In Case You Missed It: July 16-22

Week in Review   In Case You Missed It: July 16-22
 
Motown suddenly announces closing, Chicago gets a Hamilton cast, and War Paint opens at the Goodman.
Motown Curtain 02 HR.jpg
Cast Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Well, that didn’t last long.

The Broadway encore of the 2013 jukebox musical Motown posted a surprise early closing notice this week, less than three weeks after it resumed performances at the Nederlander Theatre. The final performance is set for July 31.

The production had been announced as a limited, 18-week Broadway engagement that was built into the show’s national tour. The run was an oddity, coming so soon after the show’s initial Broadway run. The second Broadway bow incorporated revisions to the show’s book and structure, which were reflected in the national tour and current London production.

The show's producers tried to put a sunny spin on the sudden shuttering. They issued the following statement July 21: “We promised that the hit show would return to New York following the profitable engagement that finished on Broadway in January 2015. Now, after the launch of a record-breaking London company and a hugely successful, sold-out First National Tour, we are delighted that this amazing company of actors and musicians has been able to bring the production full circle back to Broadway where the production began, for the final stop of the tour.”

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The Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof, too, waved goodbye this week. The show, which stars Broadway mainstay Danny Burstein as Tevye, will end its Broadway run December 31. The production will have played 464 performances when it closes.

There were high hopes for the revival. It was directed by Bartlett Sher, who typically has a magic touch with revivals of musical classics, and starred Burstein, a critics’ favorite. But, even though the reviews were good, the show never became a major draw and rarely filled its house.

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War Paint  04 HR.jpg
Christine Ebersole Joan Marcus

The biggest opening of the week took place at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, which unveiled the premiere production of the new musical War Paint, which tells of the long rivalry between fashion titans Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden.

The newsworthiness of the debut was two-fold. First, it represented a reunion of the Grey Gardens team of Doug Wright (book), Scott Frankel (music), Michael Korie (lyrics) and Michael Greif (direction). Second, it had two stage divas to play the fashion divas: Patti LuPone (Rubinstein) and Christine Ebersole (Arden).

All of this made the project irresistible to national drama critics, including those of the New York Times and Variety, which both checked in on the proceedings.

Reviews were mixed, with most critics finding the show underwritten.

“For a musical that covers so many years—and so many shades of lipstick—War Paint never really seems to move forward,” wrote the Times. “This portrait of battling cosmetic titans…doesn’t just show its whole hand from the get-go; it does so as eagerly as a debutante with a fabulous new manicure.”

The Chicago Tribune called the show, “intriguingly juicy and glamorous, if overly binary and yet underwritten.”

The Sun Times liked it better, terming it “sophisticated and rewarding” and adding it “manages remarkably to be many things at once. First and foremost, it’s a double display of delicious diva-dom, with Patti LuPone as Rubinstein and Christine Ebersole as Arden expertly commanding the stage for most of the show’s two and half hours. And given that they are embodying two of the first women to build business empires, the decades-spanning story also manages to capture the tale of mid-century capitalism, alongside the intrusions of World War II, the introduction of television, the evolving roles of women and the changing notions of beauty. In other words… well, America.”

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In more Chicago news, the cast of the upcoming Windy City production of Hamilton was announced. And it included a couple proven entities. Karen Olivo, a Tony Award winner whose breakout came in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, will play Angelica Schuyler opposite Miguel Cervantes in the title role, and Broadway regular Alexander Gemignani is King George III.

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Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Jake Gyllenhaal, who had a critical success in 2015 in Constellations, is headed back to Braodway.

The film actor has been confirmed to star in a recently announced 2017 Broadway revival of Lanford Wilson's Burn This. The production will have a special extra distinction. It will be the first show to play the resurrected Hudson Theatre in five decades. Michael Mayer will direct.

Burn This, about the tumultuous relationship between a volatile restaurateur and a sensitive dancer, is one of Wilson’s better-known titles, largely owing to the play’s splashy Broadway debut in 1987, which starred John Malkovich and Joan Allen. Since then, the drama has usually been thought of as a star vehicle. A praised 2002 Off-Broadway revival starred Ed Norton and Catherine Keener.

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A few details trickled out this week about the film adaptation of the Broadway blockbuster Wicked, which is currently in development.

Stephen Schwartz, the show’s composer-lyricist, stated that he is adding four new songs to the film adaptation, three of which are newly written and one of which is a song cut from the Broadway production. Schwartz did not name which cut song will be reinstated.

Schwartz also confirmed that the screenplay is written by Winnie Holzman, who also penned the show’s book. Stephen Daldry will direct.

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Ensemble Studio Theatre has been at its current home on West 52nd Street in Manhattan for nearly half a century. The nonprofit decided, then, that it was perhaps time for the old place to have a bit of a touch-up.

EST’s space will undergo major renovations for the first time in almost 50 years. The nearly $3 million in city funding will allow EST to build a new 99-seat mainstage theatre, renovate their offices and rehearsal space as well as overhaul their current performance space, the 60-seat Curt Dempster Theatre. The renovations will also include the addition of a new lobby, dressing rooms and restrooms.

The theatre has long been known as a haven for many New York stage actors and playwrights. Recently, it got some rare big-league attention when Robert Askins’ dark comedy Hand to God, which began there, moved to Broadway to play a Tony-nominated engagement.
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If you ever wonder how all those formerly respectable Republican politicians could associate themselves with Donald Trump after knowing what they know about him, then consider the case of Garth Drabinsky. The producer, and former head of Livent, served three years in a Canadian jail for fraud. Undeterred, he is now developing the new musical Madame Sousatzka based on the 1988 film starring Shirley MacLaine.

You wouldn’t think any wise theatre professional would have anything to do with the former felon. But you’d be wrong. The show will likely arrive at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre in late 2016 or early 2017, according to the Toronto Star. The musical features a score by Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire and has a book by playwright Craig Lucas.

The Toronto workshop ran June 7-July 17, according to a casting notice for the production. Tony winner Victoria Clark took part in a Toronto workshop, playing the lead role. She was joined in the workshop by Memphis Tony nominee Montego Glover and Tony nominee Tsidii Le Loka, who originated the role of Rafiki in The Lion King.

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