This year, the New York International Fringe Festival doesn't seem so scrappy as it once did. Sure, the playing spaces are often pretty down at-heel, the amenities are nil and I'm sure there are still plenty of god-awful shows. But the first Fringe since Fringe's favorite son Urinetown won two Tony Awards on Broadway seems ever so slightly more uptown.
Used to be, the catalogue of participating artists amounted to a roll call of nobodies (like Urinetown composers Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann used to be). This year, some of those nobodies are actually somebodies (at least in theatrical terms).
The fest will include new plays by Christopher Shinn, who had a success Off-Broadway last spring with Four, and Stephen Belber, who likewise scored this past season with Tape. The Shinn work is called Sleepers, the Belber piece The Death of Frank. Herman Daniel Farrell III, another playwright who has been produced Off-Broadway , will present Portrait of a President.
There's also a new musical by Paul Scott Goodman, of Bright Lights, Big City fame, called Him and Her. That show even features a quasi-star: Kristen Lee Kelly, once of Rent and recently seen bailing out of Love, Janis.
Jeremy Dobrish, who runs the successful Off-Broadway adobe theatre company, will pilot another musical, The Joys of Sex. There are even some marginal television stars. "Who's the Boss"'s Danny Pintauro will star in Beat, a drama about Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" obscenity trial. And "Queer as Folk"'s Randy Harrison is in Deviant, a dark comedy set in the world of phone-sex fetishists from the stuffed animal-obsessed "plushies" to the bug-killing "crushers." Edie Falco and Stanley Tucci opened Aug. 8 in a revival of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune at the Belasco Theatre. The reaction was enthusiastic, particularly for Falco, whom nobody doesn't adore, it seems. This was the Broadway debut for Terrence McNally's romance, which played Off-Broadway's Manhattan Theatre Club in 1987. The show has been much in the press of late due to the stars' onstage nudity. But then, any Broadway show with star nudity in it tends to seize the press' attention pretty easily.
This town's not big enough for two productions of Our Town. Or, so it would seem. The Roundabout Theatre Company has canceled plans for its announced production of Thornton Wilder's classic Our Town. The news came hot on the heels of reports that the much-publicized Westport Country Playhouse production of Wilder's philosophical work, starring Paul Newman, may soon arrive on Broadway.
Still, the cancellation may have happened regardless of Westport's plans. Roundabout artistic director Todd Haimes recently sounded off about the detrimental effect of the newly pumped up League of Resident Theatres (LORT) basic salaries. Haimes said he might cut Our Town, which has a large cast, from the schedule. "There's a 50-50 chance we won't do it," he told Variety. "We're looking at the budget for next year and we may not be able to afford it... We can't do the same size productions as we did in the past, which for a theatre like ours that does classics is a problem."
Finally, wax figures of Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick as their characters in The Producers have been unveiled at the Times Square branch of Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. Lane looks a little happier than in real life.
—By Robert Simonson