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Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Stage Addiction: Grease Is Most Definitely Not The Word

- First, a little twitch of sadness for the Grease revival...those reviews yesterday were brutal, and despite the fact that they were pretty much deserved, I'm sorry for the young kids in the show. It's tough to be told in such public fashion that you're nowhere near good enough. Take heart, kids -- in recent years, Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington and other Oscar winners have had their asses handed to them when trying to adapt to Broadway. And look on the bright side...with an advance of $15 million, it doesn't really matter what the critics think. You'll have a job for at least a year.

- Speaking of Hollywood stars on Broadway, let's discuss the news that got everyone in a dither last week: Jake Gyllenhaal's possibly-maybe appearance in Beau Willimon's Farragut North. We told you a number of weeks ago about about Jakey's super-secret workshop of the political drama; it was announced for Second Stage's upcoming season Off-Broadway, but now widely-published rumors say Mike Nichols will direct it on Broadway. I'd love to get as excited as my buddy Plaid Pants is, but there are reasons I'm hesitant. Six, to be exact:
  1. The leak about Mike Nichols wasn't really a "leak" at all. It was merely a ploy by the producers to raise funds...dropping "news" of an in-the-works buzz project in the hopes of attracting investors. Why do producers do this? Simple: because they're short. They don't have the money yet. And until they do, Farragut North is nothing more than a dream. Money is what talks on Broadway, and don't you think otherwise.
  2. If they do get the investors (and I'm guessing they will eventually), will the show be any good? Gyllenhaal, who got decent notices in London for This Is Our Youth a few seasons back, has never faced the unforgiving audiences of New York. Will his quiet, textured film demeanor translate onto a stage the size of a football field? I'm doubtful. But there's an even bigger question about the show's quality that Gyllenhaal, and that's...
  3. The playwright. Beau Willimon is the Hot Young Writer of the moment, who began attracting attention in industry circles last year. And maybe he's the honest-to-God shiznit, who knows. But Willimon has NEVER had a major New York production. And other recent Hot Young Writers, like Sarah Ruhl, Gina Gionfriddo, and Adam Bock, have been inconsistent at best...only Ruhl got a shot at the big time (with Lincoln Center's The Clean House last season, and it was pretty universally disliked). So maybe the untested, unseen Willimon really is the second coming...but serious theatregoers should at least give pause.
  4. Another problem: Mike Nichols has another show in the works at the same time. And it's got big stars too: Morgan Freeman and Frances McDormand. Which one will get his notoriously fickle attention first?
  5. Finally, there's the price. Sure, you have to see your beloved Jakey onstage. But will you plunk down $125 or $200 next spring to see Brokeback Mountain's better half...even if it's bad? How about $300? $350? $400, when the ticket frenzy is at its highest? My point is, it sets the whole enterprise up for failure...at those prices, it's hard to not be disappointed if it's anything less than stellar. And it's damn hard to be stellar.
  6. Of course, if Jake gets naked onstage, you should ignore everything I just said.
- After just bashing the movie-stars-on-Broadway trend, it may surprise you that I'm excited about the possible cast of next spring's Guys and Dolls revival: Debra Messing (Will and Grace), Patrick Wilson (Angels in America), Anne Hathaway (Princess Diaries) and John C. Reilly (Chicago). With the exception of Hathaway, all of these people have extensive histories in the theatre, and they're near-perfect for their roles. And since people I respect seem to see something in Hathaway that I do not, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. For the moment, at least.

- Another week, another shaky report from Young Frankenstein. We've got photos for you of the show (above)...and we can't help be underwhelmed (although Megan Mullally as a redhead is delicious, and Sutton Foster has filled out in shocking, um, ways). It also can't be helping Mel Brooks' digestive tract that another musical about Frankenstein has also decided to open this fall Off-Broadway...and that it'll star Sutton's Tony-nominated brother, Hunter Foster (Urinetown). Ouch.

Other new engagements:
  • The recent L.A. revival of Come Back, Little Sheba starring Emmy winner S. Epatha Merkeson (Law and Order) has found a home at Manhattan Theatre Club for next January...
  • Off-Broadway's Cherry Lane Theatre has found a star for their Edward Albee double-bill next spring: F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus). This is not to be confused with the other Albee double-bill, this fall at Second Stage: Peter and Jerry, which stars Bill Pullman (Independence Day)...
  • The Glorious Ones, a new musical by Lynn Ahrens and Steven Flaherty (Ragtime) set to begin in October at Lincoln Center, has found its leads: Marc Kudisch (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and Erin Davie (Grey Gardens). I'm guessing that Kudisch's participation here means that the Washington D.C. revival of The Witches of Eastwick, which he starred in, will not be moving. Dang...
  • Lock the doors and hide the children: that rumored Kevin Kline/Jennifer Garner revival of Cyrano de Bergerac is now all too horribly real, coming into the Richard Rodgers Theater for a 10-week run in October. Mitigating the scenery chewing will be co-star Daniel Sunjata (Take Me Out)...
  • New York has already seen two major revivals of Cymbeline in the last two years. So why would Lincoln Center possibly decide to do a third this November? Perhaps it's the all-star cast: Michael Cerveris (Tony Award for Assassins), John Cullum (Tonys for Shenandoah and On the Twentieth Century), Martha Plimpton (Tony nomination for The Coast of Utopia) and Phylicia Rashad (Tony for A Raisin in the Sun).
- Speaking of Rashad's Raisin in the Sun...that stage-to-TV version, featuring the former Mrs. Huxtable as well as P. Diddy and Audra McDonald, has been delayed again. Hmmmm. I wonder what's wrong with it....

- It only took five years. Billy Elliot: The Musical has announced their Broadway opening at the Imperial Theatre. When? September 17, 2008. Line forms to the left...bring a sleeping bag...

- Call me crazy, but I think this is a new triumph in the world of theatrical marketing: the Supercalifragilisticexpalidocious Sundae. If there's ever been a great synergistic pair, it's ice cream and Broadway musicals. Yummmm.

Not quite theater: after years in limbo due to the merger of Sony Pictures and MGM, John Turturro's long-awaited movie musical, Romance and Cigarettes, will finally be released on September 7th. Turturro's releasing it himself, actually, opening with an engagement at New York's Film Forum. I can't wait; with a cast including James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi, Bobby Cannavale, Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker, Aida Turturro, Christopher Walken, Elaine Stritch, Eddie Izzard, Amy Sedaris, Cady Huffman, Tonya Pinkins, Michael McElroy, and Turturro himself, how bad could it possibly be? (The music's not too shabby either, with songs by Irving Berlin, James Brown, Nick Cave, Bruce Springsteen, and Leiber and Stoller.)

- Dirty Dancing: The Musical is not, I repeat NOT, coming to Broadway. It is, however, going on a national tour. Where it belongs. Out in the wilderness.

- A quick congrats to Christopher Hurt, longtime friend of ModFab and recent star of the MadShag reading of The Circle, for his Best Actor nomination at the Midtown International Theatre Festival. We love it when our friends are successful!

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