PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 16-22: Home for the Holidays

News   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 16-22: Home for the Holidays The good news is they can enjoy the holiday season knowing that the coming year will afford them an increase of free time. The bad news is...well, the same thing. They are the actors and artistic staff of a number of shows that decided this week that the current season did not hold a lot of promise for them. Kathleen Turner can sip her egg nog knowing she won't have to face the Broadway critics quite as soon as expected. Producers of Tallulah — the play starring Turner as actress Bankhead, which has been touring the nation this fall—bumped the show's Broadway bow to fall 2001, owing to the absence of an appropriate house this spring.
(From L-R) Janie Dee in Comic Potential, Rob Bartlett and Elizabeth Rice in Tabletop and playwright Edward Albee
(From L-R) Janie Dee in Comic Potential, Rob Bartlett and Elizabeth Rice in Tabletop and playwright Edward Albee (Photo by Photos by (L-R) Joan Marcus, Louis Mullen-Leray and Aubrey Reuben)

The good news is they can enjoy the holiday season knowing that the coming year will afford them an increase of free time. The bad news is...well, the same thing. They are the actors and artistic staff of a number of shows that decided this week that the current season did not hold a lot of promise for them. Kathleen Turner can sip her egg nog knowing she won't have to face the Broadway critics quite as soon as expected. Producers of Tallulah — the play starring Turner as actress Bankhead, which has been touring the nation this fall—bumped the show's Broadway bow to fall 2001, owing to the absence of an appropriate house this spring.

Other productions will be disappearing altogether. Rob Ackerman's provocative workplace play, Tabletop, was a summer hit for Off-Broadway's The Working Theatre. But upon transferring to a commercial run Oct. 30 at the American Place Theatre, the praised comedy inexplicably never really worked up a head of steam. It will close there Dec. 31. The Manhattan Theatre Club staging of Alan Ayckbourn's dark comedy, Comic Potential, also had high hopes for the future — perhaps even of becoming MTC's fourth Broadway transfer of 2000. But it now looks like the hit show will end its life Off Broadway on Jan. 7 (again, perhaps, because of the lack of available theatres in the log-jammed legit season, or due to the large set.)

Gregory Murphy’s Off-Broadway drama, The Countess, a fixture of the New York theatre scene for over a year, will close at the Lamb's Theatre on Dec. 30 after 634 performances. Producers made the decision to end the show’s long run after box receipts dipped precipitously after Thanksgiving and showed no signs of resurgence. Nonetheless, it's safe to say that few expected the small drama to go as far as it did.

Finally, another new show threw in the towel before it even opened. Flower Drum Song, the anticipated revival of the Rogers and Hammerstein classic with a reworked book by David Henry Hwang, canceled its production at Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theatre due to lack of funding, according to the theatre's artistic director-producer Gordon Davidson. Davidson cited the financial magnitude of creating a completely new show versus the tours the theatre regularly handles, which come with their own sets, costumes and orchestrations. The new version of the musical had been in the works for three years.

Meanwhile, the Broadway-bound one-man show, George Gershwin Alone, is showing a determination to meet its goal by spring that should give Dirty Blonde pause. The show, in which Hershey Felder impersonates the great composer, just finished a six-month-run in Los Angeles and is preparing for a couple a Florida dates. Felder has his eye on the Helen Hayes — home of Claudia Shear's Dirty Blonde since last April — for the spring. So does co-producer Martin Markinson. Oh, Markinson, by the way, owns the Hayes. Also showing no signs of relenting are playwright Edward Albee and his supporters. Tiny Alice — a show to which the appellation "hit" has never been applied until now — was extended at Second Stage yet again, until Jan. 7. A small company called The Illyria Theatre is staging Albee's 1959 one-act, The Death of Bessie Smith, at La MaMa in January. And this week the author revealed to PBOL that his new work, The Lorca Play, will surface Off-Broadway in December 2001. He made the comment as a press preview for The Play About the Baby, another Albee premiere which begins previews Off-Broadway next month. (The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? , another fresh effort by Albee — who apparently loses no sleep over the potential impact of forbidding play titles — has not as yet secured a production.)

There was news on a couple starry productions which have been talked about for some time. It seems the Bernadette Peters Gypsy in London, long a twinkle in Arthur Laurents' eye, will be hosted by none other than the Royal National Theatre. Sam Mendes directs; no dates are set. Gypsy will continue a recent RNT tradition of mounting lavish productions of classic American musicals. Past examples include Trevor Nunn and Susan Stroman's praised version of Oklahoma!, Candide and the upcoming My Fair Lady.

On this side of the big drink, the Mike Nichols' production of The Seagull set to star Kevin Kline and Meryl Streep, had been envisioned as a free Central Park affair at the Delacorte Theatre. Now, producers are thinking along the lines of an intimate Broadway or Off-Broadway theatre with the kind of tickets you pay for. There are also reports that Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Allison Janney have joined the cast. (Mr. Nichols does like a lot of stars in his plays.)

After running on Broadway and touring for nearly three years, it's comforting and somewhat amazing that Cabaret continues to find suitable actresses to play Sally Bowles. The latest news is Gina Gershon will join the Broadway cast on Jan. 19, and Andrea McArdle (who only just left Beauty and the Beast, will play dates across the U.S. And Canada and... Tokyo (!). The two performers follow in the footsteps of Katie Finneran, Lea Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Joely Fisher, Linda Romoff, Susan Egan, Mary McCormack, Teri Hatcher and, last but not least, Miss America 1998, Kate Shindle.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Seasons Greetings to them all, and to you, from myself and all of the Playbill On-Line staff.

— By Robert Simonson