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Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Stage Addiction: Hobbits Suck at Tap Dancing

Despite the fact that her name will be above the title on the posters, Meryl Streep won't be the only movie star in Mother Courage at Central Park this summer -- Christopher Walken will once again reunite with Streep (they both played in the theatre's The Seagull a few seasons ago) with theatre folk filling out the rest of the ensemble (Jack Noseworthy, Austin Pendleton, and Frederick Weller among them).

Not to be outdone by Miss Streep, Kevin Kline has decided he's old enough to play King Lear, and he'll do so at the Public this fall. (Let's hope for the best, shall we. I am skeptical, to say the least.) In other casting news, Alan Cumming (Cabaret) is flying to London to star in a revival of the gay Holocaust drama Bent. Back on Broadway, Swoosie Kurtz (Frozen), Byron Jennings (Stuff Happens), Lily Rabe (Steel Magnolias) and Laila Robins (Frozen) will join the previously announced Philip Bosco in the Roundabout revival of Heartbreak House.

I guess one ring DIDN'T bind them all...or maybe hobbits just suck on stage. The Toronto production of Lord of the Rings will close in early September, having lost almost all of its $25 million investment, the costliest flop in the history of professional theatre. Despite a bevy of accolades, the production never overcame bad reviews...well, that, and the fact that no one wants to see a dance number performed by medieval dwarves.

Show Queen Alert: the flood of cast recordings, always released in the post-Tony summer, is cresting this month. Release dates are now set for Bernarda Alba (July 11), [title of show] (July 25), and Grey Gardens (August 22), just six weeks before it transfers to Broadway.

If you missed it earlier this season, you're getting one last chance: David Hare's Stuff Happens, with its New York cast intact, will be read on September 5th at the Delacorte in Central Park. Tickets will be given away free for what has, so far, proven to be the best play of 2006.

Will there be a movie version of the musical Wicked? The short answer, from composer Stephen Schwartz, is...well, no.

What's that terrible stink we smell? That peculiar odiferous mix of creative desperation, craven marketing and imminent failure? Oh, it must be the incoming Broadway musical How The Grinch Stole Christmas, landing at the Hilton Theatre this fall. (We can only hope it has a short stay.) When your best tag line is "this show is HUGE in San Diego!", you've got a problem. (I think we'll have better luck with Trevor Nunn's abbreviated Porgy and Bess, arriving in 2007-08.)

A quick goodbye to one of the best: rest in peace, Lloyd Richards. If God likes great theatre, he'll have you direct Heaven's entire mainstage season.

Oh yeah...almost forgot. Phantom of the Opera, Lloyd Webber's paean to velvet shag, opened in Las Vegas last week. If you care, here's some opening night video. I think Phantom is just gaudy and pretentious enough to survive in a city that hosts year-round Celine Dion concerts.


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