Friday, September 30, 2011

Julie Taymor Spider-Man Saga Continues

Julie Taymor, who is still credited as book writer of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, is still tangled up in battles with the show's other creators. On October 3rd, Julie Taymor and the show's producers will enter arbitration on October 3rd (this coming Monday) because Taymor "claims she is owed $500,000 in unpaid royalties for her work," according to an article by Kenneth Jones on The Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the union to which Taymor belongs, filed the complaint in June on her behalf.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Lunt-Fontanne To Be Haunted Anew

Though The Addams Family doesn't close on Broadway until December 31st, the theater where the show is currently housed (the Lunt-Fontanne) has already found a new tenant, and a ghostly one at that. The Broadway transfer of the West End musical Ghost has announced that it will open at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on April 23rd, 2012. The musical's book has been adapted from the movie's Oscar winning screenplay by the film's original author, Bruce Joel Rubin. The show's score is written by Grammy winner Dave Stewart (of the Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard, and will also include the song made famous as the film's recurring love theme, Unchained Melody.

Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo to Getting Ready for Special Performance

Sierra Boggess and Karimloo are preparing for a very special performance. They are gearing up for the 25th anniversary performance of Broadway's longest running musical, The Phantom of the Opera, as Christine Daae' and the Phantom himself, respectively. The show will be broadcast live to movie theaters around the world from London's Royal Albert Hall on October 2nd. The pair have some experience with these characters, with Karimloo having played the Phantom in the London production and Boggess having played Christine in Las Vegas, in addition to creating the characters in Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel Love Never Dies.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Newsies News

The Broadway-bound musical adaptation of the Disney flop film Newsies opened last night at the Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey to a strong review from the New York Times, which gave a lot of credit to book writer Harvey Fierstein, director Jeff Calhoun, and choreographer Christopher Gattelli.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Christine Lahti Interview on

Here's an interview from with Christine Lahti, who is currently starring off-Broadway in Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling, a play by Adam Rapp.

Christine Lahti on Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling and Dressing Her Oscar in Barbie Clothes
By Michael Mellini

As Sandra Cabot, a wealthy Connecticut women readying to host a lavish dinner party with old friends, Christine Lahti steps on stage in Adam Rapp's Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling in a sparkling designer suit. The glimmer of the outfit is a far cry, however, from the inner emotions of Lahti's character, who is more than disgusted and unfulfilled with her family life. This provocative drama kicks off Atlantic Theater Company's off-Broadway season at CSC Theatre in a production set to open on October 3. recently caught up Lahti, best known for her award-winning run on TV's Chicago Hope, to talk about entering the world of the extremely rich, concentrating on stage work and playing dress-up with her many awards (She outfitted her Oscar up in Ken doll clothes!)

Sandra is a fairly unlikeable character. Are you enjoying playing someone with so much bottled-up anger?
She’s pretty troubled. It’s incredibly fun taking the ride with this character each night. This is not really the kind of character I’ve ever played before, so it’s been challenging to find what drives her and, without giving too much away, this horrible, unspeakable act that she’s planning to commit.

When the play begins, her marriage is at a very unpleasant place. Did you and [onstage husband] Reed Birney talk about how these people ended up at this point?
Yes, we’ve worked out a backstory. Sandra basically feels abandoned and feels like she’s going through life alone and without a partner. He’s just not present. She’s frightened of everything, when faced with conflict, and there’s not much to her life, so she doesn’t feel loved. She lives in this world of extreme wealth and has such a sense of entitlement, to being happy and living an extraordinary life that feels special, and now she’s not feeling any of that. So she finds a way to strive towards a better life—or tries, at least.

Have you met people like Sandra, who’ve done very well for themselves but are still incredibly unhappy?
I’ve never met someone who would want to commit the act that she’s about to do, but I have met pretty desperate people. And I can certainly imagine that at this age, they have a feeling of “there’s only a few more years left,” which sparks a fear of your own mortality. She’s desperate.

Were you able to pull from your own experience for this character? [Lahti has been married to TV director Thomas Schlamme for 28 years.]
Not so much from my own life, luckily! I’ve just been using my imagination to think about how I would feel in these circumstances. I've never really been driven to this kind of behavior.

Sandra is very outspoken. You really have such a knack for uninhibited women.
The boldness, I think, comes out of her desperation. She’s a survivor. She’s not going to allow herself to die in this prison that she feels she’s in. She’s a real woman in action, she doesn’t mess around and I relate to some of those traits. I can understand that when the "push comes to shove survival mentality" kicks in, she does what she has to do.

The play is set during an opulent dinner party in which the guests dine on a giant goose. Is it hard to actually eat on stage and still deliver your lines?
It’s pretty good food too! I really like eating on stage. I like that sort of naturalism and seeing people talk with food in their mouth just makes it so much more real. It’s really fun. While there’s plenty of food, Sandra seems more interested in the alcohol on the table. Drinking is a very WASP-y thing to do, but she just keeps drinking really to numb her pain and also to gain the courage to move forward with her plot.

You're performing in an intimate space. Do you feel like the audience members are guests at the table as well?
It’s an odd experience for me to see the audience so much. I like the intimacy of the theater a lot, but you have to keep your focus and concentration and not always pay attention to them [laughs]. I’ve gotten used to it.

Some pretty wild things happen in the show, especially in the final scene. How have audiences been reacting?
It’s a very provocative play, but the audience response has been very positive. They seem to be very moved by it.

As a God of Carnage veteran, are you excited for the upcoming film adaptation?
Of course! That show was brilliant, and I’m curious to see what they’re doing with it. I’m sure they’ll open the story up a little and maybe even have some flashbacks of showing the boys getting into the fight in the park.

I read that you have an extensive background in miming. Is that something that still comes in handy at this point in your career?
Well, it’s not so extensive. I studied it in college and went on tour with a mime company, but, oh no, I don’t keep it up. It was really fun. We performed around coffee houses in Europe. There’s really no call for miming any more, but I also did a lot of physical character work early on which was very helpful.

You’re an Oscar-winning director [for the live action short Lieberman in Love] and an Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actress [for Chicago Hope]. Where do you keep your awards?
I put them on my mantle in my office. At one time my Emmy had Barbie clothes on it and my Oscar had Ken doll clothes on. My daughter used to like to dress them up.

Do you still get approached about your 1998 Golden Globe Awards mishap? [Lahti was in the restroom when her win was announced.]
I do, funnily enough. It’s one thing I’ll always been known for the most!

Does that bother you?
Of course not. I still think it’s very funny.

Your twin son and daughter recently left for college. Are you having empty nest syndrome yet?
I do have an empty nest, but I’m so excited to be working on this show and consumed by the role that I don’t even think about it. I’m so excited for my kids, too, because they’re in such good places and ready to move on to their next phases in life. I’m looking forward to being more bi-coastal now and having the freedom to come to New York to do shows like this.

