In Case You Missed It: February 27-March 4

Special Features   In Case You Missed It: February 27-March 4
 
Hughie will close early, Barbara Cook will return to the stage, Mean Girls becomes a musical and Superior Donuts becomes a TV show.
Hughie Opening HR
Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Hughie is a short play. And it will have a short run on Broadway.

Just one week after reviews came out, producers of the O’Neill work starring Forest Whitaker, in his Broadway debut, announced they would cut short its limited engagement and close March 27 after 55 performances, 10 weeks earlier than scheduled.

The show had been scheduled to play through June 12. The producers released a statement saying the show is closing “due to limited advance ticket sales following highly positive reviews.”

Though that means that the production will have had a very brief run, the Whitaker staging is by no means the briefest in Broadway history. The first Broadway staging, starring the estimable O’Neill interpreter Jason Robards, Jr., lasted 51 performances, and the 1975 Ben Gazzara mounting ended after just 31 shows. In fact, the winner in this contest—Al Pacino’s go-round with the one-act in 1996—will only have beat Whitaker’s run by a single performance; it played 56 full shows.

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Barbara Cook
Barbara Cook

Broadway musical theatre legend Barbara Cook is returning to the New York stage with a concert show conceived by James Lapine and directed by the elusive, one-time-Broadway powerhouse Tommy Tune.

Barbara Cook: Then and Now will play the first of just 65 scheduled performances April 13 at Off-Broadway's New World Stages–Stage One. The production is scheduled to open May 4 and continue through June 26. The evening is described in press notes as “a poignant one-woman performance that takes you on a vibrant and candid journey through her remarkable life. Discover the people and the moments, the challenges and the triumphs that shaped her life—in a one-of-a-kind musical memoir you will never forget.”

For those who don’t know, Cook’s life has included such legendary Broadway shows as the original stagings of Candide, The Music Man and She Loves Me. For the past three decades, however, she has been primarily known as a cabaret artist, renowned for her interpretations of the great American songbook, particularly the works of Sondheim.

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New information came to light this week about the stage adaptation of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's 1997 animated feature Anastasia, which is headed for its premiere May 12-June 12 at Hartford Stage.

Darko Tresnjak, artistic director at Harford Stage, has been developing the stage production in collaboration with the writing team for the past two years. Apparently, the theatre work will diverge from the film work rather significantly.

In a March 1 interview, Tresnjak said, “We’ve kept, I think, six songs from the movie, but there are 16 new numbers. We’ve kept the best parts of the animated movie, but it really is a new musical.”

The remaining film songs have been extensively revised and rewritten for the stage. The stage production has a book by Terrence McNally.

Although casting has not been announced for the upcoming production, Tresnjak said, “We’re pretty much done with casting.” About auditions, he observed, "What’s interesting is a generation of young women grew up singing some of those songs. Especially the Academy Award-nominated ‘Journey to the Past.’ So it was a little bit like auditioning for Scarlett O’Hara.”

Whether he had found the Anastasia version of Vivien Leigh, Tresnjak didn’t say.

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In an interview this week, actress and comedienne Tina Fey confirmed a musical version of Mean Girls, the 2004 hit film comedy she co-wrote and starred in, is in the works. “My husband (composer) Jeff Richmond and I, and a woman named Nell Benjamin, have been working on it,” Fey said.

Fey added, however, that the show is still “years away.” Benjamin is the composer, lyricist and playwright best known for Legally Blonde.

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Elisabeth Moss with Jeremy Piven in <i>Speed-the-Plow</i>
Elisabeth Moss with Jeremy Piven in Speed-the-Plow Brigitte Lacombe

From screen-to-stage news to stage-to-screen news: Director Michael Polish has been tapped to direct the previously announced movie adaptation of Speed-the-Plow, David Mamet's Hollywood satire.

No casting has been announced for the film, with shooting scheduled to begin July 30. But it can safely be assumed that Jeremy Piven will not be considered. The actor famously bolted the 2008 Broadway revival of the show, citing mercury poisoning. The show, which co-starred Raul Esparza and Elizabeth Moss, made do with a succession of other fill-ins, including Norbert Leo Butz, Jordan Lage and William H. Macy. (Actually, that story would make a good movie.)

The original 1988 Broadway production starred Ron Silver, Joe Mantegna and Madonna. A London revival last fall starring Lindsay Lohan.

The play tells the tale of a pair of Hollywood producers who are all set to make a big-budget action film with a name star, but the plan gets derailed when a secretary brings them a un-commercial script that she convinces one of them would be a great prestige project.

Mamet himself will adapt the screenplay.

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And yet more stage-to-screen news, in this case the small screen.
Tracy Letts' 2009 Broadway play Superior Donuts is being adapted as a TV series by CBS. Starring will be stage veteran Brian d’Arcy James. This makes Superior Donuts one of the most theatre-y television series of all time.

The seriocomic play is about change tapping at the door of a Northside Chicago doughnut shop. Acccording to Variety, d’Arcy James—who got a visibility boost recently as a member of the ensemble of the Oscar-winning film Spotlight—is joined by Jermaine Fowler in the cast. D'Arcy James will play Arthur, the owner of the donut shop, with Fowler as his new employee Franco. James Burrows will direct the pilot.

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