PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 29-May 6: That's All, Folks!

ICYMI   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 29-May 6: That's All, Folks!
 
The Broadway season drew to a close this week with the arrival of its last new musical and its last musical revival. The former was The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, one of the more heartwarming success stories of the season. The latter, Sweet Charity, was one of the more torturous nailbiters in all Broadway history.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Jesse Tyler Ferguson in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Photo by Joan Marcus

The fortunes of Bee—which began its life in a former garage in the Lower East Side three years ago, and has transformed the lives of a half dozen once anonymous struggling artists—rose with its Broadway opening. Several of the reviewers, including Charles Isherwood of the New York Times, seemed to like it even more the second time around. In particular, affection for William Finn's score (generally thought to be the weakest element in the show's mix) grew in viewers' appraisals.

As for Sweet Charity, star Christina Applegate's name has become a byword for pluck, resilience and determination. In the face of a broken foot, bad press and the Weisslers, the girl showed grit. If the Tonys gave out a Miss Congeniality Award, she'd get it. The well of good will and respect she has dug for herself in the theatre community was evident in her appreciative reception during the late previews of her production, and even showed up in many of the reviews of her performance. Still, most critics had to admit that, however strenuously she swung at it, she never quite rang the bell.

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Armed with knowledge of the full Broadway season, the Tony Administration Committee assembled May 5 to discuss the eligibility of Broadway productions that opened in the final months of the 2004-2005 season. Among the more interesting decisions: The Sherman Brothers' Chitty Chitty Bang Bang score is not eligible in the Best Original Score category because 14 of the songs are from the movie of the same name; the music in The Pillowman, the Martin McDonaugh play, however, will be eligible for Best Original Score; and, although he departed the cast of La Cage aux Folles under a cloud, Daniel Davis will be eligible for a Leading Actor in a Musical nomination. (Now, wouldn't that be an interesting acceptance speech?) The Tony nominations will be announced on May 10.

*** The news wasn't all Tony-centric. Gabriel Byrne — who last appeared on Broadway in A Moon for the Misbegotten — will return to the stage in another Eugene O'Neill work, A Touch of the Poet at the Roundabout Theatre Company, directed by Doug Hughes.

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Finally, Shockheaded Peter illustrated to the Off-Broadway community—as if it needed to learn this brutal lesson yet again—that you can get killer reviews and still close in three months. The hyper-praised macabre musical work—a sort of Victorian haunted house where misbehaving children meet their gory and (perhaps) deserved ends—will close May 29. Theatregoers who delight in the spectacle of children in peril should not despair; there's still Doubt, The Pillowman, Spelling Bee and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

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