Earlier this year, it looked as if playwright Jon Robin Baitz would finally get his first Broadway play when Lincoln Center Theater announced it would transfer Ten Unknowns, which starred Donald Sutherland, to a commercial run on Broadway. The drama was to land in a Shubert theatre in late October, it was declared, with Julianna Margulies, Justin Kirk and Denis O'Hare remaining in the cast. But, oh what a difference a star makes. It was reported on June 22 that Sutherland would not be available for the project.
The New York Times quoted LCT executive producer Bernard Gersten as saying a search was underway for a replacement. "We should know in the next few weeks," he said. "The problem is holding the other people in the cast." Baitz should perhaps not be too depressed. His second Broadway bid of the season, an adaptation of Hedda Gabler starring Kate Burton, looks like a certainty.
Other Broadway plans are not going as, well, planned. The extension into September of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the winner of the 2001 Tony for best revival of a play, has gone the way of the September extension of Follies. Producers catapulted the Steppenwolf Theatre Company staging to Sept. 16 five days after the Tony win. Now, just two weeks after that, they've taken it back. A spokesperson noted that the closing wasn't simply a matter of the summer doldrums. The show's box office has been healthy, but it was discovered after the last extension that not all the cast members were available through mid-September. Though it was always an open run, and thus promised no extension, King Hedley II also announced a closing date. It will end July 1, handing dramatist August Wilson his shortest Broadway run in over a decade.
The lauded London revival of Noises Off, Michael Frayn's backstage farce about the star-crossing staging of a theatrical farce, appears to have set its cap on a September Broadway opening. It will join such already announced UK transfers as Oklahoma! and Neil LaBute's The Shape of Things. It also prolongs another trend, that of giving major revivals to shows that aren't that old, shows like 42nd Street, The Real Thing, Into the Woods and Amadeus.
After a radical departure producing Urinetown!, it looks like the Dodgers are back in the Footloose business. They are forging ahead with their plans to bring another hit movie with a well known soundtrack, Dirty Dancing, to the boards. Following a reading of the Eleanor Bergstein stage adaptation (from her screenplay), the new musical will be put into workshops Aug. 6-Sept. 28. Diane Paulus and Randy Weiner, the married co-creators of Off-Broadway's The Donkey Show, are the Dodgers' interesting choice for directors.
A couple of talented, but infrequently employed, theatre stalwarts have found new work. Bebe Neuwirth will star in Richard Greenberg's latest, Everett Beekin, which is due to open at Lincoln Center Theater in October. The show marks the first time the Tony-winning Neuwirth will create a role in a fresh New York production since Chicago. Meanwhile, another Tony Award winner, Lea Salonga — whose theatre roles since Miss Saigon have been few and far between — will star as Chinese picture bride Mei Li in the Mark Taper Forum revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song, playing Oct. 2-Dec. 2 in Los Angeles. Robert Longbottom will mount the musical with a revised book by David Henry Hwang. Finally, Off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons will soon cease to exist as we know it. Kia Corthron's Breath, Boom, currently playing in the Studio Theatre, will be the last production to grace the redoubtable Off-Broadway institution before its 30-year-old 42nd Street home is torn down. A section of the block between Ninth and Tenth Avenue is being demolished for a modern development. A new Playwrights Horizons complex — a mainstage, studio theatre, administrative offices and rehearsal space — will be built on the same site, to be ready for the 2002-2003 season. During the 2001-2002 season, PH shows will be presented in several Off-Broadway venues to be announced. While it's most important that the company continue, it is always sad to see a familiar space disappear. In the snug theatre at 416 W. 42nd Street—the anchor of Theatre Row—shows such as Sunday in the Park with George, The Heidi Chronicles, Assassins, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, Betty's Summer Vacation, The Substance of Fire, The Dining Room, Driving Miss Daisy, Floyd Collins and, most recently, Lobby Hero, had their premieres. Unfortunately, it's now impossible to access the Mainstage for purposes of reminiscing. The final offering there, The Credeaux Canvas, closed on June 17.
—By Robert Simonson