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Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Stage Addiction: Scarlett Johansson Is A Fantasy (Especially on Broadway)

- The rumors coming out of the Al Hirschfeld Theatre (where Curtains, the new Kander and Ebb musical starring David Hyde Pierce, opens Thursday) have been...confused, to say the least. Some insiders are reporting trouble -- supposedly composer John Kander has been asked to go into his "trunk songs" (tunes originally written, and cut for various reasons, from previous shows) in the hopes of replacing a few big songs. That kind of major alteration would have been fine months ago, but coming just a week before the opening, it sounds like major trouble. But maybe that's not the case; according to ModFabbers who've attended the previews, the show is "charming," "cute," and "The Drowsy Chaperone: Part Two." The producers have got to be smiling, right? Right? Bueller? Bueller?

- Five major casting stories this week. Here they are:

SOUTH PACIFIC: Yes, the world nearly exploded last week when news leaked that Scarlett Johansson has been approached to play Nellie Forbush in the Spring 2008 revival of South Pacific. But read the articles closer, and you'll notice in the fine print that she's merely on a "wish list" of stars that include Reese Witherspoon and The Pajama Game's Kelli O'Hara. Scarlett has been touted for the stage before (she was also "in the running" for My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music in London), but there's no definitive evidence that Scarlett is planning a stage appearance at this point in her career....and until she's signed a contract, I'll continue to smell a rat. (My guess is that the leak this week was a ploy in negotiations with O'Hara, to squeeze her for a smaller salary. And it also lets previous leading contender, Victoria Clark, know in no uncertain terms that they are going to cast the role younger.)

SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK: The Public Theater's annual summer dose of free classics will kick off June 5th with Romeo and Juliet, directed by Michael Greif (Rent, Grey Gardens). The young lovers for this outing will be Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under, Awake and Sing) and Oscar Issac (The Nativity Story), but the real catch, in our opinion, is the casting of the Nurse: Emmy winner Camryn Manheim (The Practice), who has been absent from stage and screen for the last few years. A great choice.

XANADU: Two of Broadway's best comediennes have joined the cast, as well as one hunky leading man. Ladies first -- Mary Testa (On The Town, Marie Christine, A New Brain) and Jackie Hoffman (Hairspray, Regrets Only) are stage pros who seriously bolster this show's salability, easing some of the pressure on stars Kerry Butler and Tony Roberts. Meanwhile, James Carpinello (Saturday Night Fever) will add some much-needed eye candy. Because let's be real...who besides gay men will be filling the audiences at something called Xanadu: The Musical?

CHICAGO: Apparently, Bebe Neuwirth is enjoying her return to the musical she first starred in 11 years ago; she's extended her stay as Roxie until April 22nd.

PRAIRIE: The April workshop of the Little House on the Prairie musical finally got its Ma and Pa. They are Patrick Swayze and Melissa Gilbert, respectively. Yes, Melissa, the world of your career has finally come full circle.

- After almost two decades of concert musicals, City Center Encores! is launching their first-ever summer season, and they're kicking it off with a bang: Gypsy starring Patti LuPone (who is pitch-perfect casting, in our opinion) begins a three-week run on July 9th. Tickets will disappear in hours, we bet. Wowsa!

- Mel Brooks' musical Young Frankenstein may make a pit stop prior to Broadway. Unconfirmed reports suggest a test run, probably in August, in Seattle. Does this mean that Sutton Foster will now bow out of 10 Million Miles, the Patti Griffin musical scheduled to begin in May at the Atlantic? Bet on it.

- Show queens, today is the big day! At your local record store, the original cast recordings of four Stephen Sondheim musicals -- Into The Woods, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park With George, and Sweeney Todd -- have been digitally remastered and re-released with bonus tracks. Among the biggest thrills are a version of "Giants in the Sky" sung by John Cameron Mitchell and a demo of "It's A Hit!" from Sondheim's personal archives. Not bad prices, either...especially since some of us would pay a fortune for such gems.

- Back in December, I mentioned that one of the shows I was most looking forward to was Argonautika, the new mythic piece by visionary director Mary Zimmerman (Metamorphoses) which premiered in Chicago last season. The piece is coming to the East Coast, but not to NYC...it'll stop at Princeton, NJ's McCarter Theatre in March of 2008. (I'm not too worried, though. The last Zimmerman show to hit New York -- the 2004 production of The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci -- also made a pit stop at McCarter before moving north to Manhattan.)

- How bad is Disney's Tarzan: The Musical on Broadway? So bad that, for the show's upcoming European productions, Disney Theatricals has hired choreographer Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys) to totally rethink the show. I'm not a historian, but I think this is the first time that a currently running Broadway musical will appear completely differently, but still funded by the same producers, in Europe.

- Looking for a late summer vacation? Let me suggest the Hamptons, where drag diva Charles Busch (whose new play, Our Leading Lady, opens at Manhattan Theatre Club this week) will reprise his role in perhaps his greatest gender-bending play: The Lady In Question. The spin on WWII propaganda films (with Busch as Norma Shearer, doncha know) runs at Bay Street Theatre beginning August 4th. An extra bonus? He'll be joined by his longtime comic sidekick, Julie Halston, for the run.

- After replacing their planned Broadway revival of Les Liaisons Dangereuses with the stultifying Prelude To A Kiss, Roundabout Theatre Company has switched up their schedule again, dropping Brian Friel's The Home Place in favor of Beyond Glory, the solo show written by and starring Stephen Lang. I'm guessing most of their subscribers won't notice the difference, but we're concerned; both shows were replaced with cheaper, less ambitious, smaller-cast productions. Is Roundabout facing a budget squeeze, after a ho-hum season where they paid top dollar for Audra McDonald, Kristin Chenoweth and Alfred Molina? Curiouser and curiouser...

- Gutenberg The Musical has extended to June. Ugh. Proof that New Yorkers have absolutely no taste.

  • Inherit The Wind, the courtroom classic now starring Brian Dennehy and Christopher Plummer. (March 19)
  • All The Wrong Reasons, John Fugelsang's autobiographical solo premiere about his life as the son of an ex-nun and a former Franciscan brother. (March 23)
  • Exits and Entrances, Athol Fugard's autobiographical play about the friendship between a young playwright and an older actor. (March 27)
  • Our Leading Lady, Charles Busch's historical comedy starring Kate Mulgrew (March 20)
  • Prometheus Bound, the rarely-produced Greek tragedy starring David Oyelowo (March 21)
  • Curtains, the new musical by the vaunted team of Kander and Ebb (March 22)
  • Some Men, Terrence McNally's new gay-themed melodrama (March 26)
  • Mary Rose, the rarely-produced play by the author of Peter Pan (March 25)

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