Christmas is right around the corner and a lot of people in the theatre are getting what they want, while others are getting what they need. Of course, there's nothing like spying a Broadway booking under your tree, and that just what several producers found awaiting them.
The Matthew Barber play Enchanted April, which has been looking longingly toward Broadway since bowing at Hartford Stage nearly two years ago, is finally on its way to New York, with a fall 2002 debut projected. The John Waters musical Hairspray, which is suddenly getting buckets of ink after being in development for years, won itself a berth at the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway in August, a lot earlier than was expected. And Lincoln Center Theatre's revival of Paul Osborn's bittersweet comedy, Morning's at Seven, received an April 21 opening at the Lyceum Theatre.
The casts of Proof and The Tale of the Allergist's Wife gave their parents — that fecund duo, Lynne Meadow and Barry Grove of Manhattan Theatre Club — the gift of themselves; Jennifer Jason Leigh and company signed on for another stint in David Auburn's play, while Valerie Harper, Tony Roberts and Michele Lee said they would continue in Charles Busch's comedy.
Nathan Lane, with a hoarse voice, asked Santa for a lighter schedule in The Producers, and Santa was sympathetic. The actor will do only six shows a week from now on, skipping Tuesday nights and Wednesday matinees. The past two weeks had seen Lane go back to his full, eight-times-a week schedule, but that's apparently proved a hindrance to his healing.
Lore Noto, producer of the ultra-long-running but soon-to-close Off-Broadway musical The Fantasticks, has been in both the giving and getting mode. Recently, he decided to donate the costumes to the historical show to the Museum of the City of New York. Reaction to that news has caused the producer to emend that decision somewhat. Noto will donate some duds to the Museum, others will be placed on ebay for purchase. Broadway producers collected the biggest haul of all. They opened up a relief package worth $2.5 million, in the form of tickets bought by the city. The city, in turn, made gifts of the tickets, giving many of them away to rescue workers and the families of victims of the World Trade Center collapse. And Off-Broadway? Well, after checking its list twice, the city apparently decided Off-Broadway had apparently behaved very badly this year. It got bupkis, though a city-sponsored coupon booklet for tourist attractions due in January will include 28 Off-Broadway houses in its discount offers.
And Jesus Christ, the founder of this festival, as it were — what did he get? Why, he got a new national tour! McCoy Rigby Entertainment, the Nederlander Organization and the Really Useful Group are planning a new 2002-2003 national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar using elements of the recent Broadway production. No leather costumes and machine guns, however; a kindler, gentler JCS.
Though New York City has been battered by the tragic events and psychic aftermath of the past few months, Gotham still has managed to embrace the holiday season with a measure of its usual exuberance. And that includes the theatre community. Whereas other cities serve up the usual stage adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in December, Manhattan has three Carols — and none of them take a conventional form — plus a goodly selection of alternate Christmas fare, ranging from the sentimental to the sardonic.
The sentimental: The Willow Cabin Theatre Company is presenting a revival of its popular holiday show, a musical version of Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales, Dec. 13-23. The show is an adaptation of Thomas' memoir of family gatherings at Christmas time in Swansea, Wales.
Another cherished literary Christmas memoir, this one set in America's South, is Truman Capote's prose classic, A Christmas Memory. The tale of a poor young boy and his eccentric older female cousin, who whip up a happy holiday out of almost nothing, was read by stage and screen stars Cherry Jones and Mark Ruffalo on Dec. 16 and Molly Shannon and John Cameron Mitchell and Dec. 17 in a unique Manhattan benefit within Grand Central Terminal.
And then there's the sardonic. Jeff Goode's dark holiday comedy, The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, returned to New York through Dec. 22, courtesy of the adobe theatre company, at the Ohio Theatre downtown. In Goode's play, Santa Claus has been brought up on charges of sexual harassment, including allegations of unsavory acts with reindeer and elves. The Eight are, of course, the fabled reindeer who pull Santa's sleigh, and they are witnesses prepared to testify for or against Santa.
Finally, there are the Christmas Carols. "I am the very model of the mystic supernatural," Marley's Ghost sings, and the audience know they're in for a A Gilbert and Sullivan Christmas Carol. Adapted and directed by Gayden Wren, this Carol (which closed at Off Broadway's Jose Quintero Theatre on Dec. 16) takes the tunes of Sullivan, and pairs them with words by Gilbert and Wren.
Boldly going where he has gone before, Patrick Stewart returns to Broadway for a week at holiday time to revive his solo, A Christmas Carol. He'll do eight performances, Dec. 24-30, at Broadway's Marriott Marquis Theatre. Stewart did three sold-out holiday seasons of the show, in 1991, 1992 and 1994, plus engagements in London (1993) and L.A. (1996). The one-man production uses minimal set pieces, relying instead on Dickens' text and Stewart's ability to portray every character in the story.
Lastly, there's Madison Square Garden's lavish Alan Menken-Lynn Ahrens musical of A Christmas Carol, which, after eight years, has become something of an institution, with a different (indeed, very different) actor as Scrooge every year. This year's is Tim Curry.
So, whether you like your holiday in Wales, the South, Victorian England, or in Court, sung or spoken, there's a seasonal stage show for you. Select your theatrical cup of cheer, and have a very Merry Christmas.
—By Robert Simonson