Blair Brown to Replace Mary Louise Wilson in Cabaret July 22

News   Blair Brown to Replace Mary Louise Wilson in Cabaret July 22
 
Blair Brown will come to the Roundabout Theatre Company Cabaret revival on July 22. She will replace the departing Mary Louise Wilson in the role of Fraulein Schneider, as first speculated in InTheater. Wilson, who was nominated for a Tony for her portrayal, will give her last performance July 21.

Blair Brown will come to the Roundabout Theatre Company Cabaret revival on July 22. She will replace the departing Mary Louise Wilson in the role of Fraulein Schneider, as first speculated in InTheater. Wilson, who was nominated for a Tony for her portrayal, will give her last performance July 21.

Brown was last seen on the New York stage in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia at Lincoln Center. Other stage credits include Threepenny Opera, also at Lincoln Center, and The Secret Rapture on Broadway. Brown is perhaps best known, however, as the star of the off beat television show "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd," which ran in the late '80s and early '90s.

There was no word on how long Wilson's stage partner, Tony-winner Ron Rifkin, would remain in the role of Herr Schultz. As for the rest of the cast, film star Jennifer Jason Leigh will assume the role of Sally Bowles on Aug. 4, following Natasha Richardson's departure on Aug. 2, while Master of Ceremonies Alan Cumming seems set through the end of the year.

Leigh, the daughter of the late Vic Morrow, has amassed a sturdy reputation as one of the best film actresses of her generation, but only recently did she start lifting her voice in song -- most notably in the 1995 movie, Georgia, in which she played the neurotic sister of a popular country singer (Mare Winningham). The performance won her the Best Actress of 1995 nod from The New York Film Critics, but Winningham in the role of Georgia was the actress who made the Oscar running (for Best Supporting Actress).

Leigh's other film credits include Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, Last Exit To Brooklyn and Single White Female. Leigh also starred in the William Mastrosimone drama Sunshine at NY's defunct Circle Repertory Theatre in 1989 and in Picnic at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. She also worked at the Williamstown Playhouse as a child. *

Given the rave reviews and multiple award nominations, the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Cabaret would likely be a hot ticket in any theatre. Given that its venue, the Kit Kat Klub, has only 500 seats, the frustration for ticket buyers is especially strong, sometimes made worse when many discover their sightlines are partially obstructed by the table and-chair seating arrangements.

Newsday reporter (and Playbill On-Line contributor) Patrick Pacheco reported (May 12) the Roundabout isn't taking this plight lightly, especially since the small number of seats means the sell-out show can barely break even. (The show raised its top tickets from $75 to $80 -- a Broadway high, not counting Ragtime's VIP seating.) That's why director Mendes is apparently looking at moving the show to another site, possibly the old Studio 54 dance club. As of July 1, however, there was no news of a move.

An unnamed source told Newsday PACE Theatrical Group, which already invested half a million in the show in exchange for touring rights, is seriously considering a move. Scott Zeiger, president of PACE, would not comment on the Studio 54 angle but did have some insights on Cabaret's upcoming national tour.

"We're working with Mendes and Bob Marshall coordinating their schedules," Zeiger told Playbill On-Line (May 13). "We've sent our set designer, head carpenter and technical designer on a road trip to major markets. We figure the first year and a half of the tour should be in adapted theatres, with seats ripped out to accommodate tables and chairs, or actual cabarets. Probably after that, the show will be further revised to fit stages on the traditional touring circuit. I imagine a long and healthy trek across North America."

Continued Zeiger, "I hope to have the tour out in less than a year, while the New York show production is still running. Also, once we get the tour going, we want to reinstitute the show, with a British company, on the West End. Cabaret started in the 275-seat Donmar Warehouse and closed with people still banging on the door to get in."

The irony of all this talk about a bigger house for Cabaret is that Mendes initially looked at and rejected Studio 54 and other venues because they lacked the intimacy and grit he wanted for the show's atmosphere. Also complicating matters: the show would likely have to change from its League of Resident Theatres contract to a standard union contract if it made a commercial move; plus many of the actors also play instruments in the "byoodeeful" Cabaret orchestra.

Roundabout Theatre's Broadway revival of Kander & Ebb's Cabaret, co-directed by Mendes and choreographer Rob Marshall, opened Mar. 19 and was quickly extended to November.

For tickets ($50-$80) and information on Cabaret at the Kit Kat Klub on West 43rd St., call (212) 719-1300. Tickets are also onsale at the Roundabout box office but not at the Kit Kat Klub box office. Evening performances begin a half hour earlier than usual, at 7:30 PM.

Like the Kit Kat Klub, Studio 54 was originally a Broadway theatre. The Klub opened as Henry Miller's Theatre, and still bears that name engraved on its facade. Studio 54 opened in 1927 as the Gallo Opera House. Its first drama was Electra starring Antoinette Perry, namesake of the Tony Awards. Several flops followed, even after the theatre was renamed the New Yorker in 1930, according to the book "Lost Broadway Theatres" by Nicholas Van Hoogstratten. In the depths of the Great Depression, the space was refurbished as a nightclub, the Casino de Paris in 1933, but failed within a year. Several more name changes followed: It was the Palladium, the Federal Music Theatre, and the New Yorker again, before ending (the first chapter of?) its career as a legitimate theatre.

In 1942 CBS acquired the theatre for use as a TV studio, naming it Studio 52, which name it kept for the next three decades. When Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager acquired it in the 1970s, they renamed it Studio 54, after 54th Street on which it stands. Under that name it became one of the icons of the 1970s disco era.

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