James Baldwin's The Amen Corner, which is getting a new mounting at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, ends its extended run April 28. The play began previews March 16, opened March 26 and was to have ended April 21.
Chuck Smith directs the 1954 work about Sister Margaret Alexander, who risks losing her Harlem church and her son when her vagabond, jazz musician husband suddenly returns home.
James Baldwin (1924-87) is best known for his novels, such as "Giovanni's Room," and his essays, including the landmark "The Fire Next Time." The Amen Corner is one of only two plays he wrote. It was produced at Howard University in 1954 and on Broadway in 1965. His other work for the stage, Blues for Mister Charlie, bowed in New York City in 1964, and was spared a quick closure by a donation from scions of the Rockefeller family and an extraordinary ad campaign in the New York papers, signed by the leading artists and intellectuals of the day. Tickets for Amen Corner are $29 to $45. The Goodman is located at 170 N. Dearborn Street. Call (312) 443-3800.
The remaining 2000-2001 Goodman schedule now runs as follows: The Albert Ivar Goodman Theatre:
• Wit by Margaret Edson, directed by Steve Scott, May 11-June 16 (opening May 21).
• Blue Surge by Rebecca Gilman, directed by Robert Falls, June 29 Aug. 4 (July 9).
The Owen Bruner Goodman Theatre:
• The Next Theatre production of Among the Thugs by Tom Szentgyorgyi, running June 1-30 (opening June 11). Kate Buckley directs.
One of the worst kept secrets in the theatre was recently officially confirmed. John Kander, Fred Ebb and Terrence McNally's musicalization of Friedrich Duerrenmatt's The Visit will play Chicago's Goodman Theatre next season. Performances begin Sept. 21. Chita Rivera will star as the vengeful Claire Zachannassian, under Frank Galati's direction. Ann Reinking will choreograph.
The Visit will play through Oct. 28 and officially open Oct. 1. Rehearsals begin in August. Galati told Playbill On-Line April 6 that Broadway is still the goal for the musical. Negotiations are currently underway with an actor for the part of Claire's former lover and current would-be victim.
"The whole idea of [crossing] Duerrenmatt's play with a musical theatre mode is tremendously exciting," Galati told Playbill On-Line. "And actually, it's something that Duerrenmatt himself would be turned on by. He was really into detective fiction, he loves thrillers and he loved music hall, musicals and vaudeville."
In an interview with Playbill On-Line last February, Reinking, talking of the part of Claire, observed, "Well, the character has a wooden leg. [Former star] Angela [Lansbury] came up with this wonderful idea. There's this number with her entourage. She said, `I wouldn't mind doing some version of a tango.' When she said that, my eyes sort of lit up. With Chita, I might try that. But if it doesn't work — it won't be in it. For me, there's obviously not a lot of choreography with this story. But that story has impressed me ever since I was 14. It was one of the first plays I saw at Seattle Rep."
The musical and the Goodman were first linked last fall, and in December 2000 producer Barry Brown confirmed to Playbill On-Line that he was exploring a tryout at the Windy City nonprofit, but nothing was in stone. Since then, Reinking, Ebb and Galati have openly discussed the venture.
Brown had announced the musical for the 2000-2001 season, but star Angela Lansbury backed out for family reasons. Librettist McNally, composer Kander and lyricist Ebb wrote the show with Lansbury in mind.
Brown gave up on bringing the tuner to Broadway in the 2000-2001 season after an exhaustive and well-publicized search for a lead actress to replace Lansbury. The multiple Tony-winner dropped out of the show July 20, 2000, to be with her husband, Peter Shaw, who had recently undergone heart surgery. Fans and media — and, perhaps to some degree, the creative team itself — had a frustrated time dreaming of who might replace the popular Lansbury in the dark role. Among names bandied about by various parties: Zoe Caldwell, Meryl Streep, Diana Rigg, Judi Dench, Bernadette Peters, Rivera, Vanessa Redgrave, Glenn Close and Shirley MacLaine.
In other Goodman news, Regina Taylor's Drowning Crow, scheduled to play the Goodman's smaller stage April 27-May 27, has been rescheduled for the bigger Albert Iver space next season. "As Drowing Crow has taken shape," said Goodman artistic director Robert Falls in a statement, "we realized that the larger stage and the greater technical resources of the Albert theatre would enable us to more fully realize the vision of Regina."
Crow is Taylor's new adaptation of The Seagull. The actress playwright has relocated the drama to the historic Gullah Islands off the coast of modern-day South Carolina. The family is now African-American and Konstantin is a performance artist.
Filling the spot vacated by Crow at the Owen will be the Chicago based Next Theatre's production of Among the Thugs by Tom Szentgyorgyi, running June 1-30 (opening June 11). Kate Buckley directs.
—By Robert Simonson