PBOL'S THEATER WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 29-Dec. 5: Silver Linings

News   PBOL'S THEATER WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 29-Dec. 5: Silver Linings Even journalists grow weary of reporting bad news. So rather than recount the misadventures of the latest luckless fall production, we'll first focus on the good tidings of the last week or so. And there were some.

The Kathleen Marshall revival of Wonderful Town proved to be the first Broadway show in weeks to open to general huzzahs. Most critical hats were lofted skyward in tribute to the show's star, Donna Murphy, for giving an old-fashioned, show-stopping, musical comedy star performance. One critic likened her to a superwoman walking among mere mortals and commanded New Yorkers to fall to their knees. So far, this somewhat terrifying image has not scared folks away from the Al Hirschfeld Theatre box office.

On Nov. 30, the highly anticipated first musical from Tony Kushner, a collaboration with composer Jeanine Tesori called Caroline, or Change. (A game for you at home: What was the last Kushner title that did not contain any piece of punctuation?) The reviews of the show, set among the racial turmoil in 1963 Louisiana, were all over the place, but the production has picked up a following, and extended to Jan. 4. Inevitably, talk of a commercial transfer has commenced.

Three days later, I Am My Own Wife, playwright Doug Wright's portrait of a German transvestite who survived the Nazis and the communists, opened at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre Dec. 3 to enthusiastic reviews, some of which called it the best play of the Broadway season thus far. (Not a huge boast, given the competition.) The play will need those notices, for its unusual subject matter and presentation arguably make it, from a marketing point of view, the toughest sell in town. Also opening on Broadway this week, to a lukewarm-to-positive response, was the Jerome Kern-scored musical Never Gonna Dance, a stage spin on the Astaire and Rogers flick "Swing Time."

Following the successes of Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Aida, Disney Theatricals has a new three-show plan: Mary Poppins will open in London in December 2004; Tarzan is aiming at a 2005 debut; and The Little Mermaid is now scheduled for a 2007 arrival. Regarding the most anticipated of the three, Poppins, reports had Alex Jennings and Janie Dee offered the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Banks and Laura-Michelle Kelly as one of several actresses being considered for the title role. No casting has been confirmed.

Out on the west coast, Like Jazz, the latest musical from Cy Coleman, opened at the Mark Taper Forum. Drawn from a "Portraits in Jazz" concert at the Kennedy Center created by Coleman and Marilyn and Alan Bergman, the work, featuring 18 original songs, is meant as a celebration of the art form and its artists. Taper artistic director Gordon Davidson directs. New York City Opera is dabbling in musical theatre, as it occasionally does. Elaine Paige will take on the role of Mrs. Lovett in the New York City Opera's production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, March 5-13. Meanwhile, across the plaza at Lincoln Center, Patti LuPone and Kristin Chenoweth will star in a series of Candide concerts, May 5-8, at the New York Philharmonic.

So, is that enough good news? Now, on to this week's luckless production, Rose's Dilemma, the Manhattan Theatre Club show that began the week with Mary Tyler Moore as its star and ended with the promotion of understudy Patricia Hodges. Suffice it to say that Moore and Simon did not see eye to eye. What Moore will do next is not known. But Simon can distract himself from his troubles by thinking of the premiere of his latest play, Waiting for Papa, revealed to hit the Williamstown Theatre Festival this coming summer.

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