Plenty of lucky Broadway actors won't have to worry about getting up on Tuesday, New Year's Day, to drag their hungover bodies to the theatre to do a show. The casts of By Jeeves, Kiss Me, Kate and The Music Man can celebrate to their hearts content on Dec. 31, because their shows will have closed on Dec. 30. (I know, I know; I'm just trying to cast a positive light on the situation.)
As usual, the end of the year sees a cleaning of Broadway's house, as producers opt to shutter rather than shudder through the chilly winter months. This winter is expected to be worse than most, with the long arm of Sept. 11 still playing havoc with Broadway attendance. The above three shows had already been touched by the continuing financial crisis. Kate and Music Man would have closed a couple months ago, if the unions hadn't agreed to pay cuts. And By Jeeves almost didn't get on at all after a skittish investor pulled out.
One other Broadway show announced its closing as well: Neil Simon's new comedy, 45 Seconds from Broadway will end its run at the Richard Rodgers Theatre after a mere 31 previews and 73 regular performances.
Other shows have chosen the closing days of 2001 to solidify their 2002 Broadway plans by revealing specific dates and theatres. Producer David Aukin has officially announced his Billy Crudup revival of The Elephant Man for Broadway's Royale Theatre, with previews to start March 26 and an opening set for April 14, 2002. Sexaholix...a love story, the current Royale tenant, ends its extended run Feb. 10. Michele Lowe's black comedy, The Smell of the Kill will start previews at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre Feb. 27 and officially open March 17, 2002. Second Stage's hit Metamorphoses, long expected for Circle in the Square, will begin its stay Feb. 21, 2002, with an opening on March 4. And Suzan Lori Parks' Topdog/Underdog has officially claimed the Ambassador Theatre, though the cast is still uncertain and the opening is only listed vaguely as March 2002.
Meanwhile, another Broadway-bound spring property, Marvin Hamlisch, Craig Carnelia and John Guare's Sweet Smell of Success, began its out-of-town tryout at Chicago's Shubert Theatre. It will stay there until Jan. 27, and then head for a Feb. 26 start date in New York. The Araca Group, flush from the success of Urinetown!, is keeping busy. The producing trio went to the 2001 New York International Fringe Festival (where they found Urinetown! in 1999) and think they have found a good, er, performer in Debbie Does Dallas. Certainly, the show is as unlikely a commercial venture as many once thought Urinetown was. The play, so-called, is a straight-faced dramatization of the famous X-rated film of the same name. Workshops are planned in February for a commercial Off Broadway production in spring 2002.
Trafficking in more traditional territory is Araca's plan to revive Terrence McNally's Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune on Broadway. Owing to its stars Stanley Tucci and Edie Falco's schedules, plans have now been pushed to August, with the Belasco still a possible venue but not definite.
A couple Off-Broadway plays got good news this week, both in the form of extensions. One was hardly surprising, given the recipient of the extra performances was the latest play by Tony Kushner, Homebody/Kabul. The New York Theatre Workshop production will now run until March 3. The latter is more a Cinderella story, showing that a Little Ham can go a long way. The Amas Musical Theatre production of the new Langston Hughes inspired musical, which went from an Off-Off to an Off-Broadway contract, has now extended to Jan. 6. Hopes for a transfer to an even bigger commercial venue (possibly Broadway) are high.
Finally, Sir Nigel Hawthorne died on Dec. 26, of a heart attack. He was 72. Hawthorne found success late in life, but once it came, it came in spades. Broadway audiences remember him from Shadowlands, for which he won a Tony Award, while his greatest overall stage triumph was probably The Madness of King George III, which was made into a film.