PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 9-15: No Room at the Inn

News   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 9-15: No Room at the Inn If Mary and Joseph were present-day Broadway producers, looking for a home for their coming creation in Times Square instead of Bethlehem, they'd still have trouble finding a place to rest their heads. With this week's news that the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest nabbed the Royale Theatre — only days after Copenhagen announced a closing date of Jan. 21 — You could almost hear an audible click of a closing door, telegraphing the fact that Broadway for winter and spring 2001 was virtually booked solid.
Rosie O saves Seussical; Marla Schaffel and James Barbour in Jane Eyre; Blair Brown and Philip Bosco in Copenhagen.
Rosie O saves Seussical; Marla Schaffel and James Barbour in Jane Eyre; Blair Brown and Philip Bosco in Copenhagen. (Photo by O'Donell photo by Aubrey Reuben, <i>Eyre, Copenhagen</i> by Joan Marcus)

If Mary and Joseph were present-day Broadway producers, looking for a home for their coming creation in Times Square instead of Bethlehem, they'd still have trouble finding a place to rest their heads. With this week's news that the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest nabbed the Royale Theatre — only days after Copenhagen announced a closing date of Jan. 21 — You could almost hear an audible click of a closing door, telegraphing the fact that Broadway for winter and spring 2001 was virtually booked solid.

Almost every Broadway theatre now either houses a long-standing show that's not going anywhere anytime soon, or is expecting a new show in the coming months. The only exception is the Booth, now the address of the recently extended (to Feb. 25) hit Lily Tomlin revival of The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. That could become the home of 3hree, the Harold Prince-fostered trio of three one-act musicals which is feverishly pursuing a move to Broadway. But Tomlin could just as easily extend yet again.

That leaves frustrated producers with only two options: postpone until next season (as the new production of A Thousand Clowns did), or sit and wait for the bad fortune of other shows. Productions that have intentions of coming to Broadway — but have yet to announce a theatre — include If You Ever Leave Me, I’m Coming With You, a two hander for acting twosome Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna; the small scale Gershwin Alone (which has openly coveted the Helen Hayes - assuming Dirty Blonde leaves at some point); the Kathleen Turner solo, Tallulah; Ricky Jay's new show; the Huntington Theatre Company's staging of Hedda Gabler, with Kate Burton; and, if a house presents itself, Thoroughly Modern Millie.

One theatre that seemed a possible candidate for imminent vacancy was the Richard Rodgers, where Seussical hasn't been having the easiest time of it. But the fortunes of that musical experienced a reversal for the better this week by virtue of a casting announcement which, on first hearing, sounded like an elaborate practical joke. But its true: Rosie O'Donnell, the most powerful theatrical dilettante in the world, said she'd take over the role of the Cat in the Hat for a month, Jan. 16-Feb. 10. (David Shiner, who opened as the Cat, will be on vacation with his family, and returns Feb. 13.) Tickets sales spiked immediately. Season of miracles, indeed.

The producers of Jane Eyre may be wondering if O'Donnell, once she's done with her Seuss duties, might be available to play Mrs. Fairfax for a while. The Broadway musical opened on Dec. 10 to less-than- triumphant reviews, but box office is steady for now, and the show vowed to soldier on through the coming (usually dire) winter months. In other Broadway news, Alan Cumming, Jennifer Ehle and Dominic West will follow Noel Coward's Design for Living at the Roundabout Theatre Company. It will be Cumming's first turn in New York since Cabaret (and his first New York appearance in a straight play) and marks a speedy return of The Real Thing Tony-winner Ehle. Previews begin Feb. 16.

Modesty lives still in the theatrical profession. This week, Al Pacino did what is almost unheard of in his profession: he declined an award. Pacino has been named of the Theatre Hall of Fame as one of its 2001 inductees. But through his spokesperson, Pacino told Hall officials that while he “honors the Hall of Fame” and appreciates the recognition “he believes it is premature and asks that you postpone it because he feels he has not been active enough in theatre recently to warrant induction.”

Finally, after Blue Man Group, Stomp, De La Guarda, The Bomb-itty of Errors, Game Show, Lifegame and The Donkey Show, it's difficult to be surprised by what is considered viable Off-Broadway commercial entertainment these days. But a new benchmark in offbeat theatrical fare is apparently on its way. The show is Urinetown!. It is a musical, set in a gotham-esque city where the privilege to relieve oneself is regulated by a single corporation, and it was the hit of the 1999 New York International Fringe Festival. That part is not so hard to believe. The Fringe is the Fringe, after all, and any breed of show can become a success of sorts there (this year's smash was a version of Macbeth performed by plastic Ninja figures). But now Dodger Theatricals is interested in the Araca Group property — just picture that initial business meeting for a moment. If all goes well, New York City will be Urinetown!'s kind of town this spring. And no, the title is reportedly not debatable. Neither is the exclamation point.

— By Robert Simonson