See Christine Lahti in Atlantic Theater Company's production of Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling at Classic Stage Company.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Broadway on TV

The new fall season has started on TV and many of the new shows have Broadway stars in them, as I reported a few days ago. The New York Times ArtsBlog has descriptions and reviews of the new offerings by Charles Isherwood. Check out the link below.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Follies Extends on Main Stem

As though the current Broadway revival of Follies needed another indicator of how much people love it (and of it's sure success), it has been announced that the production will extend its run on Broadway. The Eric Schaeffer-directed project started previews at the Marquis Theatre on August 7th and opened on September 12th. The show had initially planned to close on January 1st but will now close on January 22nd -- a three week extension.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Playing Both Sides of the Field

Here's another fantastic New York Times article that I thought you'd enjoy about actors who also write.

Some Actors Work Both Sides of a Script
Published: September 23, 2011
AT the end of a 90-minute conversation Jesse Eisenberg announced that what he really would like to do is write a musical. To which Zoe Kazan responded, “That’s the most impressive thing you’ve said this whole time.” Mr. Eisenberg answered back by listing other comments he had made. “Musical theater totally trumps that,” she retorted.
Ms. Kazan, 28, and Mr. Eisenberg, who will be 28 next month, trade barbs in a way that only people who run in the same circles would. These actors have known each other for years. They are both slightly built New Yorkers known for intelligent performances dramatizing eccentric anxiety. Mr. Eisenberg is more famous because of blockbuster movies like “The Social Network,” but Ms. Kazan has more experience onstage, starring most recently in the revival of “Angels in America.” But they both give the impression that they are younger than they are, of being indie even when acting in Hollywood or on Broadway. Now they have something else in common: They have each written a play that has a debut next month.
Ms. Kazan’s “We Live Here,” a dysfunctional-family drama set before a wedding, opens at Manhattan Theater Club on Oct. 12, the same day that Mr. Eisenberg’s “Asuncion” begins previews at the Cherry Lane Theater. Mr. Eisenberg stars in his comedy, a Rattlestick Playwrights Theater production, as a naïve blogger whose ideals clash with his life experience. On a recent morning they chatted with Jason Zinoman over coffee. These are excerpts from the conversation.
Q. It’s a cliché for actors to say, “I want to direct,” but less often do I hear them say, “I want to write a play.” Why did you do it?
ZOE KAZAN I always wrote. My parents are writers. It just seemed like something people did. I took a writing class in college, liked it, and my first year out of school I couldn’t get a job, so I wrote a play. I never wanted to be a playwright. I just didn’t say no to any of my interests. I don’t have any hobbies.
JESSE EISENBERG People ask me what my hobbies are in interviews, and I always say biking. But all I bike for is to get to rehearsal more quickly. I have no hobbies either.
KAZAN Way to go. I bet you and I would make fascinating dinner companions.
EISENBERG Pure narcissism. We could have separate dinners alone.
KAZAN I am my own wife.
Q. Jesse, tell me about your play.
EISENBERG It’s about a writer obsessed with big issues but who doesn’t do anything about them. I do what I like to do, explore parts of myself that I am embarrassed by. I grew up in an apolitical household. I never left the country. When I became an adult, I started traveling and became interested in politics, and I probably talked about things in a silly, ignorant way. So I explored this in myself and exaggerated it for comedic effect.
Q. How exaggerated is it? One of the main characters, the one played by you, gets mugged and then sympathizes with his attackers.
EISENBERG I was mugged one night in New York and slammed into a concrete pillar, and I did an interview where I said I completely understand why they attacked me. It was a poor, black neighborhood. Someone sent me an article saying: “You ignorant idiot. It’s more offensive to defend these people. It’s more racist to defend them.” He’s right, and that is the impetus for the first scene.
Q. Jesse’s play deals with a relationship between brothers, while yours is about an equally fraught sibling relationship.
KAZAN I have a sister who I am close to. I was interested in the idea of the sister relationship in general. I wrote a first draft in fall of 2009. MTC commissioned it, and they gave me some money. When I was acting in “A Behanding [in Spokane],” I was going in five hours early and working on it there.
Q. Did Martin McDonagh [the author of “Behanding’] give feedback?
KAZAN He read it.
EISENBERG [Imitating Mr. McDonagh] How come no one gets his head sawed off in this?
KAZAN You don’t know, Jesse, you haven’t read it.
EISENBERG Listen, I read the play, but I think you left out a page where someone gets his tongue cut out and stapled to his eye.
KAZAN I guess I don’t really seek notes from a broad range of people. It’s more like we were becoming friends, and I was going early and he was like: What are you doing?
Q. Jesse, who do you give work to?
EISENBERG If I think my play is bad, I’ll send it to my mother because she only gives me compliments. If I think it’s good, jeez, I don’t know. My mom calls me every 16 minutes, and she says: “That’s great sweetie. You’re my favorite child out of the three of you. Why are you not president?”
Q. Zoe, you grew up with two screenwriters as parents.
KAZAN My parents will sit down at the dining-room table and give notes on each other’s scripts. It’s the worst thing in the world. It’s like the house is burning down. It’s awful for my sister and me.
EISENBERG You should give your script to my mother. She would be real encouraging.
KAZAN I would love that. Then maybe I would be her favorite child.
Q. Which is the biggest challenge for you as a writer: character, plot or language?
EISENBERG Aspects of each. It’s a cop-out of an answer. At each point I come to a problem with a plot point or character, it seems insurmountable. Or is it unsurmountable? Not to be surmounted? So language is my answer.
KAZAN I think action should be revealed through character, so if you have a plot problem, it’s probably a character problem. It’s fun and easy to write language, but there were things I loved that I had to get rid of because they are no longer carrying their weight.
Q. Does the fact you are actors have any impact on the amount of trust you have that your cast will find the right subtext in your lines?
KAZAN My rewriting process has been a lot about taking away the explicit and letting the subtext speak for itself. Sam [Gold, who is directing the play] is pushing me to be brave in pursuit of that. I think it’s hard for an actor.
Q. One thing that struck me about both your plays is that in an age when plays are becoming more cinematic in structure, yours are not.
KAZAN We both work in film, so if we are going to write a play, why not write a play?
EISENBERG There’s something strange about theater. My characters consistently demonize elitism, but of course it’s taking place in a theater where only so many people can see it. I’ve been in silly popcorn movies — the kind of thing that as an actor you might feel embarrassed about — but those movies reach many more people. In a play you’re basically performing for rich people.
Q. Broadway was once the ultimate in success for a young dramatist. How do you think of it now?
KAZAN Broadway is different now than in our parents’ generation. The number of straight plays opening there now is so small compared to the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. I see many more plays Off Broadway by dint of ticket price and what’s being produced. If it costs more, it has to reach a larger audience. That’s why there aren’t more risky plays on Broadway.
EISENBERG I don’t consider Broadway for us — as theatergoers. I never even consider going there to see something.
KAZAN I want to see “Book of Mormon,” but for $400? Look, [turning to Mr. Eisenberg] for 60 bucks, 65 bucks I can see your play, right?
EISENBERG $75, actually. Listen I know someone who can get you in.
KAZAN $75? I’m not going to see your play.
EISENBERG Hey, I was in a zombie movie.
Q. Zoe, you also wrote a movie called “He Loves Me” that is supposed to come out next year. What is it about?
KAZAN It’s a magic realist romantic comedy. Paul [Dano, who is her boyfriend] plays a Jonathan Safran Foer-type writer who has writer’s block. He has one big novel and can’t follow it up. He starts to dream about this girl and then magical high jinks ensue. But it’s rooted in reality and comes from my experience. I was in relationships in my late teens with much older men and always felt like a piece of clay. But when I got older, I wasn’t so fluid as a person anymore. My relationships got better but harder. I wanted to write about that.
Q. Jesse, you just finished shooting a Woody Allen movie currently titled “The Bop Decameron.” Why do actors always adopt his mannerisms when starring in his films? Is it because his humor is so influential or is it in the cadences of the lines?
EISENBERG Those two plus a third reason, which is that after each take, he’s giving you notes and his voice is so iconic and funny and specific. Its impossible not to [imitate it]. You also want to indulge fully in being in a Woody Allen movie. He would say, “Don’t be hamstrung by dialogue and say whatever you want.” And I just end up making his jokes. At one point I realized after I did a scene that I made a joke from “Manhattan.”
KAZAN Steal from the best, man.
EISENBERG Just not in front of him. Go down the block first.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Doing Broadway Double Duty

