In Case You Missed It: Steve Martin Is Coming to Broadway and Harold Prince Is Going to Japan

News   In Case You Missed It: Steve Martin Is Coming to Broadway and Harold Prince Is Going to Japan The Public Theater has got its next Broadway show. The New York premiere of Eclipsed, starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o ("12 Years a Slave") is moving to Broadway. 

Danai Gurira's harrowing play about a group of women being held captive in Liberia, will wrap up its Public Theater engagement Nov. 29. The Broadway production, again directed by Liesl Tommy, will begin previews Feb. 23, 2016, and open March 6 at the Golden Theater for a limited 17-week run with its Off-Broadway cast intact.

The production will mark the third high-profile transfer from the Public Theater in the last year, along with the Tony-winning musical Fun Home and the musical phenomenon Hamilton. As there is almost no chance those two musicals will close anytime soon — Hamilton is minting money and Fun Home regularly sells out — that means the nonprofit from downtown will have three productions on Broadway come February.

The Public's dominance on The Street is reminiscent of the company's heady days in 1972 when Joe Papp sent productions of David Rabe's Sticks and Bones, Jason Miller's That Championship Season and a praised production of Much Ado About Nothing to Broadway, winning Tonys left and right.

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Another Off-Broadway show from a New York era gone by, the tap-dancy musical pastiche Dames at Sea — which launched the career of Bernadette Peters — finally got its Broadway debut this week, when it opened at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre. The musical Broadway's bow is directed and choreographed by Randy Skinner.

The Times thought that maybe the show's moment in the sun had come too late: "Nearly 50 years on, however, with Broadway having thoroughly strip-mined the songs and styles of the shows that made up the so-called Golden Age of the musical, the little show that could, and did, seems to give off a faint whiff of mothballs. But it still provides lively diversions for those in search of yesteryear's delights."

Other critics agreed. "It's taken almost half a century for Dames at Sea to come to Broadway,” wrote the AP. “There really was no rush. This insubstantial musical, which sits awkwardly between celebration and parody, opened Thursday at the Helen [Hayes] Theatre like a riff off a long-forgotten joke. And its bad identity crisis lets down one of the most hard-working casts in the business...It's the 1960s laughing at the 1930s, but in this century, it comes off as hopelessly hidebound."

John Bolton, Lesli Margherita, Cary Tedder, Eloise Kropp, Danny Gardner and Mara Davi in <i>Dames at Sea</i>
John Bolton, Lesli Margherita, Cary Tedder, Eloise Kropp, Danny Gardner and Mara Davi in Dames at Sea Photo by Monica Simoes

"This is, to put it gently, a one-joke show," wrote Newsday. "And we get the joke — we get it, we get it — over and over the tap-happy two hours."

Of course, Madame Peters came up in some reviews and the comparisons were not always complimentary. "How cruel, to make comparisons with a legendary star! How unkind! How unfair!," joked Variety with barely disguised malevolent joy. "Well, tough luck, because here it comes: the new leading lady of Dames at Sea is no Bernadette Peters. There's nothing wrong with this revival that Peters, who played the role of Ruby in the original 1968 production, couldn't fix."

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Musical sequels usually don't go well. Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge, Annie Warbucks, The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public, Bring Back Birdie... the list goes on and on.

Undaunted, Michael John LaChiusa this week delivered to us First Daughter Suite, a follow-up to the composer's 1993 musical First Lady Suite, at the Public Theater. And, as far as the critics were concerned, the composer beat the odds.

Betsy Morgan, Barbara Walsh and Caissie Levy in <i>First Daughter Suite</i>
Betsy Morgan, Barbara Walsh and Caissie Levy in First Daughter Suite Photo by Joan Marcus

Bloomberg called it "very moving and beautifully executed… Psychologically complex scenarios drawn with the concision of short stories and the gorgeously variegated musical textures of oratorio." Newsday said it was, "More musically mature but no less audacious, this quartet of playlets about the girls in the White House — and their mothers and their grandmothers — is both a satirical and tender tribute to the parallel universe of history in, as Pat Nixon (Barbara Walsh) sings, 'a house that will never be a home.'"

Hollywood Reporter thought it good, but mainly for LaChiusa completists, writing it "offers much of the same mixture of quirky humor and poignant reflection as the original. But also much like its predecessor, it displays more precocious cheekiness than depth. The production being presented by the Public Theater, where the original premiered, will best be appreciated by LaChiusa's ardent fans."

Still, the reception amounted to the best batch of notices the prolific LaChiusa has gotten in some time.

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For being only an occasional playwright, comedian Steve Martin never has to worry much about getting his stuff produced, and in a big way.

His new musical, Bright Star, written with Edie Brickell, will arrive on Broadway in March 2016 following a limited engagement at the Kennedy Center this winter. In addition, Martin's Meteor Shower will make its debut at San Diego's Old Globe this summer.

Shower, which is a co-production with Connecticut's Long Wharf Theatre, concerns "two married couples who gather to watch a celestial event." Globe artistic director Barry Edelstein said, "Crazy things happen with this meteor shower, and they start to drink… It's funny — very kind of scabrous. And very grown-up. I like it a lot."

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This week saw the way-Off-Broadway bow of Prince of Broadway, the new musical celebrating the Broadway career of producer-director Harold Prince. It had its world premiere at Tokyu Theatre Orb in Tokyo, Japan.

The show had taken a number of well-known New York performers far afield: Emily Skinner, Tony Yazbeck, Josh Grisetti, Shuler Hensley, Ramin Karimloo, Nancy Opel, Bryonha Marie Parham, Mariand Torres, Kaley Ann Voorhees and Reon Yuzuki.

The company in Rehearsal for <i>Prince of Broadway</i>
The company in Rehearsal for Prince of Broadway Photo by Monica Simoes

Prince is not an author or a composer. He made his considerable mark in theatre history first as a producer, then as a director. Nonetheless, Prince of Broadway is composed of words and music from many of the shows that have earned Prince a record 21 Tony Awards. (Expect a lot of Sondheim and Lloyd Webber.) It has a book by David Thompson, co-direction and choreography by Susan Stroman and musical supervision and arrangements by Jason Robert Brown. What does Prince do? Direct, of course.

Prince of Broadway, according to press notes, looks "at the circumstances and fortune, both good and bad, that led to Hal Prince creating some of the most enduring and beloved theatre of all time, including The Pajama Game, West Side Story, Fiorello!, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Evita, and The Phantom of the Opera."

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Speaking of Andrew Lloyd Webber, the man has a new musical in the wings, School of Rock. It will debut on Broadway next month, and the English composer's New York charm offensive has begun.

Lloyd Webber has gifted the City of New York's Fund for Public Schools with $150,000 toward new instruments and to kickstart music education programs. The donation was made at a benefit dinner hosted by the Mayor Bill de Blasio for the Gracie Mansion Conservancy on Oct. 20.

School leaders involved in the new initiative must make a three-year commitment. The donation will also serve to aid principals in building out a band or orchestra instruction program for their schools.

"I have been passionate about the importance of music in education ever since I wrote Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for a school nearly 50 years ago," said Lloyd Webber in a press statement. "The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation has pioneered a scheme in problem public schools in Britain where every child receives a free musical instrument and free music tuition for their entire school career. 3,000 children are now part of this scheme and their academic achievements as a result have been transformed."

School of Rock, of course, is set in a private school where a failed rocker masquerades as a substitute teacher. New York will vet its music teachers a little more thoroughly, one imagines.

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