In Case You Missed It: May 14-20

Week in Review   In Case You Missed It: May 14-20
 
A Bronx Tale get a new lease on life, Bette Midler gets a co-star, and the days of critic plus-ones end at the National Theatre.
Richard H. Blake, Jason Gotay and Nick Cordero
Richard H. Blake, Jason Gotay and Nick Cordero in A Bronx Tale Matthew Murphy

Chazz Palminteri’s A Bronx Tale, the script with nine lives, is about to get its latest reincarnation.

The musical version of the former play and movie, which had its premiere at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse in February, is aiming for Broadway.

Rehearsals will begin this fall toward a late fall Broadway opening. Tommy Mottola and the Dodgers with Tribeca Productions will produce the Broadway run. Mottola is a new name to the theatre producing biz. He’s best known as the high-powered music executive who discovered, then married, then divorced Mariah Carey.

A Bronx Tale, which features a book by Palminteri, music by Alan Menken and book and lyrics by Glenn Slater, got good reviews at Paper Mill. Indeed, it was near impossible to get tickets to the run.

Helping boost the profile of the property has been the unexpected involvement of movie star and Chazz pal Robert DeNiro, who is co-director along with old Broadway hand Jerry Zaks. (DeNiro directed the film version.)

Palminteri’s solo play of the property, which is based on his own life story, premiered on Broadway in 2007 at the Walter Kerr Theatre. He also authored the movie screenplay.

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<i>Hello Dolly!</i>
Hello Dolly!

In an Owl and the Pussycat pairing if there ever was one, David Hyde Pierce has been cast opposite Bette Midler in the forthcoming Broadway revival of the blockbuster 1964 musical Hello, Dolly!

Hyde Pierce will be Horace Vandergelder to Midler’s Dolly Gallagher Levi. The production will play the Shubert Theatre, current home of the Tony-winning Matilda the Musical, which will play its final performance at the Broadway venue January 1, 2017.

The casting news was revealed via new artwork for the eagerly awaited production.

The production will be staged by the same Jerry Zaks of A Bronx Tale, who is looking to be very busy in the season to come, which may be the most prosperous for the director since his heyday in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. The musical will begin previews March 13, 2017, and open April 20.

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Another ‘80s phenomenon currently experiencing one of his best career spurts in a long time is Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The composer’s School of Rock has proved a solid popular hit at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre.

Now come plans for a West End berth. Tickets will go on sale May 25, for performances beginning October 24 prior to an official opening November 14 at the New London Theatre. The venue is a familiar one for Lloyd Webber. It was the original London home to Lloyd Webber’s Cats.
School of Rock will be Lloyd Webber’s first original musical in the West End since the short-lived Stephen Ward in 2013.

London casting agents will have their hands full. Unlike on Broadway, where only one set of young actors is required to play the 13 school kids who are taught rock music by their substitute teacher, three full sets are required for London, owing to child employment rules on the number of hours children can work, so a nationwide search is underway to find them.

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In an earthquake that surely shocked the Western World’s theatre critics down to their very wallets, the National Theatre ruled this week that London critics will, in future, only be entitled to a single free ticket, with the offer of a discounted second ticket available to purchase. The NT says it hopes the new policy will make more tickets available for new media writers.

This was a blow to the long-standing nicety, common throughout the theatrical world, that allowed critics to take a companion to the shows they review, and not be left on their lonesome.

The new policy applies in the Olivier and Lyttelton Theatres—the third, smallest auditorium, the Dorfman already only offered a single ticket to critics, in line with other smaller London venues like the Donmar Warehouse and Royal Court’s Jerwood Theatre Upstairs.

The vast number of free ducats that are handed out to the press corps has long been a bone of contention to producers. Of course, this monetary concern had nothing to do with the National’s move. No, no.

London's National Theatre
London's National Theatre

Vicky Kington, the National’s head flack, stated, “We believe that theatre is for everyone. We are committed to reaching new and diverse audiences and the finite resources of the NT press office are essential in helping us to achieve our ambition. The media landscape continues to change at an ever-increasing pace and whilst it’s vital that we maintain and nurture the highly-valued, long-standing relationships we already have with the press, we also need to reach new audiences through wider engagement with broadcast, print and online media.”

Very high-minded, indeed. Of course, critics, robbed of the clout that extra free tickets lent them among their friends and family, weren’t happy about the development.

Dominic Cavendish, chief theater critic of the Daily Telegraph, replied in an online editorial, “On a press relations level, the move smacked of sour grapes—a retaliatory swipe at Fleet Street for not cooing over every offering in Rufus Norris’s strong but hardly faultless first year. On a pecuniary level, it’s hard to see how redistributing that modest allocation to other (presumably online) outlets in the name of broadening critical diversity and bringing in new audiences stacks up.”

How long until this brilliant, friends-making move spreads to New York. Well, producers already often whittle press comps down to a single ticket when they think they’ve got a hit on their hands. So, I’d say, not long at all. Get ready, drama critics. You’re lonely job is about to get lonelier.
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Finally, archaeologists digging at the site of the 16th century Curtain Theatre in London have unearthed artifacts that may have been used in some of William Shakespeare's early plays, including Romeo and Juliet, according to a report in The Stage.

Among the findings: a bone comb that could have been used by Elizabethan hairdressers, a token of the kind used to buy beer at a concession, and a bird caller.

Project manager David Divers, of the Museum of London Archaeology, was quoted saying, ”Probably the most interesting thing is the bird caller. Plays like Romeo and Juliet have several references to birdsong so it could well have been used as a theatrical prop to create special effects.”

The Curtain Theatre was built in 1577 next to the structure known simply as The Theatre and was home to Shakespeare's company, The Chamberlain's Men, in 1597-1598. The Chamberlain's Men built, and moved to, the more famous Globe Theatre in 1599.

The site is being prepared for a £750 million construction project, called The Stage, which will include a 37-story residential tower, shops, restaurants and performance space.

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