Doing two shows at once is a lot of work -- it's time consuming, there are lots of things to keep track of (like twice as many lines), and more scheduling conflicts. But one actor seems to be doing ok with it. Here's a New York Times article by Patricia Cohen, titled "Just a Little Moonlighting on Broadway", that appeared in the paper on September 15th.

THE drive from Times Square to the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J., takes an hour, but the journey that Jeremy Jordan must complete during the ride is much longer. On Broadway, where Mr. Jordan will soon spend his days rehearsing for the new musical “Bonnie & Clyde,” he is one of the outlaw lovers who terrorized and seduced East Texas during the hungry years of the Depression.

At Paper Mill he’ll turn into Jack Kelly, the scruffy teenager who leads a lovable band of turn-of-the-20th-century newsboys in a strike on the Lower East Side in the Disney musical “Newsies.”

“He tawks like dis,” Mr. Jordan said of Jack. Then slipping into a lazy East Texas drawl, he explained that Clyde Barrow speaks slower and softer, “with a little bit more of a twa-a-ng and a sideways lip.”

It’s not unheard of for an actor to jump from one cast into another during the theater season, but for Mr. Jordan it’s all been compressed. His theatrical version of two-timing means that during much of the world-premiere run of “Newsies,” which began previews on Thursday, he’ll also be rehearsing “Bonnie & Clyde.” He won’t have a day (and barely a night) off until “Newsies” ends, on Oct. 16.

“Are you O.K. with that?” Mr. Jordan remembers being asked by Jeff Calhoun, who also happens to be directing both musicals.

“I’ll make it work,” he answered.

Work is the operative word. After rehearsing “Bonnie & Clyde” from 10 to 5, Mr. Jordan will race to Millburn for the 7 p.m. curtain. “I can warm up on the way there,” he said. On two-performance matinee days at Paper Mill, Mr. Jordan will skip rehearsals altogether.

Mr. Jordan, 26, who grew up in Corpus Christi, Tex., came to star in both musicals through a bit of theatrical kismet. After graduating from Ithaca College in 2007, as a theater major, he was lucky to attract the attention of an agent. The next year he played Tom Sawyer in Goodspeed Opera House’s “Big River” and in January 2009 snagged a part in the Broadway musical “Rock of Ages,” then left to be the replacement Tony for the matinees of Broadway’s “West Side Story.”

Featuring music by Frank Wildhorn (“Jekyll & Hyde,” “The Scarlet Pimpernel”), lyrics by Don Black, and a book by Ivan Menchell, “Bonnie & Clyde” has taken a somewhat unusual route to Broadway, which allowed Mr. Jordan to come aboard. After a 2009 run at La Jolla Playhouse in California, Stark Sands, who played Clyde, left the show to join the cast of “American Idiot” in New York. When the Asolo Repertory Theater in Sarasota, Fla., announced a second production for late 2010, the creators went hunting for a new Clyde. (Laura Osnes, who starred in “Grease” and “Anything Goes” on Broadway, has been Bonnie all along.)

Mr. Calhoun was impressed with his audition. “It was one of those moments when you recognize you’re in the presence of a star,” he said. And he had seen Mr. Jordan a few months earlier when Disney had cast the young singer as Jack for a reading of “Newsies,” based on the 1992 film of the same name. While the movie, starring Christian Bale, was a flop, it later enjoyed a rabid following.

Mr. Jordan was among those fans. “I was obsessed with that movie as a kid,” he said. Yet when a full Paper Mill production came through, “Bonnie & Clyde” was already Broadway bound. “I was a little upset,” Mr. Jordan said.

Then Mr. Calhoun called and said Disney was willing to offer him the role. Since he has performed the parts before, Mr. Jordan is not worried about the lines. Rather vocal strain is the biggest challenge. Both shows demand he sing 11 songs, 3 of which are solos or duets — “and none of them are low,” said Mr. Jordan, who is a tenor. “I’ll have to keep an eye on the voice.”

Originating a role on Broadway and headlining in the premiere of a Disney musical in the same season is a pretty heady accomplishment for such a young actor. At the moment, though, Mr. Jordan says otherwise. “I feel old,” he said. In “Newsies,” “I’m one of the oldest people in the cast.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sheryl Crow Comes to Broadway

Next in the long line of pop music composers writing scores for Broadway is rock star Sheryl Crow. She is set to pen the score for a screen-to-stage adaptation of the 1982 film Diner. The show will be directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, with a book by the movie's director and screenwriter Barry Levinson. No casting has been announced, but the show is anticipating a fall 2012 Broadway birth with a pre-Broadway try out in the summer of 2012. featured this summary of the film's plot: "Set in Baltimore around Christmastime in 1959, Diner follows six high school buddies, now in their twenties, as they reunite before the second member of the group is about to tie the knot. Trying to deal with their new responsibilities, the group has awkwardly stumbled into adulthood, and the only place they can make sense of their new lives is at their old hangout, The Fells Point Diner."

