Sunday, November 21, 2010

TheatreScene: November 15 - 21


Broadway Ladies: Ms. November 2010: Amy Spanger
Come On, Babe! Chicago Starts its 15th Year
The Real History of The Scottsboro Boys
CASTING: Catch Me If You Can and The Book of Mormon
Ask Jeff...
Ask Jeff...a Personal Question

November 15
  • 1956: Long before Spider-Man or Little Orphan Annie, Li'l Abner made the leap from comic to stage, opening at the St. James Theatre, and running 693 performances, despite not even being nominated for Best Musical. The show starred Stubby Kaye, Charlotte Rae and Julie Newmar.
Actor Timothy Busfield outside
the Music Box Theatre. 
He replaced Tom Hulce.
  • 1989: Before it was an award-winning film, it was an awardless play on Broadway. A Few Good Men held court at the Music Box Theatre for 497 performances. Its cast included Oscar nominee and later Spring Awakening/American Idiot producer Tom Hulce, and, in a small role, future Next Fall playwright Geoffrey Nauffts.
  • 1994: Calista Flockhart made her Broadway debut with theatre legend Julie Harris in the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of The Glass Menagerie. The limited run lasted 57 performances at Criterion Center-Stage Right.
  • 2000: Running just short of 10 times longer than its original run, The Rocky Horror Show revival opened at the Circle in the Square with a cast that read like the who's who of Broadway in the late 90's. The show ran 437 performances.
  • 2009: It feels like years ago, but it was only one that Ragtime opened to critical huzzahs and public yawns. 65 performances at the Neil Simon was all it could muster before journeying on.
  • Barry and Fran Weissler announce a first for Broadway. The January 30th matinee performance of Chicago will be Facebook Fan Appreciation Day with all seats free to any Facebook fan who joins the Chicago page and gets 10 others to "like" it. Seats will be given out until all seats are taken. Go to for info and details.
  • The entire cast of the forthcoming revival of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying! is announced today.
  • I thought this was determined last week, but A Life in the Theatre announces officially that it will close November 28th.
  • Looks like another one I'll end up missing - La Bete announces that it will close on January 9, rather than February 12. Still, it will have run almost 3 times longer than the original Broadway run.
  • Good news from those Jersey Boys: they raised over $40K for the Save the Music Foundation, an excellent charity and a perfect choice for that show!
  • Welcome to Broadway, Arielle Jacobs! Miss Jacobs makes her Broadway debut tonight as Nina in In the Heights. She comes to the show from the National Tour, and replaces American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, who left the show yesterday.
TOPS AND BOTTOMS: (11/08 - 14)
  • Top Attendance: The Merchant of Venice (100.8%)
  • Top Gross: Wicked ($1.5M)
  • Bottom Attendance: A Life in the Theatre (37.2%)
  • Bottom Gross: Colin Quinn: Long Story Short ($132K)
  • The Millionaire's Club: Billy Elliot, Jersey Boys, Promises, Promises, The Addams Family, The Lion King and Wicked.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Bob Gunton, Actor (Evita)

November 16
  • 1935: Jumbo opened at the Hippodrome Theatre and ran for 233 performances. A musical in two acts, but really a theatrical circus (long before Cirque Dreams), it was co-directed by George Abbott and featured a book by Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht (The Front Page) and music and lyrics by none other than Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. And they say Women on the Verge has star power...

  • 1959: The Sound of Music opened at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. It ran 1,443 performances and made theatrical and Hollywood history. Do I really need to go on?
  • 1981: Has any other show that ran only 16 performances gotten more attention than Merrily We Roll Along? I don't think so.

  • 2006: As of today, November 21, Mary Poppins has played 1,677 performances at the New Amsterdam Theatre. If you haven't seen this beautiful, exciting and tuneful show, you really should go see it.

  • Add this to my Christmas list! Sondheim! The Birthday Concert is out on DVD today. Most of the usual suspects are here, including: Donna Murphy, Elaine Stritch, Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone. Can't wait to buy the DVD? The program will air on PBS November 24.
  • Fela!, the Broadway hit, opens today in London's West End.
  • The starry Kennedy Center Follies just got starrier... add Ron Raines and Danny Burstein to the cast list!
  • The Tony Awards Administration Committee has been announced and will meet to discuss eligibilty of shows that have opened so far this season on December 9. They should have a pretty lengthy meeting!
  • The new off-Broadway production of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, directed by Michael Mayer, won't be happening until fall 2011at the Vineyard Theatre. I wonder if they saw the delay coming?
  • Multiple Tony-winner and all around great talent George Hearn will be heading a cast of the Gothic thriller Dracula off-Broadway. His co-star will be young Thora Birch (American Beauty). The production begins December 14 at the Little Shubert Theatre.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Donna McKechnie, Actor/Dancer (A Chorus Line, Promises, Promises)

November 17
  • 1859: The Oldest Opening of the Week is Love is Blind/Ne'er too Late to Mind, an operetta, which played in rep with two other shows at Hope Chapel, a theatre that used to be where NYU now sits. It played for an unknown number of performances, but did close on December 31, 1859.

  • 1994: My favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Sunset Boulevard, opened at the Minskoff Theatre, pretty much sweeping the Tonys (including categories where it ran unopposed).  977 performances was pretty remarkable.  More remarkable is that its only competition, Smokey Joe's Cafe out ran it by 1,059 performances.  But nothing beats Norma's final descent down the stairs.  Or "As If We Never Said Goodbye"...
  • 2005: The date proved less successful for Lloyd Webber's latest Broadway offering.  The Woman in White, projected scenery and Michael Ball in a fat suit and all, lasted a mere 109 performances at the Marquis Theatre.

