On Broadway, every theatre is filled with plays and musicals playing eights shows a week. Yet, there is an eerie calm to it all. It is the relative calm of previews, when hopes remain high on both sides of the footlights and anything is still possible. That will begin to change next week, when the curtains officially rise and reviews begin to roll in daily. It all starts with Arthur Miller's The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, which opens April 9. Then, in quick succession, come Michael Frayn's Copenhagen (April 11), Martin Sherman's Rose (April 12), and The Wild Party (April 13).
As for the last of these, this is the final weekend theatregoers can take in two shows called The Wild Party; the party's over for the Manhattan Theatre Club version by Andrew Lippa on April 9. As for the Broadway, George C. Wolfe-Michael John LaChiusa musical, the road to next week's opening looks to be an arduous one, what with Mandy Patinkin and Toni Collette taking turns getting sick and the show getting shorter every time they return to work.
It was a week of highs and lows for James Joyce's The Dead. On April 4, the intimate musical won a Lucille Lortel Award as Outstanding Musical. And on April 6, producers announced the show would close April 16. The production has had a dramatic journey. In early 1999, it was promised for the Lower East Side's Angel Orensanz Foundation Center, before suddenly becoming a Broadway prospect, after Patti LuPone expressed interest. It ended up at the non-profit Off-Broadway company, Playwrights Horizons, where it changed directors midstream, sold out the run, and then transferred to a limited (and eventually an open) run at the Belasco Theatre. It lured Christopher Walken back to the stage and featured Blair Brown just as the actress’ stage star was rising.
Joining The Dead in the Lortel winner's circle was Donald Margulies' Dinner With Friends, a drama which also seems to be the leading contender for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in what has proved a very dry season for strong new plays. The Pulitzer will be announced on April 10. Margulies has been considered for the prize before, for Collected Stories.
Pulitzer collector Edward Albee's first new work in some years debuted at Houston's Alley Theatre this week, with Marian Seldes and Earle Hyman starring. The Play About the Baby is apparently very much that. In the story, a young couple who appear to have just had a child find that illusion challenged by the arrival of an older man and woman. (Not to be confused with another Albee play where an older couple who appear to have a child find that illusion challenged by the arrival of a younger man and woman). The Alley has been in the habit lately of sending its productions to New York, and the Albee work has been promised to Gotham before. Wait and see. Elsewhere, Martha Clarke's Hans Christian Anderson, a stage musical drawing on the Frank Loesser score of the 1952 Danny Kaye film ("Thumbelina," "Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen"), which had been eyeing a Broadway berth in 2000, has instead ended up at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater, where it will open Sept. 6. No doubt, producers Dodger-Endemol still have dreams of Broadway; two seasons back, they tried out High Society at ACT before bringing it to New York.
As for musicals currently in New York, Susan Stroman's new look at The Music Man began previews April 5 at the Neil Simon, while at the Brooks Atkinson, the Roundabout Theatre Company's Uncle Vanya got underway April 6 after a short delay. Finally, at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, it seems any of the disciples of the current revival of Jesus Christ Superstar are capable of betraying Christ. Original Judas Jason Pebworth has been replaced by the producers. Now taking the 30 pieces of silver is Tony Vincent, who had been performing the role of zealous JC-supporter Simon. How quickly they turn.
--By Robert Simonson