Anything Goes Goes On

The Roundabout Theatre Company has announced that it's hit Tony-winning revival of Cole Porter's Anything Goes has been extended thtough April 29th, 2012. The original run was expected to end July 31st, 2011, but had been extended until January after critics and audiences loved it. I'm sure that the three Tony's it won (Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical, and Best Choreography) definitely did not hurt the show's chances of extension. As a side note, the Roundabout bought and renovated the Stephen Sondheim Theatre specifically for the purpose of shows like this that might be sufficiently popular as to need an unplanned extensions of any of their shows.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Theater Vets Win Big at Emmys

A number of Broadway vets went home with Emmys at last night's ceremony. Jim Parsons, who starred in The Normal Heart this summer, won for Best Actor in a comedy. Julianna Margulies won the award for Best Actress in a Drama Series for The Good Wife. Tony-winner Maggie Smith won for her supporting performance in the made-for-TV-movie Downton Abbey. Margo Martindale, who was nominated for a supporting actress Tony for her performance in the 2003 revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, took home the Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for the TV show Justified. At last week's Creative Arts Emmys, Loretta Divine, who starred in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls, won an Emmy for her guest appearances in Grey's Anatomy.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Broadway on TV

With the Emmy Awards coming up later tonight (8pm on FOX), I thought this article from was quite appropriate. Follow the link below to get to an article about the large number of Broadway stars who will be appearing this year in TV shows old and new (but mostly new).

Friday, September 16, 2011

Musical Revivals Preview

This article, "New Layers Amid Song and Dance" by Patrick Healy, appeared in yesterday's New York Times and does a great job previewing the 2011-2012 season's musical revivals -- "Follies", "Godspell", "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever", "Porgy & Bess", and "Evita". Enjoy!

THE theater director Michael Mayer faced deep skepticism in 1997 when he first proposed a radical plan to the literary executors for “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” a 1965 musical admired for its lush score but undercut by loopy story lines about ESP and reincarnation. Mr. Mayer wanted to rewrite the book and to transform its muddled romantic subplot into a love triangle full of dramatic and comic tension. His boldest idea: turning one of the central characters, a flighty woman named Daisy, into a gay florist named David. The gender switch was meant to throw impediments into the main narrative, about a male psychiatrist who hypnotizes Daisy/David and then falls in love with her/his past self, a woman named Melinda Wells.

“Changing Daisy into David was the most shocking thing to the executors and estates, but they were as interested as I was in finding a way to breathe new life into this musical,” Mr. Mayer said of the representatives and relatives of the show’s composer, Burton Lane, and its original book writer and lyricist, Alan Jay Lerner. “My main thought was, ‘What can we do to make this story crackle?’ ”

Now, Mr. Mayer’s reconception is set to begin performances on Broadway on Nov. 12, starring Harry Connick Jr. as the psychiatrist and the theater actor David Turner (“Arcadia”) as David. It is one of four Broadway musical revivals this fall — along with “Follies,” “Godspell” and “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” — that offer new interpretations of the original works, albeit to widely varying degrees. While reinterpretation is a standard practice by directors who want their revivals to be revelatory (the sort of high praise that theater critics gave to revivals of “Hair,” in 2009, and “Carousel,” in 1994, for instance), changing or modernizing an older musical can be fraught when the surgery is so extensive that the work becomes unrecognizable or even disfigured.

“On a Clear Day” is the season’s fullest “revisal” — a revival of a musical whose score, script and other elements have been reworked — yet Mr. Mayer’s overhaul has stirred nothing like the furor surrounding another Broadway-bound revival, “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.” Both productions have support from the creators’ estates. “Porgy and Bess” retains far more of the original script and music of the beloved 1935 opera, while Mr. Mayer has interpolated songs from another Lerner and Lane work, the film “Royal Wedding,” which will sit alongside standards the show has spawned, including its title song and “Come Back to Me.” Yet it is the “Porgy” creative team that has found itself under unusual scrutiny about the art and limits of revision, after a rare public rebuke last month from Stephen Sondheim.

Mr. Sondheim said he was not criticizing the “Porgy and Bess” revival itself; its out-of-town run at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., had not even begun yet. But he assailed members of its creative team over their comments to The New York Times about wanting to excavate and reshape parts of the story and flesh out the characters, particularly Bess, with new dialogue, a major new scene toward the end, and a final, upbeat stage picture not in the original work.

That new scene and the final image have been cut from the American Repertory Theater production. It is not clear if Mr. Sondheim’s criticism drove the decision, or if the creators’ revised ending will be restored — or undergo revisions itself — for the Broadway production, which is scheduled to begin on Dec. 17. Diane Paulus, the director of “Porgy” and a Tony nominee for the recent “Hair” revival, and her collaborators declined to be interviewed for this article.

Among the artistic rationales for major revisals are fixing weak books or dealing with dated — even off-putting — material, like the ethnic stereotyping in “Flower Drum Song” (heavily revised for a short-lived return to Broadway in 2002). With revisals, creative teams sometimes engage with contemporary issues; before the American Repertory Theater opening the “Porgy” team talked about making Bess less of a victim of men. In adding a gay man to “On a Clear Day” Peter Parnell, who rewrote the show’s new book, and Mr. Mayer insisted they were not trying to foist a political agenda on the show; rather, they thought the change added a useful foil, some modern complications and clever subtleties to the story.

“Having the psychiatrist as a heterosexual man and the patient as a homosexual man offered us the love-triangle possibility, a concept that felt very fresh and current to me,” said Mr. Parnell, who, like Mr. Mayer, is gay. “I didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but at the same time I wanted to make these characters and their stories work together. I think it’s clicked.”

Jack Viertel, a Broadway producer and the artistic director of Encores!, the concert -revival series of American musicals, said the new “Porgy and Bess” pointed up “the dangers of taking a show that has always worked a certain way and saying, ‘I believe it can work my way.’ ”

He continued, “That can be a trap, because revivals succeed best when artists take the essence of the original work, add to it subtly or stage it inventively, and make the show live anew without betraying the original,” citing Lincoln Center Theater’s recent revival of “South Pacific” and Roundabout Theater Company’s “Cabaret” as examples.

The new “Follies,” which opened to strong reviews last week, has a score by none other than Mr. Sondheim himself, with a book by James Goldman. Mr. Sondheim and the Goldman estate gave Eric Schaeffer, the director, a version of the “Follies” script that they were most happy with, and the revival is quite close to the original 1971 Broadway production, with attention paid instead to production design that teases out the haunting qualities of the show, about a reunion of showgirls decades past their prime.

“Part of what I’m hoping people discover, actually, is that the book is really good — smart, concise, hitting home what needs to be hit home,” Mr. Schaeffer explained. “The best opportunity to try something new with ‘Follies’ is getting the atmospherics right.”

For the revival of “Godspell,” a 1971 musical based on parables from the Gospels, the director Daniel Goldstein and the show’s composer and lyricist, Stephen Schwartz, have been tweaking language in some of the parables to underscore the challenges of group identity.

