intimate Jane Street Theatre. It will prove fascinating to see the first Hedwig redux 17 years after her debut.
American musicals have long been a significant cultural export, but there are always new worlds to explore. With An American in Paris doing a way out of town Broadway tryout in France at Theatre du Chatelet, now comes word that Jonathan Larson’s Rent will make its long-belated debut in Cuba. But this is not just any new market: given the longstanding political enmity between the US and Cuba, this will mark the first time in over 50 years that an American musical has traveled to the island country. The production, featuring Cuban actors but using elements of the Broadway production and produced by US-based Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment, will be directed by Andy Senor Jr, who appeared in the role of Angel during the show’s original Broadway run. It opens on Christmas Eve.
10 months after Goodspeed Musicals announced that its executive director of 46 years, Michael Price, would depart in December, the Connecticut musical theatre company, which originated Annie and Shenandoah, has announced Price’s successor. Michael Gennaro, currently executive director of Trinity Repertory Company will take over in February, having p reviously led a number of companies including Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse and Washington DC’s Ford’s Theatre. Musicals are a family business for Gennaro: his father Peter, among many credits, was co-choreographer with Jerome Robbins of West Side Story and his sister Liza choreographed Broadway revivals of The Most Happy Fella and Once Upon A Mattress.
Following last week’s surprise news of the Pier55 project, a new trio of theatres off Manhattan’s western shoreline to be led by Scott Rudin, Stephen Daldry Kate Horton and George C Wolfe, the previously announced Culture Shed project, between 30th and 31st Streets and 10th and 11th Avenues in west midtown Manhattan, has revealed its own leadership. Alex Poots will depart his positions with the Manchester International Festival and New York’s Park Avenue Armory to be artistic director and chief executive of the Culture Shed, which is in the earliest stages of construction for a planned 2018 opening. The $360 million project expects to launch with a $28 million annual operating budget, and will combine performance and gallery spaces.
My Favorite Year, an early musical from the team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime), adapted from the 1982 Peter O’Toole film, had a short Broadway run in its premiere in 1992, though it has found a long life in regional, amateur and school productions. I’ve always been a fan of the show, not just because the book writer is my friend Joseph Dougherty, currently an executive producer of TV’s Pretty Little Liars. I’ve often said to Joe that I expected the show would be more fully appreciated as time passed, feeling it never got its due. Next weekend, a significantly revised version of My Favorite Year, created by the original authors, will make its NYC debut for five performances only in the York Theatre Company’s Musicals in Mufti concert series. I’ll certainly be there as the show begins a new chapter.