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Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Stage Whispers: Chita Out, Robots In

Must-see of the Week:
Heddatron / Les Freres Corbusier / Opens February 16

So okay, yes...it's a gimmick. "Hedda Gabler peformed (mostly) by robots" is just plain weird, even in New York. But before you dismiss it as the emperor's new clothes, think twice. For this is no average downtown theatre company; Les Freres Corbusier are the cheeky, Obie-winning rebels who took on Scientology (A Very Merry Unauthorized Scientology Christmas Pageant) and Robert Moses (Boozy) and lived to tell the tale. So don't let the premise (or the technology) scare you off. Director Alex Timbers is a great guy and one of the smartest new kids on the block. At the very least, Heddatron will be a good time. At best, it could transform the way we look at Ibsen and the 'humanity' of theatrical naturalism.

This Week's Stage Whispers:

- It was fun while it lasted: Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life will close this Sunday, February 19th, succumbing to weak box office and mixed reviews. The closure unexpectedly opens up the Schoenfeld Theatre for a late-breaking Tony contender...but what will it be? We know it WON'T be The Drowsy Chaperone, the Sutton Foster tuner that opted instead to replace The Woman in White at the Marquis.

- Nor will it be Festen, the smash West End transfer starring Juliana Marguiles, Ali McGraw and Tony winner Larry Bryggman (Proof), which set up shop this week at the Music Box. ModFab predicts a British battle royal for the Best New Play Tony Award in June, with Festen and The History Boys (opening in March) duking it out for top honors.

- The Times They Are A'Changing, the Bob Dylan musical directed by Twyla Tharp (Movin' Out) at San Diego's Old Globe, may want to think twice about that jump to Broadway. California's critics were not impressed.

- Two of Lincoln Center's major tenants, The Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Theatre, are joining forces to commission four new operas from today's hottest theatre artists: composers Adam Guettel (The Light in the Piazza), Jeanine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie), Michael John LaChiusa (The Wild Party), and playwright/librettist Tony Kushner (Caroline, or Change). No rush for tickets, though; the shows will be developed and play during the 2011-2012 season. The Met will get in the theatre biz earlier than that, though: in 2009, they'll have Mary Zimmerman (Metamorphoses) directing Rossini's Armida, George C. Wolfe (Angels in America) helming a new Tosca, and Richard Eyre and Matthew Bourne collaborating on Carmen. In 2010, visionary director Robert Lepage will create a new version of Wagner's Ring cycle.

- A sneak preview of Disney's new musical Tarzan lets us in on a really cool thing: the vine-swinging, tree-jumping antics are being created by the artists of the long-running aerialist hit De La Guarda. Expect most of the show to be (literally) over your head.

- We have lost our ever-lovin' mind over Hot Feet, the new Earth, Wind and Fire jukebox musical thundering into the Hilton Theatre in April. As if EWF wasn't enough to get our rump a'shakin', now Keith David (Jelly's Last Jam) and Tony Winner Ann Duquesnay (Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk) have joined the cast. I am officially plotzing.

- ModFab got a sneak preview of the soon-to-be-released recordings of last fall's best musicals, See What I Wanna See and Songs From An Unmade Bed, and we're relieved to be able to recommend them wholeheartedly. Incredibly smart, complex material that any serious theatre fan must have. SWIWS, written by Michael John LaChiusa and starring Idina Menzel and Marc Kudisch, explores Murakami's stories in a modern context, while SFAUB follows one tender and hilarious night in the life of a single gay New Yorker. (If you missed Unmade Bed's run at New York Theatre Workshop, the release of the CD will coincide with a Joe's Pub concert by Michael Winther, who performs all 18 of the songs. A rare second chance to touch greatness.)


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