“Some shows, including ‘Godspell,’ suffer if you impose a big concept or a radical vision, because the storytelling is simple and sincere,” Mr. Goldstein said. Mr. Schwartz, who later wrote the music for the Broadway blockbuster “Wicked,” was open to composing new songs for the characters, which include figures based on Jesus and Judas, but neither Mr. Goldstein nor Ken Davenport, the lead producer, saw a need.

“We all believe in the work as it is,” Mr. Davenport said. Then, joking about the Jesus character, added, “There was one version we tried where he didn’t die in the end.”

Mr. Sondheim and Mr. Schwartz are active players in the theater and eloquent guardians of their musicals. So too are the composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice, who are offering input for the first Broadway revival of “Evita,” which is scheduled for the spring. Some veterans of the revival business said a key difference for “Porgy and Bess” and “On a Clear Day” is that their creators are not around to offer blessings or cry foul. Estates and literary executors, in the interest of seeing their musical properties revived, are often open-minded about revisionist productions.

“When the originators of a work are dead, well, that tells you almost everything you need to know about the flexibility and scope you may have to reconceive,” said Michael Grandage, the director of the new “Evita.” He was quick to add that Mr. Lloyd Webber and Mr. Rice had given him latitude; he has proposed a few word changes, and it was Mr. Lloyd Webber who suggested adding the song “You Must Love Me” that he and Mr. Rice wrote for the 1996 film adaptation. (That it won a best original song Oscar didn’t hurt.)

“Evita” and “Godspell” will bear more similarities than not to the original productions, as often happens with first-time Broadway revivals, as was the case with the returns of “Les Misérables,” “A Chorus Line” and “Into the Woods” over the last decade or so. The logo for the new “Godspell,” for instance, incorporates the look of the famous 1970s design but makes it a poster within a poster.

“It honors the original while conveying a fresh modern take,” Mr. Davenport said.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Keeping Up with the Mormons

Marketing on Broadway is always a weird thing. How do you differentiate yourself from all the other shows on Broadway and try to reach the widest possible audience while still targeting the niches most likely to buy tickets? The article below, written by Patrick Healy, appeared in the New York Times on September 2nd under the title "Struggling to Keep Up with Those Mormons".

The new Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon” has been setting box office records, and this has been the best summer yet for the long-running hits “Wicked” and “The Lion King.” But this blockbuster bounty has not trickled down to everything on Broadway; several major musicals have struggled to fill seats during an especially lucrative time of the year, with some shows closing, while others are bracing for the traditionally slow-selling fall.

“Priscilla Queen of the Desert” has begun offering a money-back guarantee — virtually unheard of on Broadway — to groups of ticket buyers as a hedge against the relatively risqué content of a show about gay male drag performers. The producers of both “Priscilla” and “Sister Act,” another new musical with uneven box office sales, are revamping their advertising and marketing campaigns in hopes of improving the shows’ appeal.

And the team behind the hit “Billy Elliot,” which began turning a profit in 2010, is hoping that creative changes, including the elimination of some profanity, will help draw more families and school groups.

Meanwhile, the $13 million musical “Catch Me if You Can” — which had been one of the most anticipated of the spring — is now set to close on Sunday after ticket sales fizzled this summer, a result of mixed reviews and weak word of mouth. Another new musical, “Baby It’s You!,” is also closing on Sunday after quickly petering out, and the producers of “The Addams Family” announced last week that it would close at the end of the year after a 22-month run.

The business challenges stem from a Broadway marketplace that is unusually packed with musicals, as well as a different breed of spectacle, Cirque du Soleil’s “Zarkana,” which has sold an impressive 400,000 tickets so far for its four-month run at Radio City Music Hall. “Zarkana” has been competing with traditional musicals by selling tickets at the TKTS discount booths favored by many families and tourists.

With brisk sales as well for brand-name musicals like “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” the lesser-known shows are struggling to grab theatergoers’ attention. “Priscilla,” for one, hopes to do so by having its famous lead producer, Bette Midler, deliver radio ads and put her name on the theater marquee.

“There’s a finite number of Broadway ticket buyers, and there’s what feels like a huge number of Broadway shows,” said Garry McQuinn, another lead producer on “Priscilla.” “Do I wish we hadn’t opened in one of the busiest Broadway seasons ever? Sure. Do I wish we were selling more tickets? Absolutely. But our operating costs are low, and our advance ticket sale is good.” (He declined to provide those numbers.)

“So I’m not inclined to panic,” he added, “which doesn’t mean we’re not taking steps to improve our business position.”

Bill Taylor, one of the lead producers of “Sister Act,” said he was counting on a new television commercial and a new marketing campaign in early October to establish that musical as “a big Broadway show, a date show, a girls’-night-out show, with great singing and dancing.”

“So far we haven’t managed to get people to see ‘Sister Act’ for what it is — a big Broadway musical that is very funny,” Mr. Taylor said. For months the show’s marketing focused on the image of its star, Patina Miller, as an echo and reminder of advertising for the movie “Sister Act” that showcased its main attraction, Whoopi Goldberg.

“We have a huge affection for the movie, and Patina is wonderful, but we realized that the message we wanted to get across — and haven’t been getting across — is that this is a fun show that tourists would love,” Mr. Taylor said.

All the marketing in the world is no substitute, however, for positive word of mouth among theatergoers who recommend shows to their friends and relatives. “Sister Act,” “Priscilla” and “Catch Me if You Can” have not caught on, according to Broadway group sales agents who track such feedback. “Billy Elliot,” meanwhile, which opened in 2008 and dominated the Tony Awards that season, has been popular with groups but is seeking new momentum after a summer of relatively modest box office business.

Eric Fellner, a lead producer of “Billy Elliot,” said the creative team would be making some changes to the dialogue of the musical that might serve to broaden its appeal and encourage more bulk sales, which make up an important part of any show’s income. He said that some profanity would be cut and that other language would be tweaked to “make scenes easier to comprehend and perhaps make the show even easier to sell to groups.”

Stephanie Lee, the president of Group Sales Box Office, said musical producers were smart to experiment with changes at a time of heightened competition for ticket buyers.

“If you’re not one of the blockbuster shows, like ‘Wicked’ or ‘Mormon,’ you’ve got to find ways to differentiate yourself,” Ms. Lee said. “Broadway tickets are very expensive, even with a group discount, and people want strong reasons to buy.”

She credited the “Priscilla” producers for trying the money-back guarantee, which lasts through mid-November, covering the period of late summer and fall, when box office sales often stall. Mr. McQuinn said no one had asked for money back yet.

“The Addams Family” has opted for the more traditional method of star casting, hiring Brooke Shields to play the main female role, Morticia, once Bebe Neuwirth left. The show’s lead producers, Stuart Oken and Roy Furman, said that while ticket sales had been difficult this summer, they would have been worse without Ms. Shields, and they were counting on her to draw holiday tourists in November and December before the show closes.

