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Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Stage Addiction: Bloggers Love Bad Shows (and Beer)

-42nd Street was buzzing with rumors of two big, starry revivals headed to New York for next season...and if even one of them comes to be, it'll be worthwhile. The first is the critically-acclaimed revamp of Chekhov's The Seagull, which recently played London's Royal Court Theatre. A spring 2008 transfer to Broadway is under discussion, with plans to include its stars, Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient), Mackenize Crook (BBC's The Office) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Kinky Boots). Less certain but more tasty are the rumors about a possible revival next autumn of David Rabe's anti-war drama The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel. Why exciting? Because it may just include the Broadway debut of Leonardo DiCaprio. Alright, everybody calm down, it's just a rumor...

- Big news for Sondheim fans...I mean BIG. Tony-winning director John Doyle, whose Sweeney Todd and Company have made him the director of choice for the composer, has his eye on reviving Sondheim's biggest flop, Merrily We Roll Along, for the 2008-9 season. Merrily is a very challenging piece, following characters backwards through time (and doing so with a choppy, difficult book). If Doyle can pull it off, he'll have my undying admiration; I saw the show years ago during the Sondheim Celebration at the Kennedy Center (starring a young Raul Esparza), and at the time I thought the book was impossible to get around. But I've been wrong before. (Merrily will probably begin in London before crossing over to us Yanks.)

- Did I mention that there's MORE BIG NEWS for Sondheim fans? In that last article, Sondheim's lawyer, John Breglio, hinted that a London production of A Little Night Music is also in the works. THIS is the Sondheim musical in need of reviving...a flawlessly entertaining gloss on Ingmar Bergman's film Smiles of a Summer Night, it exudes sophisticated charm. Breglio refuses to name a theatre, timetable or director, but we wonder -- is this the long-delayed revival announced a few seasons back, to be directed by Declan Donnellan (As You Like It) and starring Glenn Close? Oh, but to dream...

The best show in NYC that you haven't seen, No Child, is closing in June before embarking on a national tour. The poster for this solo tour-de-force by Nilaja Sun is in the dictionary, next to the word "unmissable." Which is not really a word, but still.

Bitchy Catfight of the Week: Theatre blogs had a rumble last week, after our friends at Culturebot suggested that some blog-based reviews of Adam Rapp's Essential Self-Defense had been...ummm...overly enthusiastic. (The play was creamed by most of the print critics, but director Carolyn Cantor sent out an email extolling the blogger reviews and implying that the play was too cool for old geezer newspaper critics.) Culturebot made the claim that the bloggers in question were given, in exchange for positive reviews, free tickets (the horror!) and free beer (the horr...wait, where was I?). As you can imagine, that didn't go over very well...ending in attacks on Culturebot for being overly kind to the shows at P.S. 122. Then Gothamist entered the fracas, and everything went to hell in a handbag. In the last few days, everyone seems to have kissed and made up, but I've still got questions. Why is it that people thing bloggers can be bought with a free ticket, but print critics -- 99% of whom see Broadway and Off-Broadway shows for free as well -- are all above reproach? In an age where critical monoliths are crumbling in the face of niche journalism, why are reviewers who have a different reaction from the norm automatically suspect? And if a ticket is free, does the show improve...or is it worse, since you don't feel bad for leaving at intermission? (And how do I get invited to the theatre blogger beer party? Help a brother out!)

For the record: I rarely pay for theatre personally. It's a part of my day job to see as much NYC theatre as I can, and comp tickets are a long tradition in the theatre industry. (It's also true in the film industry, with private screenings galore, especially during Oscar season.) I also end up hating most plays I see, because I've gotten picky (and bitter) over the years. So the fact that the tickets are complimentary -- check out my recent reviews of The Pirate Queen and Some Men as Exhibits A and B -- does not even enter my critical process. ModFab is a sacred place to me, and I feel no desire to lie to my readers about anything. If I wanted to lie in my reviews, of course, I'd pull a Jayson Blair and go work for The New York Times. (And if you doubt the veracity of my scoops, here's the thing...I'm almost always right.)

Do you love the musical Altar Boyz? Like, a lot? Because for the low, low price of $199, you can see it as many times as you want during the month of May. That's only like, $6 dollars per performances! What a bargain! (If you see it 30 times. I mean, I like the show and all, but selling theatre is bulk is a hundred different kinds of wrong.)

If you're going to be in Los Angeles in May or June, take note: the original cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will be reunited for a four-week run at the Wadsworth Theatre. They are collectively one of the most entertaining ensembles I've ever seen; West Coast readers, it's a must-see. Honestly, in L.A. how often do those come along?

For those of you keeping score at home, the backlash to Grease! has officially begun. Michael Reidel was the first to club the show in the knees, quoting a "source" that has people calling for refunds after their favorite contestants on the reality show didn't win. (Too bad, kiddies...Ticketmaster is a harsh and cruel mistress, and refunds aren't a part of her vocabulary.) To add insult to injury, even Andrew Lloyd Webber -- the progenitor of reality-show casting in London, and a judge on an episode of the American version -- called the Grease experience "appalling, just awful." And when the author of Whistle Down The Wind says you suck, he knows what he's talking about. (Meanwhile, the producers continue to count their $9-million-and-counting box office...)

Here's the full, final cast for The Little Mermaid. Not a fatty in the bunch.

I personally didn't care for Spamalot -- why are the rabbits funny, someone tell me? -- but if you loved it like most people, you might wish that Eric Idle do the same adaptation trick to Monty Python's Life of Brian. Well, he has, sort of...it's not a musical, but a classical oratorio by Idle and John Du Prez based on the movie called Not The Messiah (He's A Very Naughty Boy)...and its U.S. premiere will be at Caramoor Music Festival in Katonah, NY, for two performances only, on July 1st. Caramoor is a gorgeous day trip from NYC, by the by...

A note for everyone planning to rush out and see Fantasia Barrino when she starts in The Color Purple tonight: she's had strep throat, and didn't start full rehearsals until last week. You might want to hold off. I'm just sayin'.

  • Deuce, a world premiere by Terrence McNally starring Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes. (April 11)
  • LoveMusik, a new musical with Michael Cerveris as Kurt Weill and Donna Murphy as Lotte Lenya. (April 12)
  • 110 in the Shade, the musical adaptation of The Rainmaker now starring Audra McDonald (April 13)
  • Coram Boy, Helen Edmundson's acclaimed British transfer. (April 16)
  • A Moon for the Misbegotten, Eugene O'Neill meets Kevin Spacey (kill me now). (April 8)
  • Blackbird, the American premiere of David Harrower's Olivier Award-winning play about a man (Jeff Daniels) forced to come to terms with a long-ago relationship. (April 10)
  • Inherit The Wind, the courtroom classic now starring Brian Dennehy and Christopher Plummer. (April 12)
  • All The Wrong Reasons, John Fugelsang's autobiographical solo play about his life as the son of an ex-nun and a former Franciscan brother. (April 15)
  • My Trip To Al Qaeda, the documentary solo performance about searching for the real roots of 9/11. I saw it, it's pretty amazing. (April 14)
  • Tea and Sympathy, the classic drama about homophobia in prep schools. Not as sexy as it sounds. (April 14)
  • Essential Self-Defense, Adam Rapp's play that caused all the blog brouhaha. (April 15)

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