Paul Simon's The Capeman, Harry Connick, Jr.'s Thou Shalt Not, Randy Newman's Faust, The Bee Gees' Saturday Night Fever and the Pet Shop Boys' Closer to Heaven didn't do so well on stage, but the success of ABBA's Mamma Mia! has made producers forget all that and believe once more that musicals born of pop composers are a good idea. Case in point: The new musical collaboration between pop legend Billy Joel and choreographer Twyla Tharp is barreling toward New York like a freight train on speed.
Joel floated the idea of doing a Broadway musical years ago (folks have suggested he's a natural theatre composer since the days of "The Stranger"), but it's only in recent months that the project has shifted into high gear. The show, once called The Thoel Project, had a workshop in August. Since then, progress has been swift. By October, a summer 2002 Chicago tryout was announced, with Broadway to follow. And this week the show received an official title — Movin' Out — and a Broadway theatre, the Richard Rodgers, where it will open on Oct. 24. Casting is expected by next month. James L. Nederlander, Hal Luftig and Emanuel Azenberg are behind the show, and it looks to me like they feel pretty confident. Bring on those $480 tickets!
Many regional shows profess to have New York aspirations, but a couple out there right now seem certain to win a Gotham berth. Yellowman, the latest work by OBIE-winning playwright performer Dael Orlandersmith, will likely get a production in New York City following its current four-theatre tour of the U.S. The two hander, about tensions between light and dark-skinned African-Americans, recently closed at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre, where reviews were sanguine. From there, it travels to Philadelphia’s Wilma Theatre and New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre before making its final stop at Seattle’s A Contemporary Theatre. Expect Manhattan Theatre Club or Lincoln Center Theater to pick it up.
Elsewhere, the McCarter Theatre's new production of Edward Albee's All Over, due to begin Feb. 12, is openly expressing its hopes that the show will transfer to a Manhattan theatre. Certainly, the staging has the names to gain at least initial interest: Rosemary Harris, Michael Learned and Myra Carter. In the meantime, somebody please buy poor old Albee some roller skates. The Occupant, now in rehearsal at the Signature Theatre Company, begins previews on Feb. 5. And The Goat, or, Who Is Sylvia?, starring Bill Pullman and Mercedes Ruehl, also in rehearsal, begins performances on Broadway on Feb. 16.
Some Broadway casting news so familiar that even out-of-towners arriving at the Port Authority knew about it was finally made official: Kate Burton and Rupert Graves will co-star opposite Billy Crudup in the new Broadway revival of The Elephant Man; and Jeffrey Wright and rap artist Mos Def are mos' definite for the Broadway production of Suzan-Lori Parks' Topdog/Underdog. Speaking of Parks, she won't have to worry about opening one show on Broadway and another Off-Broadway at the same time. Rebecca Gilman's Blue Surge, which played the Goodman Theatre last summer, has been added to the Public Theater's spring roster, pushing the formerly announced Parks work Fuckin' A to the 2002-03 season (causing all the Parks fans looking forward to that new play to exclaim....well, know you). Robert Falls directs.
Though there's been no official word on touring plans for the Broadway mega-hit The Producers, the tour's itinerary seems to be coming together. Earlier this week, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette received word from co-author Thomas Meehan that the mega-hit tuner would start its tour in Pittsburgh, PA in September. That news is now borne out by an audition notice which notes that rehearsals for the Producers' tour will start July 22, readying for a first performance in Pittsburgh Sept. 12. Meehan had also told the Post Gazette that after Pittsburgh, The Producers musical would likely continue on to Cincinnati, OH.
Two more things. Something called the Tony Awards ceremony will be at Radio City Music Hall on June 2. (Who can keep track of all these different awards?). And the Broadway-bound Into the Woods began performances in L.A. on Feb. 1. One more cast member was added at the last moment: Dame Judi Dench will play the voice of the Giant, the one Jack wrangles with. Is that role Tony nominatable?