Competition for tourists this summer has been unquestionably complicated by “Zarkana,” which plays nine or so performances a week at the nearly 6,000-seat Radio City Music Hall — the troupe’s first extended New York stay. While Cirque does not release box office data, a spokesman said the “Zarkana” weekly grosses had exceeded those of the top Broadway musicals all summer, suggesting receipts upward of $2 million a week; while the run ends on Oct. 8, a 2012 return has already been scheduled.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that ‘Zarkana’ is cutting into sales of much of Broadway,” said Mr. McQuinn of “Priscilla.”

At the TKTS booth in Times Square one afternoon last week, “Zarkana” was selling half-price tickets, along with “Sister Act,” “Priscilla,” “Spider-Man” and most other shows. Interviews with a dozen ticket buyers, however, indicated that the most popular sellers were “The Addams Family” and the revival of “Anything Goes,” two familiar brands that struck buyers as family-friendly.

“We thought about ‘Priscilla’ or ‘How to Succeed,’ but we’ve heard the best things about ‘Anything Goes,’ and we kind of want a sure thing for our one night on Broadway,” said Karen Gray, a Chicagoan who bought the tickets for herself and her daughter, Allie.

Max Carrel, a 22-year-old from Geneva, Switzerland, had been hoping to snag a ticket for “The Book of Mormon,” describing himself as a fan of provocative fare. “Mormon,” about two Utah missionaries trying to get by in Africa, probably won’t be listed on the TKTS board for years, and no descriptions of the other musicals grabbed Mr. Carrel. He ended up buying a ticket instead to a popular Off Broadway play, “Freud’s Last Session.”

“ ‘Sister Act’ and ‘Spider-Man’ and some of the others, they don’t sound like they’d hold much surprise,” Mr. Carrel said. “But Freud’s always fun.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kristin Chenoweth Has Her Next Project

Kristin Chenoweth's next Broadway project has been announced. The actress has been busy lately on Television with stints in Glee and her upcoming show Good Christian Belles (formerly titled Good Christian Bitches), as well as Broadway's Promises, Promises last year. Kristin, a friend to this blog since she and I met last year, will be starring in a revival of the 1978 musical On the Twentieth Century. This show is a musicalized version of the 1932 Broadway play Twentieth Century about a star performer whose producer ex-boyfriend is trying to revive his career by signing her to one more play. Chenoweth, set to star as Lily Garland, the central female in the show, starred in a staged reading of the musical produced by The Roundabout Theatre Company which also starred Hugh Jackman and Andrea Martin. No official word has been given by Roundabout about any potential plans to produce the show or who will be in the cast.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fall Season Enters Full Swing with Opening of "Follies"

The fall season on Broadway has definitely started with a bang, and a particularly needed one, too, after a slow summer (only two shows opened this summer, the long-awaited Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and the starry revival of Terrence McNally's Master Class). Follies, the Stephen Sondheim musical about the ghosts of our pasts, officially opened last night at the Marquis Theatre to mixed-to-strong reviews. The production overall was praised almost across the board, as were many of the show's actors. Two of the four leads, Ron Raines and Jan Maxwell, have given what are being called the performances of their careers. Danny Burstein stands out as the best Buddy Plummer in memory, in a performance that is certain to bring the actor his third Tony nomination (and, likely, his first win). Bernadette Peters, usually the toast of Broadway, received the most mixed reviews of the cast, with Variety's Steven Suskin sayimg "we can't tell whether Sally is struggling with her emotions or Peters is just struggling with the notes."

Every review I read gave honorable mention to Terri White, Jayne Houdyshell, Mary Beth Peil and especially to Elaine Paige, whose performance of the much overdone song "I'm Still Here" was universally cited as revelatory.

Of the tehcnical elements, the sound and lighting designs were mentioned quite favorably. Scenic design was said to be functional, but not extraordinary, in both Variety and the NYTimes. "Mr. Carlyle’s period choreography, though often charming, lacks the grandeur and precision of Bennett’s," says the New York Times' Ben Brantley.

Come Tony season, I expect nominations for Mr. Raines, Mr. Burstein, and Ms. Maxwell for their performances, as well as for orchestrations, lighting design, sound design, direction, and revival. Strong possibilities for nominations are Ms. Paige, costume design, scenic design, and choreography.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Official 2011-2012 Schedule

To make easier both my life and yours, I have compiled a complete schedule of the 2011-2012 Broadway season. I know I have put up some teaser schedules before, but this one includes dates, theaters, and shows that were not on previous lists. Dates Listed are opening nights.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark -- 6/14/2011 -- Hilton Theatre

Master Class -- 7/7/2011 -- Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

Follies -- 09/12/2011 -- Marquis Theatre

Man and Boy -- 10/9/2011 -- American Airlines Theatre

The Mountaintop -- 10/13/2011 -- Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

Relatively Speaking -- 10/20/2011 -- Brooks Atkinson Theatre

Chinglish -- 10/27/2011 -- Longacre Theatre

Other Desert Cities -- 11/3/2011 -- Booth Theatre

Godspell -- 11/7/2011 -- Circle in the Square Theatre

Venus in Fur -- 11/8/2011 -- Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

Private Lives -- 11/17/2011 -- Music Box Theatre

Seminar -- 11/20/2011 -- John Golden Theatre

An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin -- 11/21/2011 -- Barrymore Theatre

Bonnie and Clyde -- 12/1/2011 -- Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

Stick Fly -- 12/8/2011 -- Lyceum Theatre

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever -- 12/11/2011 -- St. James Theatre

Lysistrata Jones -- 12/14/2011 -- Walter Kerr Theatre

Porgy and Bess -- 1/12/2012 -- Richard Rodgers Theater

The Road to Mecca -- 1/17/2012 -- American Airlines Theatre

Wit -- 1/26/2012 -- Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

Shatner's World -- 2/16/2012 -- Music Box Theatre

Death of a Salesman -- 3/15/2012 -- Ethel Barrymore Theatre

Once -- 3/18/2012 - Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

Jesus Christ Superstar -- 3/22/2012 -- Neil Simon Theatre

Newsies -- 3/29/2012 -- Nederlander Theatre

The Best Man -- 4/1/2012 -- Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

End of the Rainbow -- 4/2/2012 -- Belasco Theatre

Evita -- 4/5/2012 -- Marquis Theatre

Magic/Bird -- 4/11/2012 -- Longacre Theatre

Peter and the Starcatcher -- 4/15/2012 -- Brooks Atkinson Theatre

One Man, Two Guvnors -- 4/18/2012 -- Music Box Theatre

Clybourne Park -- 4/19/2012 -- Walter Kerr Theatre

A Streetcar Named Desire -- 4/22/2012 -- Broadhurst Theatre

Ghost -- 4/23/2011 -- Lunt-Fontanne Theatre

The Lyons -- 4/23/2012 -- Cort Theatre

Nice Work if You Can Get It -- 4/24/2012 -- Imperial Theatre

The Columnist -- 4/25/2012 -- Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

