NOISES OFF-BROADWAY & BEYOND: 26 Pebbles Spreads Ripples and an American in Paris Gets Raves

News   NOISES OFF-BROADWAY & BEYOND: 26 Pebbles Spreads Ripples and an American in Paris Gets Raves
 
Playbill.com writer Harry Haun provides the latest insight into the buzz Off-Broadway and beyond.

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WHO IS SYLVIA? YOU ASK: Sylvia, in the 1995 A.R. Gurney play by that name, is an adorable mutt who disrupts the marriage of a businessman and his wife — the canine equivalent of The Other Woman — so it's a domestic comedy and very funny at that. To give you an idea of how this looked at Manhattan Theatre Club, Blythe Danner and Charles Kimbrough were married, and Sarah Jessica Parker was Seductive Sylvia.

Bill Pullman on "1600 Penn"
Bill Pullman on "1600 Penn" Photo by Jordin Althaus/NBC

Now, it's rumored for a 20th anniversary revival on Broadway next season, co-produced by Jeffrey Richards and Daryl Roth — and who better to play the man divided than Bill Pullman, who earned his Drama Desk nomination the hard way (convincing you he was smitten with a goat in The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?)?

Pullman, who has played the President of the United States on occasion, has an eccentric side that lets him get away with odd, off-centered characters. Most recent example: the ultimate sit-com dad, Ozzie Nelson, dealing with homecoming Vietnam son in Sticks and Bones, which just wrapped a successful run for The New Group.

That leaves only one Ozzie on the New York stage now: Clyde Alves in On the Town. NEWTOWN REQUIEM: The night after the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, a docudrama about that community's recovery was presented in a benefit reading at The Lynn Redgrave Theatre.

26 Pebbles, named for the fallen, is the result of iPhone interviews Eric Ulloa conducted with Newtown denizens half a year after the incident. "We planned each interview would be about 30 minutes, but people really needed to talk, and they started running an hour and a half," he said. "I had them all transcribed. I literally still have — to this day — thousands of pages of transcriptions."

Of the 60 or so Newtonians interviewed, about 25 made the actual cut. "It was a matter of focus, mostly. Who is this community, and how do they connect? The people who were connecting naturally stayed; those who weren't, I kinda let go."

Moises Kaufman, who specializes in this kind of verbatim reportage, suggested Ulloa grab a copy of Our Town before he got to Newtown. "That was the best advice I ever had," said Ulloa. One actor who makes numerous blackboard notations, Mamie Parris, is deliberately fashioned after The Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder's play.

Karen Mason
Karen Mason

Among six actors who gave the play an identifiable, life-size reading were Michael McGowan, Karen Mason, Rachel Coloff, Richard Masur and Jennifer Swiderski.

"We're looking for an Off-Broadway life, come spring or summer — and then we really want to get it out to the country," admitted Ulloa. "This message really needs to go everywhere — theatres, colleges. I want everyone to do it because the more the story is heard, the closer we get to a solution. How do you hear these impassioned tales and leave unaffected? It gets you thinking that you really got to do something."

INN TUNES: Funny the way 1954's "White Christmas" blurs together with its source film, 1942's "Holiday Inn." Irving Berlin is credited with essentially the same "original story." Both are set in a New England resort, and both have the same big hit (Berlin's only Oscar winner, "White Christmas"). But there is a difference all the same.

"Holiday Inn has songs that span the whole year," said Patti Murin, who's now playing out the show's fourth and final extension at the Goodspeed Opera House. In additional to "White Christmas" and "Easter Parade," Berlin observed Thanksgiving ("Plenty to Be Thankful For") and New Year's Eve ("Let's Start the New Year Right"). Lincoln's Birthday ("Abraham") won't be celebrated in blackface as it was in the movie. Other Berlin ditties are scattered throughout the show.

