PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 12-18: Move Over, Pumbaa

ICYMI   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 12-18: Move Over, Pumbaa Soon, Julie Taymor's creations in The Lion King won't be the only singing puppets on Broadway. Avenue Q, the witty Off-Broadway smash in which grown-up "Sesame Street"-like cloth creations and humans must cheerfully face real life in all its messiness, will jump from its extended run at the Vineyard Theatre to the Golden Theatre on Broadway.

Previews begin early July for an opening on July 31, making the show the first musical of the Broadway season.The Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty show also stands as further proof that Broadway is slowly but surely becoming a more heterogeneous, even slightly (ahem) hip place—a street where quirky, unorthodox shows like Urinetown, Metamorphoses, La Boheme and Movin' Out are not only possible, but often emerge as hits. Urinetown, of course, is Avenue Q's closest Broadway cousin in temperament. The songwriters who came up with "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" and "The Internet Is For Porn" certainly have something in common with the cheeky minds that penned "It's a Privilege to Pee" and "Don't Be the Bunny."

Commercial Off-Broadway, meanwhile, will soon get the red hot Humana Festival hit with the tongue-twisting title, Omnium Gatherum. The topical drama by Theresa Rebeck and Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros lit audiences and critics afire when it recently premiered in Louisville, and, given the fresh-from-the headlines nature of the writing, it's being air-mailed to arrive in New York this fall by producer Robert Cole. Very likely, it will be seen at various regional theatres around the same time. (Rebeck's agent sounded like he was taking orders at McDonald's.)

The play depicts a contentious dinner party, possibly taking place in hell. Among the guests are characters who resemble such turbulent (and talkative) social forces as journalist Christopher Hitchens, homemaker mogul Martha Stewart, novelist Tom Clancy and Palestinian-American educator and author Edward Said. The play is described as "An urgent, impassioned and hilarious conversation about the implications of the September 11 attacks and beyond."

Chicago is currently incubating a couple plays which will soon be on view in New York. Richard Greenberg's latest, The Violet Hour, began playing at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company April 17. Josh Hamilton heads the cast. Manhattan Theatre Club hasn't announced the cast that will grace the drama when it bows on Broadway this autumn. Hamilton is a known New York quantity. But then, so is Mario Cantone, who starred in the world premiere at South Coast Rep last fall.

It's not clear when Gotham will see August Wilson's latest, Gem of the Ocean, now at the Goodman Theater. But Wilson plays always eventually cross the Hudson. No doubt a few other regional houses will see the work as Wilson finesses the script. For now, the first version of the play will run until May 24. Marion McClinton directs such Wilson veterans as Yvette Ganier, Kenny Leon, Raynor Scheine and Anthony Chisholm. In other news, the scrappy, six-person As You Like It at the Public Theater got some good notices and extended a week; Wendy Wasserstein's going to take a third stab at her ever-in evolution play An American Daughter (the first two drafts were staged on Broadway and at the Long Wharf Theatre) this spring at D.C.'s Arena Stage; Emily Mann's Meshugah, based on the novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer, will get its New York premiere beginning May 7 at Off-Broadway's Kirk Theatre, courtesy of Naked Angels; and the producers of the long in-development musical Never Gonna Dance, miffed the Los Angeles Ahmanson Theatre plenty by scotching a planned pre Broadway tryout there in favor of coming straight to Broadway this fall. A New York musical house (none too easy to come by) suddenly became available, it appears. The Ahmanson's huffy official response spoke regally of contracts, regret and honor. (Honor among showfolk? Really, now.) Perhaps the musical's producers were taking a page from their show's plot. The story of Never Gonna Dance, drawn from the Astaire-Rogers film "Swing Time," is about a hoofer who goes to the city to make it big and prove his worth to his fiancée, only to throw over the provincial lass for a more enticing New York gal, played by Rogers in the film. In the case of Never Gonna Dance, Broadway is Ginger Rogers and the Ahmanson, well, isn't.