Don't Dress For Dinner -- 4/26/2012 -- American Airlines Theatre

Leap of Faith -- 4/26/2012 -- St. James Theatre

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Super Fly Getting a Workshop

Bill T. Jones, creator of Fela! and two-time Tony-winning choreographer of Spring Awakening, has his next project lined up. He is currently at work on what is describing as a "new soul-funk musical Super Fly" which is expecting an October workshop. Jones will direct and choreograph the show, which has a book by Seth Zvi Rosenfeld and uses the music of Curtis Mayfield. Mayfield wrote the score for the 1972 movie. According to the Equity casting notice, the show will also incorporate popular R&B, soul, funk and pop songs of the era.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Casting Updates

Dexter fans unite! The upcoming Broadway musical Big Fish, which is being adapted from Tim Burton's 2003 film of the same name as well as the 1998 novel, has Michael C. Hall in talks to star in a leading role. The show is being directed by Susan Stroman and features a book by John August and a score by Andrew Lippa.

In other casting news, Oscar-winner Russell Crowe has officially signed on to play Inspector Javert opposite Tony- and Emmy-winner Hugh Jackman's Jean Valjean in the upcoming film version of Les Miserables. The film is expected to be released in December 2012.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pulitzer Prize Winner Eyes Broadway Bow

Winners for the 2011 Pulitzer Prizes were announced back in April and, as I reported at the time, the winner in the Drama category was Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park. The board of the Pulitzer Prize has described the play, an update of Lorainne Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, “a powerful work whose memorable characters speak in witty and perceptive ways to America's sometimes toxic struggle with race and class consciousness.”

It now seems that the play is eyeing a transfer from Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum to Broadway in the spring of 2012. No word yet on whether any of the creative team or cast will transfer with the show.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Advertising and the Theater

Below is the text of a New York Times article, titled "When the Color is Primary" by Erik Piepenburg, about an aspect of theater we don't often think about ... the advertising and how it's created. Check it out, and then head over to the NY Times website to check out the interactive feature they've got which shows a number of different posters and campaigns advertising the same show. I'd love to get a conversation going on here about the differences between these campaigns and why different ideas are effective ... or not.

BLOOD. Cherry. Brick. Sangria. With so many shades of red on the color spectrum, what’s a poster designer to do with a show called simply “Red”? Almost 30 regional theaters faced this question when they put John Logan’s drama, about the Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko, on their 2011-12 schedule. (The show was a hit on Broadway last year, winning six Tony Awards including best play.)

Taking a spare, severe approach, “Red” was spelled in large red letters on a black background on the Playbill for the Broadway production. Many of the designers who created original artwork for regional productions of “Red” took the play’s major visual motifs — canvases in red, orange and black; fat brushstrokes of paint; Rothko himself — and produced miniature works of art for posters, program covers and other promotional materials. Arena Stage in Washington used tonal silhouettes of Rothko and his young protégé, the play’s other character, in a minimalist composition. The Cleveland Playhouse depicted the title in a Rothko-like font. A poster for the Goodman Theater in Chicago shows two actors in costume, dramatically photographed from below.

Blood, of a sort, was spilled at the Arizona Theater Company. Stephen Wrentmore, the theater’s associate artistic director, was drenched in red paint and photographed as part of a macabre poster that looks like the one-sheet for a slasher film.

“I spent about an hour and a half painted red, and it took about the same time to take it off,” he said.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Casting Updates

A few casting updates for Broadway have been announced today. The first should make fans of the boy band The Jonas Brothers very happy. It has been announced that Nick Jonas will be joining the cast of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 2012. The 19 year old singer, who previously appeared on Broadway as Gavroche in Les Miserables many years ago as a replacement, as well as in Beauty and the Beast and Annie Get Your Gun, will be taking over the lead role of J. Pierpont Finch after Darren Criss departs the show. In other casting news, it has been announced that Ruben Santiago-Hudson, a Tony-winner for his supporting performance in August Wilson's Seven Guitars, will be joining the cast of Stick Fly along with Dule Hill and Tracie Thoms. That production is being produced by Alicia Keys.

Adam Pascal to Return to Broadway

Rentheads and Aida fans, rejoice! Adam Pascal will be returning to Broadway as Huey Calhoun in 2010's Tony-winning Best Musical, Memphis. The show's original, Tony-nominated star, Chad Kimball, will be leaving the show on October 23rd, with Pascal entering the show on the 25th. Pascal was nominated for a Best Actor in a Musical Tony for his performance as Roger in Rent, a role which he recreated in the 2005 film version of the show.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

London's Priscilla to Close

It has been announced that the London production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the drag musical based on the movie of the same name, will close on December 31st of this year. The show started in Melbourne in 2006 and opened in London in March 2009. The New York production opened in March 2011 and, given this news, I expect it should not last much longer than the holiday season.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Updated Fall Preview

Here's an article from titled "Broadway Fall Preview 2011: From Follies to Porgy and Bess, With Drama and Comedy in Between" by Robert Simonson. It details all the shows that will open on Broadway between now and December.

Good times and bum times. They're both represented in the plays and musicals that make up the fall 2011 Broadway season. Here's a look at what Frank Langella, Audra McDonald, Samuel L. Jackson, David Henry Hwang, Alan Rickman and more are doing in the weeks ahead.


Don't ever say Broadway doesn't respect age and experience. Many of the talents that will try to beguile theatregoers this fall first cut their teeth 40 or 50 years ago. Among them are playwrights Woody Allen and Elaine May, composer Stephen Sondheim, and actors Frank Langella, Alan Rickman, Bernadette Peters and Elaine Paige.

The latter two are just a couple of the stars that people Broadway's newest incarnation of the 1971 Sondheim-James Goldman classic Follies, returning to Broadway after a successful late-spring staging at the Kennedy Center. Eric Schaeffer, a longtime Sondheim interpreter, directs a cast that also includes Jan Maxwell, Danny Burstein, Ron Raines, Mary Beth Peil and Jayne Houdyshell as a group of reunited stage stars (and their spouses) remembering their bygone days in the spotlight. The Marquis Theatre stands in for the old Weismann Follies house about to be torn down, in the rueful, elegiac musical. Appropriately enough, the opening will be Sept. 12.

Man and Boy does not enjoy the name recognition of Follies. The Terence Rattigan play, due to open at the American Airlines Theatre on Oct. 9, was written in 1963, and hasn't been heard from since. The subject is timely, however. In it, a calculating businessman named Gregor Antonescu reunites with his alienated son in order to solve financial issues in a time of economic turmoil. Langella, an actor who could command a stage while playing a butler, portrays the titan torn between the demands of family and business. Maria Aitken directs.

