In Case You Missed It: There's a Show That Could Beat Hamilton for "Most-Talked-About-in-Theatre"

News   In Case You Missed It: There's a Show That Could Beat Hamilton for "Most-Talked-About-in-Theatre"
 
This week, the critics take on Bruce Willis' Broadway debut, Miss Saigon will migrate to the U.S., Avenue Q hits a new kind of milestone, and David Bowie's Off-Broadway musical Lazarus creates a buzz to rival Hamilton.

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Misery, the new Broadway thriller based on Stephen King's book about an injured novelist entrapped by his crazed "Number One Fan," officially opened this week at the Broadhurst Theatre. The premiere featured stage veteran Laura Metcalf and stage virgin Bruce Willis in his Broadway debut. The play is adapted by William Goldman, the celebrated screenwriter who adapted the King book for the screen back in 1990. It is directed by Will Frears.

As in the film, the writer character spends much of the story basically immobile, presenting a significant challenge to the actor playing the part. As far as the critics were concerned, Willis was not up to the challenge.

"As lovable as wise-cracking Bruce Willis was in 'Moonlighting' and the 'Die Hard' films, he is deadly dull in the stage version of Stephen King's novel," said The Daily News. "This big Hollywood star musters just enough emotion to stretch from A to B in his Broadway debut." The Chicago Tribune echoes that idea, saying, "The fundamental problem, alas, with the performance of Willis, the star of some of the highest-grossing action movies in Hollywood history, is that his reaction to all of those realizations, upon which the forward trajectory of this theoretically scary play depends, are wholly homogenous — to the extent, that is, that one can detect any reaction from him at all."

Said the AP, "Bruce Willis makes an appallingly ill-conceived Broadway debut in the thriller that opened Sunday at the Broadhurst Theatre. But Laurie Metcalf rescues the 'Die Hard' stud by doing enough good acting for both of them." Time Out New York got more philosophical about the issue, writing, "Willis's weirdly narcotized and passive Broadway debut goes above and beyond the drugged, physically diminished circumstances of his character. On a meta level, Misery is about Willis playing film star Willis being terrorized by Metcalf's superior acting talent."

Other reviews noted the difficultly in successfully pulling off a thriller onstage anymore. Wrote the Times, "the play is saturated in what feels like an amused, nostalgic distance from its source material. ... Even the requisite dark-and-stormy atmospherics register as gentle, teasing reminders of guilty thrills past."

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British producer Cameron Mackintosh is known for a handful of shows and, boy, does he like to revive them.

When the long-running Les Miserables stopped running on Broadway in 2003, he waited a while and then brought it back to Broadway again in 2006. And when that revival closed in 2008, he brought the musical back a third time.

Now, there’s word that Mackintosh is planning a Broadway revival for his other Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg musical phenomenon, Miss Saigon.

Jon Jon Briones in the London revival of <i>Miss Saigon</i>
Jon Jon Briones in the London revival of Miss Saigon Photo by Matthew Murphy

The spring 2017 revival will be a transfer of the hit 2014 London production, which had new staging by Laurence Connor and revised book and lyrics by Michael Mahler.

Also crossing the Atlantic will be the two London stars, Eva Noblezada, a 19-year-old from North Carolina starring as Kim, and Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer. Those roles were created in the 1989 London production and the 1991 Broadway production by Lea Salonga and Jonathan Pryce.

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Performances began Off-Broadway Nov. 18 for the world-premiere production of Lazarus.

The hard-to-describe show has become enough of a phenomenon in New York theatre circles that it’s begun to snatch copy space away from that eternal headline-grabber Hamilton. Much of that owes to the involvement of British pop superstar David Bowie, who has written the music for the show (most of it extant, but some of it new). This is Bowie's first stage show as a creator. (He has acted on stage, most famously in The Elephant Man.)

Bowie has a significant connection to the material that fans of the singer no doubt appreciate. Back in 1976, Bowie starred in the cult sci-fi film "The Man Who Fell to Earth," about an alien who journeys to Earth to get water for his drought-plagued planet. Through a set of sad circumstances, the character gets stuck on the planet. The new play by Enda Walsh picks up the character’s story some 30 years later. Michael C. Hall plays the lead in Lazarus.

Michael C. Hall will star in <i>Lazarus</i>
Michael C. Hall will star in Lazarus

After the show was announced, it quickly became the fastest-selling production in New York Theatre Workshop history. The run is currently sold out. Following the initial sell-out, an extension was added. Performances now run through Jan. 17, 2016.

Depending on how the reviews go, we'll probably be reading a lot more about the adventures of Bowie and Lazarus.

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Lois Smith just keeps on acting. And mostly on 42nd Street.

The 85-year-old stage veteran began performances this week in the Playwrights Horizons production of 2015 Pulitzer Prize finalist Marjorie Prime by Jordan Harrison. The show is set in the age of artificial intelligence and follows an aging woman as she grapples with her past. The play is currently being adapted into a film starring Smith, Jon Hamm, Geena Davis and Tim Robbins.

Smith only recently ended her run in the well-reviewed Annie Baker play John at the Signature Theatre. Smith may have an apartment somewhere on the grounds of the sprawling Signature Theatre Center, because since 2011 she’s appeared in four plays there, including The Illusion, Heartless and The Old Friends

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Here’s an odd milestone.

Avenue Q opened at the Vineyard Theatre Off-Broadway in March 2003 and transferred to the Golden Theatre on Broadway in July 2003. The show took the unusual step in 2009 of transferring back to Off-Broadway at New World Stages, just a few blocks away.

The current Off-Broadway production of the hit musical Avenue Q played its 2,535th performance Nov. 16. This means the smaller-stage run has now surpassed the run of its original, Tony-winning Broadway production, where it played 2,534 performances.

It's the kind of achievement that might cause producers to mutter, "Um, so do we celebrate, or what?"

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