In Case You Missed It: February 20-26

News   In Case You Missed It: February 20-26
 
Falsettos is back on, Hughie opens and seven old Broadway theatres miss their bid for landmark status.
Frank Wood, Forest Whitaker and Michael Grandage
Frank Wood, Forest Whitaker and Michael Grandage Joseph Marzullo/WENN

That on-again, off-again Broadway revival of Falsettos—it’s on again. The William Finn and James Lapine musical had been announced for spring 2016, but was then postponed. This week it was announced that it will now begin previews September 29 prior to an official opening October 27 at the Walter Kerr Theatre.

Lincoln Center Theater, run by Andrew Bishop, will join forces with Jujamcyn Theaters to bring the Tony Award-winning musical back to Broadway.

This production will mark a reunion for producer Bishop, composer-lyricist Finn and playwright-director Lapine. In 1981, while artistic director of Playwrights Horizons, Bishop produced Finn and Lapine’s new one-act musical March of the Falsettos in the Off-Broadway theatre’s second floor 75-seat space. It eventually moved to Playwrights Horizons’ larger downstairs theatre for an extended engagement before enjoying a long run Off-Broadway at what was then known as the Westside Arts Theatre.

In 1990, a second new musical by Finn and Lapine, Falsettoland, dealing with most of the same characters, opened at Playwrights Horizons. Falsettoland repeated the success of its predecessor with rave reviews and a move to the Lucille Lortel Theatre.

In 1992, the two one-act musicals were combined into one and opened on Broadway as Falsettos, ran for over a year at the John Golden Theatre and won Tony Awards for Finn’s score and Finn and Lapine’s book.

The upcoming production will be directed once again by Lapine.

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Forest Whitaker made his Broadway debut this week in a revival of Eugene O'Neill's two-hander drama, Hughie, at the Booth Theatre. It was the fourth visit to Broadway for the O’Neill one-act, which is usually a showcase for the acting talents of its star. Whitaker is also the first African-American actor to take on the part on Broadway, following in the footsteps of Jason Robards, Jr., Ben Gazzara and Al Pacino.

Critics generally admired the production, but took pains to point out that the show’s and Whitaker’s appeal were of a subtle and slightly underwhelming nature.

Frank Wood and Forest Whitaker
Frank Wood and Forest Whitaker Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The New York times called it "a transfixing yet modest Broadway debut. Mr. Whitaker provides all the anchoring physical detail that you might expect from his meticulously observed screen performances.... Yet as you watch Mr. Whitaker pacing, twirling, brooding and taking endless inventory of his pockets ... you wouldn't be surprised if he just evaporated before your eyes. ... As Erie natters on in an eager, fitful string of clichés ... Mr. Whitaker quietly breaks your heart.”

“Smoke effects, Adam Cork's ghostly music, which fills a few long pauses, and the rumblings of the busy street outside give this Hughie a spectral, slightly macabre feel,” wrote AP. “It has the effect of making these two men more meaningful and of deepening the meaning of the play.”

Variety pointed out the pluses and minuses of Whitaker’s approach, saying, “Forest Whitaker is blessed with an air of warmth and decency that shines through in film roles…. But Whitaker's warmth can also be a hindrance, as it is when the star, making his Broadway debut here, must also convince us that in better days he was a confident and happy-go-lucky sporting man.”

Time Out, meanwhile, saw only the down side of the acting choice: “Whitaker portrays him as a low-status, apologetic schlemiel who's already given up. When he should be a big-talking con man and Runyonesque swell, Whitaker tries something possibly more realistic, but ends up blunting O'Neill's punchy lines.”

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The Public Theater has announced that it will mount the first major New York revival of David Hare's Plenty in the fall as part of its 2016-17 season. The award-winning, post-World War II drama will be directed by David Leveaux and will feature actress Rachel Weisz in the central role of Susan Traherne, famously first created by Kate Nelligan.

Rachel Weisz
Rachel Weisz

The drama, generally considered to be one of Hare’s best, and certainly one of his best-known, tells the story of a British secret agent who flies into France during the Second World War, and of the disillusionment she experiences in peacetime Britain afterwards.

The production will represent a homecoming for the play. Originally directed by Hare himself, Plenty premiered at The Public in 1982 to critical acclaim. It transferred to Broadway the following year and received a Tony nomination for Best Play.

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John Leguizamo first became famous through his celebrated solo stage shows, the first Spic-O-Rama in 1992, and the most famous, perhaps, Freak in 1998. But that was a long time ago. His most recent was Ghetto Klown in 2011 on Broadway.

Now the film and TV actor returns to the boards. La Jolla Playhouse will present John Leguizamo: Latin History for Dummies, created and performed by Leguizamo, as part of its Page To Stage New Play Development program. Directed by Tony Taccone, the production will run April 5–17 in the Mandell Weiss Theatre.

The show is described thusly: “Class is in session with John Leguizamo’s new one-man show, Latin History for Dummies, delivering rapid-fire laughs in a biting and comic take on 500 years of Latin History, spanning the Aztec and Incan Empires to World War II.”

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New York City delivered some bad news to theatre preservationists this week.

Seven current and former Broadway theatres along New York's West 42nd Street have been removed from a list of sites under consideration for landmark status.

Notable on the list is the 1920 vintage Times Square Theatre at 215-223 W. 42nd Street, which has stood empty for more than a decade and has been threatened with renovation for a non-theatrical purpose repeatedly during that time.

The other theatres taken off the list are the Lyric Theatre at 213 W. 42nd St. (rebuilt in 1998 as the Ford Center, but newly renamed the Lyric), the Selwyn Theatre (now known as the American Airlines Theatre), the Empire Theatre (now a multiplex cinema), the Liberty Theatre, the New Apollo Theatre (incorporated into the Lyric in 1998) and The New Victory Theatre (the oldest, still-operating theatre in the Times Square neighborhood).

The decision came at a February 23 hearing by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Over the years, landmarking has helped prevent the alteration or demolition of several Broadway theatres, many of which are nearing or have passed their centennials.

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Drama Book Shop, the 99-year-old specialty store that has long been a priceless resource to the New York theatre community, was thrown into turmoil recently when cold weather caused a water pipe to burst on the third floor of the building that contains the book shop. Cascading water damaged the floor above the shop, then poured through the ceiling, wiping out the entire section of the store with advice for professional actors.”

A lot of the damage is covered by insurance, but the owners said it may take months to collect. Meanwhile, the store has to restock the lost inventory and repair physical damage.

Coming to the rescue was Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton, who used his weekly Ham4Ham online concert event to appeal to theatre lovers to help the shop. Miranda said in the video that he wrote part of his Tony-winning musical In the Heights in the offices beneath the shop, located on West 40th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

The appeal paid off handsomely for both parties. Customers flocked in, and the most-ordered item is Miranda's own book about the creation of Hamilton, which is not scheduled for publication until April. Owner Allen Hubby said, "We have 200 orders for the book as of now. We've never had 200 orders for anything!"

There also have been some individual donations. He said Fun Home composer Jeanine Tesori donated $2,500 to the shop.

Additionally, the nightclub Feinstein's/54 Below donated its stage for the 7 PM March 26 show so the Drama Book Shop could organize a fundraising concert. Tickets are now on sale at the 54Below.com.

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