"We're going from the smallest stage in the country to the biggest stage in the country — from Goodspeed to St Louis MUNY this summer," declared director Gordon Greenberg, who co-authored the book with Chad Lodge. "In the interim, Universal is figuring out the next steps for it." Another holiday perennial is born!

Dan Stevens
Dan Stevens

CAMEOS IN CAMELOT: There are a few new faces you won't recognize among the year-end movie arrivals — a slimmed-down, toned-down Zach Galifianakis in "Birdman"; an Albert Brooks so overhauled only his voice gives him away in "A Most Violent Year"; and Dan Stevens, no longer that pudgy-cheeked thatch of blond hair who courted Jessica Chastain's The Heiress on Broadway or died in a car crash the day he produced an heir for "Downton Abbey."

Four hours of gym work every day has produced a new body, a new look, a new address (Brooklyn instead of Britain) and a new goal (blockbusters instead of "Masterpiece Theatre"). He's in lean-and-mean mode now, although you'd not suspect it under the suit of armor he clangs about in for "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb," third and (they promise) last installment of the film franchise. Since this installment takes place in the British Museum, he's pops up as Lancelot, one of the CGI-resurrected action figures (Robin Williams' Teddy Roosevelt prominently among them) who assist security guard Ben Stiller on his appointed nightly rounds.

Stevens' Lancelot is allowed a little free time to get into trouble so the scriptwriters have let him shuffle into a London theatre and onto the stage while Hugh Jackman and Alice Eve (both uncredited) are doing a robust rendition of the title tune in Camelot. No amount of persuasion from "Huge Ackman" (as Stevens calls him) can get him off stage, not even the threat of Wolverine's knife-nails. As you might know, and as auditions go, Arthur's crown rests quite easily on Jackman's head. Quite.

THE NEW FRENCH RAVE: The Daily Telegraph's Sarah Crompton was first to get the good news out about the Paris-premiered, Broadway-bound An American in Paris. "Emphatically not a stage version of the much-loved 1951 film but a thorough-going rethinking," she said, "it does what dance does so brilliantly, painting a picture without any words... In routines such as 'I've Got Rhythm' (which starts as a funeral dirge and becomes a life-enhancing whirl of movement) and 'I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise' (as grand and splashy as a Busby Berkeley extravaganza), [choreographer/debuting director] Christopher Wheeldon writes a love letter to the great American musical itself." The leads — Robert Fairchild of New York City Ballet and Leanne Cope of the Royal Ballet were cheered, as were Veanne Cox and Jill Paice.

Those who saw a run-through here prior to the company's departure for Paris insist, if it gets to Broadway half as good, it should set the barre for dance on Broadway. Richard Maltby Jr., for one, says that Fairchild "out-Gene Kellys Gene Kelly!" Right now, the best dancing on Broadway is being done by Fairchild's sister, NYCB's Megan, in On the Town as the Miss Turnstiles pursued in the movie by Gene Kelly.

A TALE OF TWO CITIES: Fairchild's NYCB partner and life partner (as of June 22 — wedding invitations pointedly said "No pointe shoes, please!"), Tiler Peck spent most of her honeymoon in Washington D.C. playing the title role of Little Dancer — Marie van Goethem, the ballerina who posed for Edgar Degas's famous statue — in the new Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty musical just launched at the Kennedy Center.

Don't expect it this season (for several complicated reasons), but some of it can't be improved upon. Director Susan Stroman's choreography for Peck, whom she first hired as an 11-year-old to play the mayor's daughter in the 2000 revival of The Music Man, is an out-and-out love offering, and Peck goes into Technicolor doing it.

The show is a festival for eyes and ears. Beowulf Boritt, who just copped a Tony for turning Moss Hart's early world into a revolving crystal ball of 1930s Broadway, has gorgeously approximated Paris of 1880-81. And Flaherty's lilting, circular score sounds if he had been locked in a closet with Jacques Brel for four days, then set free and told to "go with it!" Rebecca Luker and Karen Ziemba are added delights.

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