  • The complete cast for The Book of Mormon is announced, click on link above to see my thoughts on this!
  • Today's a big day for Spidey!  Inspectors will take a look at, and, hopefully approve, the final 14 flying sequences that Julie Taymor and company have come up with for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.  Thirteen of them had previously been approved.  Still no word on who approved the title...
  • If you went to one of the screenings of The 25th Anniversary Concert - Les Miserables, please write in and let us know what you thought!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Brent Carver, Actor (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Parade)

November 18
  • 1974: Apparently, Fame doesn't live forever, after all.  At least not this play by that title, which lasted for 1 performance at the Golden Theatre.
  • 1999: Kiss Me, Kate  took Broadway by storm that season, opening at the Martin Beck Theatre, and running 881 performances.  It is notable, I think, that many of this season's shows feature members of that original cast: Brian Stokes Mitchell (Women on the Verge), Marin Mazzie (next to normal), Amy Spanger (Elf: The Musical), and Michael Mulheren (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark).

  • A Free Man of Color opens tonight at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center.

Dane Cook

  • Neil LaBute's funny and thought-provoking play, Fat Pig, will make its Broadway debut this spring, it was announced today.  Dane Cook and Josh Hamilton will co-star.  I have seen this play about a good-looking Yuppie who falls for a beautiful, but obese, woman.  How he handles public opinion and the reaction of his friends will give you plenty to talk about after the show.  This is a show to keep your eye on.
  • The Broadway/off-Broadway play sensation The 39 Steps has announced that it will close January 16th, after more than 1,100 New York performances.  Not bad for a show that started out as a "strictly limited engagement."
  • The New York Times reports that The Merchant of Venice producers are in talks with the cast to extend its run.  Shakespeare is so cool!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Daphne Rubin-Vega, Actor (RENT)

November 19

Judd Hirsch and Ben Vereen in the revival of I'm Not Rappaport 
  • 1985: One of my favorite plays ever, Herb Gardner's I'm Not Rappaport opened at the Booth Theatre, where it stayed for 881 performances.  The show about two elderly guys passing their days away on a Central Park bench starred Judd Hirsch (he won a tony for this performance), Cleavon Little and future Tony and Oscar winner Mercedes Ruehl.  Oh, and the show won the Tony for Best Play of 1986.
  • Let's start with non-news:  Today The New York Times reports that Live Nation is suing Michael Cohl for money he owes the financially struggling mega company for the right to continue working with certain concert artists.  So why is this theatre news?  Becuase Mr. Cohl is the lead producer of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.  Does this have anything to do with the show?  No.  It is akin to reporting that Sally, head usher at the Shubert Theatre, is being investigated for shop lifting.  Sally's problem, not Memphis'.  Live Nation suing Cohl is Cohl's problem, not Spider-Man's.  Nothing like perpetuating the stink of trouble where there isn't any.  Shame on the Times.  Again, it reminds me of those scenes in the DVD Show Business, where the major New York critics sat around a table and decided, purely on hearsay and how much they liked certain people, which shows they would pan and which they'd support, before a single one was even in previews.

  • In ACTUAL theatre news, The Weisslers announced that they funded a reading of Pippin, the mega-hit musical from the 70's written by a certain Stephen Schwartz.  Helmed by Hair director Diane Paulus and starring Gavin Creel, the reading looks like it will eventually become a production, first at Massachusetts' ART, where Paulus is Artistic Director.  That should happen in 2011, with Broadway following.  Excellent news, theatre fans!
  • The guy who called all of us bloggers "vermin" is unemployed.  Again.  Seems he is no longer a critic for Bloomberg News.  Too bad.
  • Wonderland announces that Tituss Burgess is out and E. Clayton Cornelious is in as The Caterpillar.  The complete cast was also announced, which I'll blog about later...
  • And finally, I can believe I'm typing this, but Million Dollar Quartet will open in London in February.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Allison Janney, Actor (9 to 5: The Musical)

November 20
  • 1966: Kander and Ebb's masterpiece, Cabaret, opened at the Imperial Theatre on this date.  Before it was all over, it moved to two theatres, won 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical 1967, and played a perfectly marvelous 1,165 performances.

James Clavell in front of the ship set on Broadway

The Show Logo

A Scene from Shogun: The Musical
(Pre-Broadway at The Kennedy Center)

  • 1990:  It was supposed to be the American answer to the British mega-musical.  It lasted 72 performances at the Marquis Theatre.  It was James Clavell's Shogun: The Musical.  I actually saw it. 3 times.  It was truly amazing.  It featured a to-scale warship that sank in a lightning storm, a stampede of war horses through a blinding snow storm, an earthquake that literally made the theatre seats shake while the stage broke into pieces and shot fire high into the air, and a song about how Japanese courtesans pleasured Western men with various toys and techniques called "Pillowing."  I couldn't make it up.  But was it horrible?  No.  It was fascinating, beautiful to watch and actually exciting, especially when the ninja assassins stormed the Shogun's compound.  There is not a shred of sarcasm in this paragraph.  I really loved it.  All three times.
  • No news is good news, I guess!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Samuel E. Wright, Actor (The Lion King, Pippin)

November 21

1934: The original production of Cole Porter's Anything Goes opened at the Alvin Theatre, with Ethel Merman leading a cast of over 50.  That cast included, arguably, a more famous "Ethel" in the chorus.  Yes, Vivian Vance was in the show, decades before she woulf become immortal on  I Love Lucy.  The show ran 410 performances, a gigantic hit for the time.

  • Elling opens tonight at the Barrymore Theatre.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Cherry Jones, Actor (Mrs. Warren's Profession, Doubt)

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