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Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Stage Addiction: Sorry, You're Too Fat To Play An Octopus

A bunch of new theatrical projects are planning to take New York City by storm as soon as next season (or, alternatively, far in the future). They include a new musical written by and starring Harvey Fierstein (Hairspray) called The Catered Affair, directed by Tony winner John Doyle (Company) and based on the Paddy Chayefsky film; Kristina från Duvemåla, the long-delayed musical from the ABBA boys, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus (Mamma Mia, Chess); Academy Award winner Roberto Benigni's comedy based on Dante's Inferno (don't ask); and Trevor Nunn's adaptation of Porgy and Bess, which is closing in May in London before its planned transfer.

And now, the nominees for Weirdest Theatrical Collaboration of 2007....

This summer is getting brighter, with interesting new shows being announced each week, it seems. Joining the previously-discussed summer fun of Xanadu, Grease, and Romeo and Juliet will be a revival of John Van Druten's 1940 chestnut Old Acquaintance at the American Airlines Theatre. What's that you say? You don't understand why we're excited about a drippy old drawing-room comedy? Well, that's because you haven't heard who's starring: Tony winner Harriet Harris (Thoroughly Modern Millie), the stellar comedienne best known as the demented Felicia Tilman, sister of Mrs. Huber, on ABC's Desperate Housewives. The piece co-stars two other magnificent actresses, Margaret Colin (Joe Egg) and the daughter of Jill Clayburgh, Lily Rabe. We are sooooo there.

Hot Gossip of the Week #1: Apparently, Emily Skinner (Side Show, The Full Monty) was dumped from the cast of Disney's Broadway-bound Little Mermaid after participating in a number of workshops as the octopus villainess Ursula. Her replacement? Sherie Rene Scott (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels). We take nothing away from Sherie, who we love, but why did they make the switch when they already had a stellar talent on board? The answer, sadly, is this: the producers though Skinner too zaftig to play the octopus. She's normal sized, whereas Sherie is of model-like proportions. Yes, I hate this business.

There were two hot additions to the Public Theater schedule this week. First is the Wooster Group's Hamlet, which just played St. Ann's in Brooklyn; it will have an extended run on Lafayette Street next October (for all of us Manhattan folk who are too lazy to go to Brooklyn). Maybe more interesting however, is next month's developmental presentation of In Darfur, which explores three intertwined lives at a relief camp. With the genocide in Darfur remaining unchecked by the world, seeing this ripped-headline piece should be galvanizing.

Here they are: Laura Osney and Max Crumm. If those names mean anything to you, then you are one of the dozens of viewers of last Sunday's finale of Grease! You're The One That I Want. Osney and Crumm are the new Travolta and Newton-John of the Broadway revival that begins in July, which has already racked up a sizeable pre-sale of $8 million in ticket sales. I just hope they break even before the first preview, because after that? Well, my guess is that Osney will blend into the scenery like wallpaper and Crumm will be on vocal rest before the opening. Neither of them will be able to manage the 8-performances-a-week schedule. You heard it here first.

Hey, who wants to road trip to Boston next October? Yeah, I know it's a long drive. But what if I throw in tickets to the world premiere of Donnie Darko: The Play? I call shotgun!

Hot Gossip of the Week #2: Journey's End, which has been struggling at the box office from almost the moment it opened (to stellar reviews, we should add), has been the subject of much discussion on the rialto...the major question has been how long can it last, especially with the Big Six (Frost/Nixon, Coram Boy, Deuce, Inherit The Wind, Radio Golf and A Moon for the Misbegotten) about to begin previews. According to The Playgoer, one of Journey's End's actors, Stark Sands, has suggested the play may close any day. No official word, but it's sad...when quality plays can't find an audience on Broadway (Talk Radio is underperforming as well), we should ALL be worried.

And now, some changes to schedules previously announced in this column: Make Me A Song: The Music of William Finn, which was supposed to open next month at the Zipper, has been postponed until next season. The reason cited was the infamous "scheduling difficulties," which I'm guessing means they've decided to re-cast and look for a star to boost box office. Twenty-five blocks north at Lincoln Center, New York City Opera has replaced their planned revival of Ragtime with a re-hash of Bernstein's Candide, again staged by Harold Prince. The musical has been seen so often in recent years at NYCO, on TV and in concert stagings that audience members may feel whiplash upon hearing about its return.

The Patty Griffin-composed 10 Million Miles, has announced its cast...and as we predicted last week, Sutton Foster is no longer among their number. Instead, new leading lady Irene Molloy (The Civil War) will join Matthew Morrison (Hairspray), Skipp Sudduth (The Iceman Cometh) and Mare Winningham (St. Elmo's Fire) in the original jukebox music at the Atlantic Theater Company beginning May 11.

Hot Gossip of the Week #3: If you're still reading this far down, faithful friends, I've saved the best for last. Reliable sources say that the producers of Terrence McNally's Deuce, starring Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes, have asked that the play be taken out of contention for the Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle Awards. The reasons are blurry, but it is an unmistakable sign that the play, which is just now in rehearsals, is already in serious trouble. Deuce will remain in the running for the Tony, which has a much later deadline than all the other awards (in mid-May). Stay tuned...it could be a train wreck in the making.

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