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Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Stage Addiction: I Wonder If Donna Murphy Will Get Sick Again...

Manhattan Theatre Club has entered the Best Musical race for the first time in years, with the announcement this week of LoveMusik, a telling of the life of composer Kurt Weill using the master's own songs. Playing Weill will be his 21st-century doppleganger Michael Cerveris (Sweeney Todd), who will be joined by the equally renowned Donna Murphy (Wonderful Town) as Weill's tempestuous muse and star Lotte Lenya. After a far-too-long absence, legendary director Hal Prince (Phantom of the Opera) will bring the work to life.

LoveMusik opens in April, but before that, Ms. Murphy will join a who's who of Broadway talents for the Encores! production of Stephen Sondheim's Follies, playing Phyllis. Check out her co-stars: Victoria Clark (The Light in the Piazza) as Sally, Michael McGrath (Spamalot) as Buddy, Philip Bosco as Dimitri Weismann, Christine Baranski as Carlotta Campion, and Joanne Worley ("Laugh-In") as Stella Deems. Yes, I said it...Joanne fucking Worley! Casey Nicholaw (The Drowsy Chaperone) will direct. It's sure to be light years better than the terrible revival with Blythe Danner six years ago.

Kevin. Kline. King. Lear. Tickets on sale on December 17th. Big deal...we can already hear the scenery being chewed. But if you're willing to wait for Lear until next September, you can see a REAL star in the role: Sir Ian McKellen will star in Shakespeare's classic at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, in a Royal Shakespeare Company production directed by Trevor Nunn. (BAM has an incredible season planned for 07-08, including the Matthew Bourne ballet adaptation of Edward Scissorhands, the bad boys of Propeller, and the master actors of Cheek By Jowl.)

Hot off the Broadway revivals of Company and Sweeney Todd, Tony-winning director John Doyle -- he of the "actors-should-at-least-be-able-to-play-the-harmonica" school -- will turn his skills to Barnum, the 1980 classic Cy Coleman tuner. The production is slated for July at the Old Globe in San Diego (the house that Jack O'Brien built), but don't doubt for a second that it isn't destined for New York next season.

Casting is complete on next spring's big-ass musical twist on Legally Blonde. Joining the previously announced Reese Witherspoon doppleganger Laura Bell Bundy (Wicked) are Christian Borle (Spamalot and boyfriend of Sutton Foster) as Emmett, Orfeh (The Great Amerian Trailer Park Musical) as Paulette, Richard H. Blake (Hairspray) as Warner, Kate Shindle (Cabaret) as Vivienne, Nikki Snelson (Sweet Charity) as Brooke and Tony-winner Michael Rupert (Falsettos) as Professor Callahan. Yes, Michael Rupert. No, he is not dead. Surprise.

Is the award-winning Culture Project -- the Off-Broadway dynamo that first produced The Exonerated and Bridge and Tunnel -- going to close at the end of the year? The rumors are floating around. Very sad news if they do.

After a string of successful imports from London -- The History Boys, The Pillowman, Jumpers and Copenhagen among them -- producer Bob Boyett will vie for Tony Award gold again this spring with the British smash drama Coram Boy. And even though the current season isn't even half over, they're already jockeying for next year: Ian McShane, the baddie of HBO's Deadwood, will star in the revival of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming next fall at a Broadway house TBD.

Dule Hill of The West Wing will lead the revival of Amiri Baraka's landmark play Dutchman at the Cherry Lane in January. Is he powerful enough to manage this role? I guess we'll see, won't we?

How great does Kathleen Chalfant look as Miss Havisham in the new Off-Broadway version of Great Expectations? It's costume design like this that makes me glad I passed on my father's advice about law school and went into the theatre instead. Chalfant, of course, is one of the great treasures of New York drama, a visionary performer who, despite acclaimed turns in the original productions of Angels in America and Wit, has never really gotten her due. This Expectations has an unbeatable ticket price of only $25, and it runs through December 3rd...an excellent chance to treat yourself to her charms, methinks. (I doubt it will move or extend, sadly, so you should get moving, kids.)



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