When Kelsey Grammer stepped on to the stage of Broadway's Music Box Theatre on June 15, the opening night of his Macbeth, he did indeed see a dagger before him. In fact, several daggers, and they were all in the hands of the local critics. Grammer did not survive the many blows he received at the hands of that ink-stained band and Macbeth posted a closing notice saying it would see no more tomorrows after June 25. All told, the play -- the first offering of the 2000-2001 season -- would run a total of 8 previews and 13 performances.
Meanwhile, up at Connecticut's Long Wharf Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company's visiting production of Macbeth, starring Anthony Sher, also had a opening date of June 15 and a closing date of June 25. And that's all it had in common with the Grammer project. This version of the Scottish Play was considered a hit. Reviews for the limited run were rosy, with Variety quipping, "It appears that New York got the wrong Macbeth." But no dice for a Gotham run. The RSC said it's New Haven and out.
North of the border, it seems you just can't keep an ostentatious, self promoting rogue producer down. Garth Drabinsky, late chieftain of the very late Livent, reemerged from wherever he's been to announce his intentions to produce Athol Fugard's The Island in Toronto next year. It's been two years since Drabinsky was ousted from his post at Livent, with accusations of million of dollars worth of accounting irregularities following him. In early 1999, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan charged him and his partner, Myron L. Gottlieb, with 16 counts of fraud and conspiracy. Livent was dismantled, with much of the organization sold to SFX. Attempts to extradite Drabinsky from Canada, as well as a separate investigation by Canadian authorities, are ongoing. Drabinsky, however, declined to discuss any of these matters.
In a side light nearly overshadowed by Drabinsky's involvement in the project, The Island will feature John Kani and Winston Ntshona, who starred in the original 1975 Broadway production of the play and shared the Tony Award that year for best actor in a play.
The scene in New York was a quiet one, with a few events causing a ripple of excitement. The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin -- the Kirsten Childs musical which has won a slew of development awards -- finally had its New York City debut at Off Broadway's Playwrights Horizons. Reviews varied, but the New York Times was very enthusiastic indeed, leading to talk of an extension or a commercial transfer. Uptown, summer in Central Park officially began with the first preview, on June 21, of The Winter's Tale at the Delacorte Theatre. Brian Kulick directs a cast featuring Jonathan Hadary and Bronson Pinchot. (Jeffrey Wright, Jamey Sheridan and David McCallum have been announced for the second Park offering, Julius Caesar.) Last year, around this time, the Off-Broadway company Primary Stages quietly opened Conor McPherson's This Lime Tree Bower, the play somewhat overshadowed by McPherson's The Wier, which continued on Broadway. Bower, however, kept extending, becoming the sleeper hit of the summer. Well, Primary Stages may have a similar situation on their hands this year with Daisy Foote's When They Speak of Rita. The Foote family extravaganza, which features Hallie Foote under the direction of patriarch, Horton Foote, began on May 3, was to end on June 4, then extended to June 25 and now is branching out into an open run. These Footes, apparently, have legs.
There was a bit of news out on the road, as well. Last week, it was announced that Rex Smith and Marilu Henner would headline the tour of Annie Get Your Gun, commencing July 25 in Dallas. Henner's in it for a while, but it looks like, after the Oct. 31 stop in Boston, Broadway's Frank Butler, Tom Wopat, will join the road company. And, while Saturday Night Fever may be having some trouble staying alive on Broadway, that won't stop the disco musical from dancing across the nation. A 56-city, two-year tour will begin Jan. 30, 2001, in Minneapolis.
The dancing will stop, however, at Broadway's Footloose on July 2. The musical, inspired by the 1984 film of the same name, will have run nearly two years. The closing notice was one of two signs heralding the fall arrival of the new musical, The Seussical (which has laid claim to Footloose's Richard Rodgers Theatre as its NYC home). The other sign was the news that Kevin Chamberlin, Tony nominated for Dirty Blonde, would leave that show on July 5. Chamberlin is needed in Boston to play Horton the Elephant during the out of-town tryout of the Dr. Seuss-inspired piece. Rehearsals begin July 10. Perhaps some of the Footloose gang could get jobs as Whoville Whos or Sneeches on the Beaches.