It was probably the last big shake-up of the 1999-2000 Broadway season, and, truth to tell, it wasn't all that unexpected. This week, both David Hirson's Wrong Mountain, at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, and the James Naughton revival of Arthur Miller's The Price, at the Royale Theatre -- long running to small houses -- gave up the ghost. Wrong Mountain will close Feb. 5; The Price one month later, March 5.
As expected, Michael's Frayn's Copenhagen, for weeks poised to pounce on the Royale, will begin previews there on March 23 and open April 11. Philip Bosco, Blair Brown and Michael Cumpsty will star in the drama, which could prove to be the second hit of the season for director Michael Blakemore (Kiss Me, Kate).
The fate of the O'Neill is a little more complicated, and it involves the Walter Kerr Theatre. Noel Coward's Waiting in the Wings currently lives there, and sources close to the show say it has no intention of going anywhere. This is probably not news to the producers of the coming revival of A Moon for the Misbegotten, even though that show has been announced for the Walter Kerr for months now. With Wings doing a lot better than Mountain ever did, the O'Neill would make a more likely home for Eugene's play. At press time, however, a Moon spokesman was sticking to his story.
With these changes, the season is pretty much set through the Tony nominations. (The only wild card yet remaining is the Barrymore Theatre, bereft of Putting It Together as of Feb. 20.)
One show that most likely won't be making the spring push this year is Lisette Lecat Ross' Scent of the Roses. The Julie Harris vehicle had wanted to open in the fall, then ran into money troubles and log-jammed theatres. Producer Arthur Cantor now says it's very unlikely the show will arrive this season, though he hasn't given up on it. Another springtime candidate, Birdy, has yet to pick a theatre, but it has selected its pre-Broadway tryout cast (at Duke University in March), including "Melrose Place's" Grant Show. In other springtime news, "Frasier's" Edward Hibbert has joined the cast of Julie Taymor's The Green Bird, while Illeana Douglas and Estelle Parsons will co-star in James Lapine's The Moment When at off Broadway's Playwrights Horizons.
As for the Tonys, the first snowflake of what eventually will be an avalanche of Tony information came this week. The cut-off date for Tony eligibility will be May 3; nominations will be announced on May 8; and the awards will be held on June 4. No locale has been announced, nor a host (hostess?). Radio City Music Hall is all refurbished and ready to go, so it will probably be considered (the Daily News quoted sources as saying Radio City would, indeed, be the spot). As for negotiations with a certain talk-show figure, if they are taking place, they will no doubt go down to the wire.
In recent years, it has been asserted that the New York Times no longer has the power to close a musical (plays, yes) through a negative notice. The jury is still out on that issue, but here's proof positive that the Times can resurrect a dying musical: Hedwig and the Angry Inch lives! The two-year-old Off-Broadway rock musical announced Jan. 24 that it had reopened its run indefinitely and would not close on Jan. 30, as previously indicated. The turning point in the fate of Hedwig was a late-inning critique by New York Times theatre critic Ben Brantley. The rave review was particularly unusual in its timing -- running just nine days before the scheduled closing date of a long-running show. The show's producers' gaze went immediately from the newsprint to the box office and apparently, they were encouraged by what they saw.
On Jan. 24, the New York theatre community gathered to remember director Mike Ockrent, who passed away last month. On the same day, some information came forward as to one of the number of projects he was to helm. Mel Brooks told the Daily News that Susan Stroman, Ockent's widow, will probably take up direction of the musical version of his classic comic film, The Producers. Brooks hopes to bring the show to Broadway in late 2000 or early 2001. "She was always going to do the choreography; it's only natural she be The Producers' director," Brooks said.
Stroman is widely thought to be taking over another Ockrent project -- the musical version of The Night They Raided Minsky's, but, at press time, the producers of the show had not made any decisions.
Looking even further down the line at nascent musicals, two projects will be receiving readings in early February -- and Tovah Feldshuh's attached to both of them. One is a new musicalization of Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman's Dinner At Eight, penned by librettist Julie Gilbert, lyricist Frank Evans and composer Ben Schaechter; the other is William Finn's The Royal Family of Broadway, with the Weisslers producing. Carolee Carmello, Laura Benanti and Elaine Stritch are also on board for that one, which features a libretto by Richard Greenberg.
Got time for one more musical? Well... readings were held this week to gauge the commercial possibilities of Urinetown!, Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann's satire that was a big hit at this past summer's New York International Fringe Festival. Producers at the Araca Group admitted they were worried the title might put mainstream audiences off, but co-author Kotis told Playbill On-Line the title was part and parcel of the piece. "The concept, when Mark and I were building this show," Kotis said, "was thinking of the worst concept for a show we could imagine and giving it a full expression. Sort of like what would the whole 'Springtime For Hitler' have been like from 'The Producers?'" Whether it's Kotis & Hollmann or Brooks & Stroman, it looks like New York will soon find out.
-- By Robert Simonson
and David Lefkowitz