Theatre people spent much of the past week trying to shake themselves awake from New Year's Eve parties and the nightmare that was 2001, and to remember to write 2002 on their checks (and news stories). Still, a few folk were alert enough to generate news items of moderate interest about shows of somewhat more-than-moderate interest.
Actor-comedian Alan King, who always seems to be threatening to come to New York in this or that stage project, is finally actually coming to town. He spent last summer in Poughkeepsie at New York Stage and Film's beachhead on the Vassar College campus, playing legendary film producer Samuel Goldwyn, and now he'll spend the winter (at least) in Manhattan doing the same thing. Mr. Goldwyn by Marsha Lebby and John Lollos, will begin previews at the Promenade Theatre on Feb. 26 for an opening on March 13. Gene Saks directs. Hollywood producer Sam Goldwyn — nee Sam Goldfish — rose from childhood poverty in New York City to become a powerful force in the entertainment world. Alan King — nee Irwin Alan Kinberg — raised on the streets of Brooklyn, should find a little something to connect with there.
Carolee Carmello, who just lost her job in the defunct Kiss Me, Kate, quickly landed another gig: She will be Anna in Paper Mill Playhouse's The King and I, April 3-May 19. Of course, casting the King is always the tougher trick. No word on who will be dancing with Carolee.
Richard Brooks and Lou Ferguson, two August Wilson vets, will head the cast of Regina Taylor's Drowning Crow at the Goodman Theater in Chicago, beginning Jan. 6. The play is an adaptation of Chekhov's The Seagull. Taylor has relocated the Russian drama to the historic Gullah culture of the Sea Islands off the coast of modern-day South Carolina. The family is now African-American, and Konstantin is a performance artist who calls himself Constantine Trip, or C-Trip.
Andrea Martin, the Cat in the Hat that never was, will finally return to Broadway as Aunt Eller in the Royal National Theatre's upcoming Broadway production Oklahoma!, which begins performances Feb. 23 and opens March 21 at The Gershwin Theatre. She will join Josefina Gabrielle as Laurey, Schuler Hensley as Jud, Jessica Boevers as Ado Annie Carnes, Justin Bohon as Will Parker; Aasif Mandvi as "Persian" peddler Ali Hakim, Michael McCarty as Andrew Carnes; Ronn Carroll as Ike Skidmore and Patrick Wilson as Curly. Wilson's participation means he won't star in The Full Monty in London. Taking his place will be Jarrod Emick. The new year is only a couple days old, but it's not too early for some news on the 2002 Williamstown Theatre Festival, American's preeminent summer theatre event. Donald Margulies' latest, God of Vengeance, will be on the roster. As at Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre, Gordon Edelstein directs. God is Margulies first new work since the playwright won the Pulitzer Prize for Dinner with Friends.
A couple Broadway records will fall this month. Cameron Mackintosh's Broadway production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's Les Miserables will surpass the performance count of A Chorus Line Jan. 25 by playing its 6,138th show, making it the second-longest running musical in Broadway history. And Rent, the hit Broadway musical written by Jonathan Larson and directed by Michael Greif, becomes the 15th longest running show in the history of Broadway Jan. 7, when it plays its 2,378th performance, surpassing Annie. Cats remains the world champion.
It was only a year or so ago that the theatre community paid copious homage to Eileen Heckart, whose final, much-ballyhooed turn on stage was in Kenneth Lonergan's The Waverly Gallery. Now, the 81-year-old actress is gone; she died on Dec. 31 after a battle with cancer. She is remembered for William Inge's Picnic in 1953; The Bad Seed in 1954; Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge and A Memory of Two Mondays in 1955; The Dark at the Top of the Stairs in 1957; and Arthur Laurents' Invitation to a March in 1960. She toured in Laurents' The Time of the Cuckoo in 1964. The veteran actress made it clear in 2000 that The Waverly Gallery would be her final stage appearance and she couldn't have made a more suiting exit. The theatre community handed her almost every conceivable honor for the role, including a special Tony. "She was incredibly proud of The Waverly Gallery," son Luke Yankee said. "To have that sort of success at age 81 and to win every major award in town was a crowning achievement."