Rickman, a Britisher with as much stage experience as Langella, will star in Theresa Rebeck's new play Seminar. He will play an imperious teacher (not too much of a stretch there, given we're talking about Severus Snape of "Harry Potter" film fame). The work, about a private writing class led by an international literary figure (Rickman), will begin Oct. 27 at the Golden Theatre. Rickman's victims, er, students include Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater.

In a younger class of New York stage veterans — but, with 25 years of productions under his belt, an old soldier nonetheless — is playwright Jon Robin Baitz. His Other Desert Cities, which won critical praise at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater last season, will represent the dramatist's long-in-coming Broadway bow. In the drama, a politically connected family gathers to hash out the contents of its daughter's new tell-all memoir. The parents are GOP icons; the kids and their aunt lean leftward. Needless to say, there's little consensus as to their shared personal histories. Rachel Griffiths, Judith Light, Stacy Keach, Thomas Sadoski and Stockard Channing star. The latter three were in the Off-Broadway production.

Like Baitz, playwright David Ives has long enjoyed considerable success Off-Broadway. But, adaptations of other artists' work and librettos aside, he has never had one of his works on Broadway until this season. The breakout work is Venus in Fur. A two-hander twist on the classic erotic novel of the same name, it was a hit Off-Broadway last year and made a star of Nina Arianda (last season's Tony-nominated Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday). Hugh Dancy will co-star in the Broadway transfer. It will begin at Manhattan Theatre Club's Friedman Theatre on Oct. 13.

More new work comes from David Henry Hwang. The M. Butterfly author is offering Chinglish, a comedy about a Midwestern American whose efforts to secure a lucrative contract in China for his family firm become seriously lost in translation. Leigh Silverman directs the play, which begins previews Oct. 11 at the Longacre. The cast will include Gary Wilmes, Jennifer Lim, Angela Lin, Christine Lin, Stephen Pucci, Johnny Wu and Larry Zhang.

Samuel L. Jackson will play the iconic Dr. Martin Luther King in The Mountaintop, set for an opening at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on Oct. 13. The Katori Hall play depicts events in the evening hours between King's delivery of his famous "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech and his assassination in Memphis. Angela Bassett will play Camae, a mysterious maid at the ill-fortuned Lorraine Motel. This very American play had its world premiere at Theatre 503 in London in 2009 before transferring to the West End.

Kenny Leon, who will direct The Mountaintop, will also stage Stick Fly, starting Nov. 18 at the Cort. Lydia R. Diamond's play is about a well-to-do African-American family's tense summer holiday. Opening is Dec. 8.

Evenings of one-acts are rarely seen on Broadway these days, as producers don't view them as commercial. But when Woody Allen comes up with a new play, heaven and earth become a little more movable. Allen's work, Honeymoon Motel, will be joined with plays by Elaine May and Ethan Coen. The latter, one of Hollywood's fabled Coen brothers, has become a prolific creator of Off-Broadway playlets lately. John Turturro directs the project, under the umbrella title of Relatively Speaking. The cast of old hands includes Marlo Thomas, Grant Shaud, Julie Kavner and Steve Guttenberg. It will open Oct. 20 at the Atkinson.

Further comic relief comes in the imported form of Noël Coward's Private Lives. The classic 1931 comedy of urbane misbehavior will open at the Music Box on Nov. 17. Kim Cattrall ("Sex and the City"), who starred in the original 2010 London production, shares the stage with Canadian star Paul Gross ("Slings and Arrows"). (The British-born Cattrall was last seen on Broadway in 1986's Wild Honey.)

For those who can't wait for the new Broadway revival of Evita — expected in spring — there's An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin. The original stars of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical about Eva Peron will begin a 63-performance engagement on Nov. 16 at the Barrymore.

New musicals will include Bonnie and Clyde, the latest artistic celebration of the Depression-era gangsters. This one comes from composer Frank Wildhorn, lyricist Don Black and librettist Ivan Menchell and opens in December at the Schoenfeld. Also scheduled is Lysistrata Jones, the cheeky pop musical that resets the ancient Greek classic in the world of college cheerleaders and basketball players. Well-liked Off-Broadway, the show by librettist Douglas Carter Beane and songwriter Lewis Flinn will open at Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre Dec. 14.

Musical revivals are more plentiful. In addition to the aforementioned Follies, there is a new version of Stephen Schwartz's early hit Godspell, set to dawn at Circle in the Square on Nov. 7; and a reworking of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. The 1965 musical is fondly recalled for its graceful Burton Lane-Alan Jay Lerner score, but has rarely been staged owing to a wacky, ESP-and-psychotherapy-inspired plot. Director Michael Mayer and playwright Peter Parnell have fashioned a new libretto involving a quirky young gay florist named David Gamble, who, when put under hypnosis, relives his former life — as a 1940s female jazz singer named Melinda. The revision was enough to attract the interest of actor-crooner Harry Connick, Jr., who will play the role of widower psychiatrist Dr. Mark Bruckner, who falls in love with the gay man's past life, adding tension to the patient's life (who gets some of the score's best numbers, as Barbara Harris did in the original). Previews begin Nov. 12 at the St. James.

Connick may not have been born to play Bruckner (was anybody?), but Audra McDonald was unquestionably made to sing Bess in Porgy and Bess. The four-time Tony winner will do just that at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Dec. 17, when performances begin of the American Repertory Theatre production of the George and Ira Gershwin-DuBose and Dorothy Heyward folk opera. McDonald's Porgy will be undersung Broadway stalwart Norm Lewis. The show has been "re-imagined" by director Diane Paulus, playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and musician Diedre Murray as a musical for contemporary audiences, and has already become the subject of heated debate. (Thank you, Mr. Sondheim.) So, those out there who live to stoke this work's ever-burning Is-It-An-Opera-or-Is-It-A-Musical? fire — your order for more fuel has arrived.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Anna Christie May Return to Main Stem

Broadway may again see a revival of Eugene O'Neill's classic, Pulitzer Prize winning 1922 work Anna Christie. The Donmar Warehouse is currently producing a production in London which stars Jude Law as Mat Burke and Ruth Wilson as the titular Anna. It would be this production that would transfer to Broadway if lead producer Arielle Tepper Madover can raise the funds to bring the show stateside. Anna Christie has not been seen on Broadway since a 1993 production starring Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson during which Neeson began to court his eventual bride. Ann Meara and Rip Torn also starred in the 1993 production.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Wanna Spend A Night With a World-Famous Rock Star?

Now you can! In a one-night-only performance, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (about German glam rock star Hedwig) will be returning to New York stages. Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS will be presenting the show, by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, at New World Stages in New York City on October 31st in a production to star David Brian Colbert as the title character and Petra DeLuca as Hedwig's lover, Yitzhak. Proceeds will benefit BC/EFA. Tickets are currently available through