Big news! Reactions of surprise, amazement, excitement! Prominent stories in the New York dailies — the national dailies — foreign dailies! What is it? What's the story? Why, haven't you heard? A Broadway musical has announced its replacement actors.
Only a show/phenomenon like The Producers could generate international interest in the folks who have to step into the shoes of the original stars. Henry Goodman? Never heard of him? Well, chances are you'll know everything and more about the British actor in the next few days. The New York Times has already run two stories on him in the course of one week. As for Steven Weber, the Man Who Would Be Matthew Broderick, his involvement wasn't confirmed until two days after Goodman's casting was announced; you'll have to wait a few days for that Times profile.
Both Goodman and Weber will begin their stays on Broadway on March 19, two days after Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick drag their fatigue-ridden selves off the mat at the St. James. (Seeing what these role did to the constitutions of the two men, it's hard to see why any sane person would want to take them on; I guess a good part is a good part.) Of course, the original duo won't necessarily take time to relax. But, don't worry about them; their next assignments, both on the screen (small and big), are veritable pieces of cake. Broderick is going to play The Music Man's Prof. Harold Hill, a character with relatively little stage time. And Lane is going to star in a movie about Jackie Gleason, a mild and temperate figure not known for any outsized behavior.
In the week's other big news, Bernadette Peters changed her mind. After over a year of reports that the Sam Mendes production of Gypsy, starring Peters as Mama Rose, will debut in London and then transfer to Broadway, the order has been reversed. Rehearsals will begin in New York in January 2003. The production would happen later that spring, possibly in April, at a theatre yet to be named. Given a healthy Broadway run, one would imagine that, if Peters intends to be in the UK premiere, the London berth would occur at a considerably later date. The Royal National Theatre has been mentioned as a possible London home for the show.
z One question that sometimes crosses a theatre journalist's mind as he sifts through the weekly news of musicals in development is: OK, so what isn't potential material for a stage musical? Is the 1941 Barbara Stanwyck-Gary Cooper screwball comedy classic Ball of Fire the stuff of musicals? Sure, say producers Fran and Barry Weissler. Is the loopy 1960's sitcom "I Dream of Jeannie" the next Tony winner? Creator Sidney Sheldon thinks so. And what titles in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie catalog should live on the stage? Why, all of them, crow MGM moguls.
A spokesperson for MGM told Playbill On-Line the company is already in discussions with interested parties on musical versions of "New York, New York," "The Fabulous Baker Boys," "Bull Durham," "Legally Blonde," "Mr. Holland's Opus," "The Idolmaker," "Rocky" (with Sylvester Stallone supervising), "The Pink Panther" (to be developed by Blake Edwards), "Where's Pappa?," "Marty," "The Night They Raided Minsky's" and more. Its all part the studio's new initiative, MGM On Stage.
Back on Planet Earth, John Glover and Judith Light opened Feb. 4 Off-Broadway in Second Stage's production of Athol Fugard's new drama, Sorrows and Rejoicings. Also Off Broadway, Further Than the Furthest Thing, Zinnie Harris' morality play about remote islanders relocated to England after a volcano erupts on their home, had its American premiere Feb. 5 at Manhattan Theatre Club. On Broadway , An Almost Holy Picture, starring Kevin Bacon, opened Feb. 7 at the Roundabout Theatre Company, and Elaine Stritch's reflective solo show, At Liberty, a sold-out smash Off Broadway at The Public Theater, begins its Broadway reign at the Neil Simon Theatre on Feb. 6.
A couple of Off-Broadway shows announced plans for national tours. The producing team of Jonathan Larson's tick, tick...BOOM!, a musical snapshot of a young songwriter's life, is hoping for a tour of at least 35 weeks to begin in the fall. And The Syringa Tree, Pamela Gien's one-woman Off-Broadway show about a white woman's multigenerational family history in apartheid South Africa, is looking at a tour that may start in Canada in October-November 2002.
Finally, one of sculptor Louise Nevelson's large outdoor objects may have been destroyed in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, but her life has risen like a phoenix on two New York stages. Nevelson is the subject of Embers, a play by Catherine Gropper, recently extended at the Chelsea Playhouse until March 3. And further uptown, Edward Albee's Occupant, also about Nevelson, and starring Anne Bancroft, began performances Feb. 5 at the Signature Theatre Company.
— By Robert Simonson