They may honor London theatre, but the Laurence Olivier Awards nominations, announced on Jan. 18, brought cheer to many a Yankee production. Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries were the producers of the coming Broadway run of Marie Jones' Stones in His Pockets. The show, already a hit in the West End and Toronto, won nods for both its stars, Sean Campion and Conleth Hill (both of whom will be repeating their roles in New York), as well as a nomination for the play itself, which is about two extras in a Hollywood movie being shot in Ireland.
There were also a couple of noms for the Donmar Warehouse's revival of Peter Nichols' 20-year old work, Passion Play. The news came almost simultaneously with word that a production of the love-triangle drama would fill the Minetta Lane Theatre. The Off-Broadway venture has nothing to do with the Donmar, aside from capitalizing on the new interest in the play; Donmar tried to transfer its staging to New york but couldn't secure the rights. Ex-pat Brit Ruthie Henshall will star in NYC as a sexually voracious female.
The nomination (and likely victory) of Life X 3 as best play, all but guarantees that it will become the third Yasmina Reza to travel to New York. Meanwhile, the nomination of The Witches of Eastwick as best musical probably doesn't mean anything of the sort.
The recognition of Jessica Lange's performance in Long Day's Journey Into Night may help producer Bill Kenwright's chances of bringing his version of the O'Neill masterpiece to Broadway, but at this point, who really can tell? Late last year, the papers were filled with reports of two productions of Long Day's Journey Into Night vying for the right to come to Broadway. For a while, it seemed the London mounting was a natural to transfer across the Atlantic. Then, American producer David Richenthal revealed he had been talking about the project “for several years” with director Robert Falls, and actor Brian Dennehy, and they’ve agreed to start it at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, in January 2002, with plans to journey Journey to a Jujamcyn house in March 2002. What's more, Richenthal holds the rights to produce Journey on Broadway. So, that was that.
Or not. This week, Newsday reported that the Long Day's Journey that makes it to Broadway may be a hybrid of both stagings, with Kenwright and the Goodman co-producing the play, and Falls directing Dennehy as James Tyrone and Lange as Mary Tyrone. (If this is true, it's the most uncommon example of compromise and cooperation seen in the theatre in years.) However, Kenwright, reached at his office in London, termed the idea of a Kenwright-Richenthal venture starring Lange and Dennehy and directed by Falls as "pure fantasy" and flatly denied any such production was in the works. Still, he was set to meet Richenthal that week. The Olivier Awards will be announced Feb. 24. There was activity Off Broadway. Edward Albee's latest, The Play About the Baby, began previews at the Century Center. And the Atlantic Theatre Company gave its first performances of Kia Corthron's Force Continuum. On Broadway, the casting agents behind 42nd Street seem keen on plucking actors fresh off barely-closed shows. Jonathan Freeman was drafted soon after he finished work in A Class Act. Mary Testa was tapped while still playing Off-Broadway in The Wax. The latest additions are Christine Ebersole and Michael Cumpsty. The former just exited the stage door at The Best Man on Broadway. The latter finishes his run in Copenhagen this weekend. Elsewhere, Rosie O'Donnell made her debut at the Cat in the Hat in The Seussical, creating a lot of hubbub, a batch of new reviews and the fresh dose of the tedious gossip and speculation that surrounds the show.
One final bit of Broadway casting. Aida has lost the first of its original leads. Sherie Rene Scott, who has donned the biggest hats on Broadway this side of O'Donnell since last spring, willleave the role of Amneris on Feb. 25. Who's replacing her? Well, like Scott, she's blonde, she can belt and she has a recording career. She's Taylor Dayne, the pop diva whose power ballads saturated FM radio during the Bush years. Now, as the Bush family rises once again, so, it seems, does Dayne. I think it's only a coincidence.
—By Robert Simonson