In Case You Missed It: March 5-11

Week in Review   In Case You Missed It: March 5-11
 
Blackbird opens on Broadway, Nerds calls off a Broadway run, and Hamilton heals political divisions in Utah.
Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams
Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams Brigitte Lacombe

Nearly a decade ago, David Harrower’s two-hander Blackbird was one of the best-reviewed plays of the Off-Broadway season. Today, Harrower’s play is one of the best-reviewed plays of the Broadway season.

The Broadway debut of Blackbird, headed by Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams, officially opened on Broadway March 10, following previews that began February 5, at the Belasco Theatre. Just as it was the first time, it is directed by Joe Mantello.

The harrowing play (the playwright is well-named in this case) follows a young woman as she confronts the much-older man who, 15 years earlier, \sexually abused her when she was just a girl.

Critics were largely positive about the production, praising the performances and direction, and taking care to note—and applaud—the discomforting quality of the show.

“It turns out there is a place more uncomfortable to be on Broadway than a bullet-ridden hut watching sex slaves try to preserve their humanity,” wrote AP, referring to Eclipsed, another grim play on Broadway. “That would be among the audience watching the harrowing—and absolutely brilliant—revival of Blackbird. ...Michelle Williams plays the spiky, vengeful and still-broken victim, and Jeff Daniels is the stressed-out, humiliated one-time aggressor. With this indisputably superb cast, the play ducks and weaves enough to take your breath away under Joe Mantello's taut direction.”

Hollywood Reporter called it, “Unyielding in its needling focus, this riveting drama is a stark examination of love, pain and loss that’s both compassionate and unforgiving, all of which helps it navigate the move to a bigger stage with a corresponding amplification of its emotional power.”

Time Out New York observed, “Blackbird is a comfortless 80-minute reckoning of arrested time and soiled innocence. ... Vocally, Williams is doing something interesting. She speaks in a halting, affected manner, as if Una has been rehearsing these speeches in her head for years, a girl trying to sound like an adult. ... As when he played Ray nine years ago, Daniels brilliantly rages, bargains, stonewalls and implodes.... Time has been shattered for these walking ghosts, and we are transfixed watching them cut their hands, sifting through the shards.”

The Times was perhaps least impressed. “When I saw it nine years ago at the Manhattan Theatre Club, it left me shaking,” said the paper. “So I was steeled to have the breath knocked out of me once more.” Needless to say, the critic’s breath remained intact.

***

The cast
The cast of Nerds has pizza and drinks after learning the news Instagram/@raymondjlee

Nerds, the new musical which was to bow on Broadway this spring, was abruptly postponed this week. The announcement came just a few weeks shy of the show’s April 1 start date at the Longacre Theatre.

The musical was to have stars Rory O’Malley and Bryan Fenkart as tech giants Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, respectively.

“On behalf of my fellow producers and investors, it is with great disappointment that we will be postponing the Broadway opening of nerds due to the loss of a major investor,” said producer Carl Levin in a statement. “We are grateful to the one-of-a-kind creative team and cast of this incredibly funny and heartwarming musical that audiences have so enthusiastically adored thus far, and we look forward to nerds taking the country by storm.”

A national tour of the production is in the works, but a new Broadway timeline has not been announced.

The cast was stunned by the news, but reacted in the best way possible under the circumstances. Having just finished staging the final number in the show the previous day, they decided to return to the rehearsal hall the next day and run the show for the first (and perhaps only) time.

The show, apparently, must go on, even when it doesn’t.

***

Musical material is drawn from the most unlikely corners sometimes.

5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle will present the world premiere of a musical based on the 1997 film comedy Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. The production will be workshopped at the theatre’s second annual NextFest this October prior to its full-scale premiere June 8-July 2, 2017.

Romy and Michelle was a medium hit when it came out and has developed something of a cult reputation since then. But the world was hardly crying out for a stage version of the story, about two single L.A. party girls in their late 20s who scramble to find boyfriends and cook up fabulous careers in time for their 10-year high school reunion.

Nonetheless, Romy and Michele screenwriter Robin Schiff teamed up with composers Gwendolyn Sanford and Brandon Jay to create the project. The show was developed in readings in La Jolla, CA, and New York in 2011 and a staged reading in Los Angeles in September 2015.

The show will be staged by Rock of Ages director Kristin Hanggi.

***

Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen will reprise their performances as Hirst and Spooner, respectively, in Harold Pinter’s No Man's Land that they previously played at Broadway's Cort Theatre in 2013 in rep with Waiting for Godot.

It will begin performances at the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre September 8 prior to an official opening September 20, for a run through December 17, following a four-city national tour that begins at SheffieldÆs Lyceum Theatre August 3 and then visits Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, Brighton’s Theatre Royal and Cardiff’s New Theatre.

***

Rep. Ken Ivory and Sen. Jim Dabakis as Alexander Hamilton and King George III.
Rep. Ken Ivory and Sen. Jim Dabakis as Alexander Hamilton and King George III. Twitter/@ValkyrieNatasha

Finally, here’s your unusual Hamilton story of the week—for that show never does stop furnishing unique new items.

Democratic State Senator Jim Dabakis and Republican Representative Ken Ivory, both of Utah, appeared together before the Senate March 9 to urge passage of a resolution honoring the rap musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton.

So passionate were the pols that they dressed as characters from the show—Dabakis as King George III and Ivory as Hamilton—and rapped their way through the show’s opening verses on the floor of the State Senate.

”There are not a lot of things that my friend Representative Ivory and I agree on,” Dabakis was quoted saying, adding that, in fact, ”We're suing each other.”

The resolution, which now goes to the Senate, uses other lyrics to urge “teachers, when possible and age-appropriate, to utilize the Hamilton soundtrack to ‘lay a strong enough foundation' in American history in today’s students and '[they'll] blow us all away.’”

Which leads to the question: Could Hamilton be that thing that all Americans agree on? Could it be the solution to Congressional gridlock in Washington? If President Obama nominated Lin-Manuel Miranda to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, would the GOP agree to hold hearings? If Donald Trump said he saw Hamilton and didn’t like it, would his poll numbers finally go down?

The possibilities are endless.

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