PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 10-16: Wodehouse v. Gershwin

ICYMI   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 10-16: Wodehouse v. Gershwin Composer George Gershwin and librettist P.G. Wodehouse were contemporaries. They even worked together, quite successfully, on 1926's Oh, Kay!. But, 75 years later, nothing is O.K. between the two artists. For, By Jeeves, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical inspired by Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories, is being denied a berth on Broadway by Gershwin Alone, a one-man show created by Hershey Felder, starring Felder as George and sanctioned by the Gershwin estate. Both productions want the Helen Hayes Theatre, but its owner, Martin Markinson, who is also a producer of Gershwin Alone, and Mr. Felder himself reportedly ignored the British Baron's entreaties (which, said the New York Post, included an offer to Felder by Lloyd Webber of a run at one of his West End theatres.) So, it seems, victory does not always go to the mighty—though one might wonder whether a free ride in London and the eternal gratitude of one of the most powerful men in the theatre might be a longer-lasting prize. (Of course, this is all moot as long as Dirty Blonde continues to run at the Hayes.)

Composer George Gershwin and librettist P.G. Wodehouse were contemporaries. They even worked together, quite successfully, on 1926's Oh, Kay!. But, 75 years later, nothing is O.K. between the two artists. For, By Jeeves, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical inspired by Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories, is being denied a berth on Broadway by Gershwin Alone, a one-man show created by Hershey Felder, starring Felder as George and sanctioned by the Gershwin estate. Both productions want the Helen Hayes Theatre, but its owner, Martin Markinson, who is also a producer of Gershwin Alone, and Mr. Felder himself reportedly ignored the British Baron's entreaties (which, said the New York Post, included an offer to Felder by Lloyd Webber of a run at one of his West End theatres.) So, it seems, victory does not always go to the mighty—though one might wonder whether a free ride in London and the eternal gratitude of one of the most powerful men in the theatre might be a longer-lasting prize. (Of course, this is all moot as long as Dirty Blonde continues to run at the Hayes.)

It looks like Broadway will be getting its first A Street Car Named Desire of the new millennium come this fall. "Sex and the City"'s sexually voracious Samantha, Kim Cattrall, is all but signed to play the sexually unstable Blanche DuBois. Peter Hall will direct the drama, with John Dino making his Broadway debut in the star-making role of Stanley and Elizabeth Shue likely to play Stanley's wife, Stella. Oliver Platt and Michael Rapaport have both had discussions about playing Mitch. That will make two "Sex and the City" stars hitting the boards this year, if Sarah Jessica Parker commits to the Manhattan Theatre Club production of David Lindsay Abaire's Wonder of the World, as she is expected to do. Now, there must be something out there for Cynthia Nixon.

Two new musicals have appeared on the distant horizon. Spring Awakening, a new show based on the Wedekind play of the same name, may be looking at a future opening in New York City. Written by Steven Sater (lyrics) and Duncan Sheik (music), the tuner was developed at the Sundance Theatre in Utah and then workshopped at the Roundabout Theatre Company in late 2000. If all goes well, spokespersons for Sundance and Sater stated that the show would be staged by the Roundabout Theatre Company, possibly in fall 2002 after an out-of-town tryout. Also, an attempt to musicalize the John Patrick Shanley film Moonstruck appears to be gathering steam. Reportedly, Henry Krieger is composing the music and Susan Birkenhead the lyrics for the piece. Shanley will do the book.

The new project should help get Shanley's mind off the rather brutal reception of his ambitious historical play, Cellini, which opened Feb. 12 at Second Stage. It was a big week for openings, and any theatregoer who found themselves bored during the first six weeks of 2001 will soon become quite busy. Jessica Hagedorn's Dogeaters, which explores life in the Philippines in the 1980s, began previews at the Public Theater Feb. 13. The next day, A Class Act, the Lonny Price-Linda Kline musical about lyricist Ed Kleban (which originated at Manhattan Theatre Club) started performances on Broadway. That valentine to the theatre was followed the next day by another, odder valentine to the theatre: producer-turned-playwright Stewart F. Lane and Turned Playwright Ward Morehouse III's backstage comedy, If It Were Easy..., at the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre.

Also on Feb. 15, the National Actors Theatre finally returned to business, unveiling the first performance of Judgment at Nuremberg at the Longacre. And Kenneth Lonergan's latest, Lobby Hero, commenced previews at Playwrights Horizons on Friday. Usually, one New York show a year benefits from the publicity of an Oscar nomination. Last year, it was The Wild Party, which featured Oscar nominee Toni Collette. This year, Lobby Hero's author was recognized for his screenplay for "You Can Count on Me." Outside of New York, Chita Rivera stars in Arthur Laurents' new play, Venecia at New Jersey's George Street Playhouse. And the new national tour of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, starring Ann-Margret, began performances in Connecticut.

Finally, Frank Wildhorn once again draws inspiration from the pulpier, more gothic reaches of world literature. The man who brought you Jekyll & Hyde and The Scarlet Pimpernel now offers The Musical Dracula. (I assume "musical" is used as a noun, and not an adjective, in this case.) The new musical is to premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse this October. No matinees, right?