The last week brought an avalanche of news of Little Shop, Take Two. First Hairspray's Kerry Butler was offered the role of Audrey, the satiric musical's ditsy flower shop assistant. The next day, it was learned that comic and stage actor Rob Bartlett was up for the part of grouchy Mr. Mushnik, followed quickly by word that Michael-Leon Wooley was likely to play the show's monster plant itself, Audrey II. Obviously, new director Jerry Zaks was busy earning his pay. Finally, a new opening date of Oct. 2 was revealed, with previews beginning at the Virginia Theatre on Aug. 29.
The biggest Broadway opening of the week took place in Chicago. Well, it seemed like a Broadway opening anyway. Everyone in New York was paying attention and reading the reviews. It was, of course, Bounce, Stephen Sondheim's latest musical. Critics, aware they were reviewing a piece of guaranteed history, put on their thinking caps and wrote in their more reasonable and analytical manner. On balance, they seemed to enjoy Sondheim's and John Weidman's picaresque tale of the conniving, striving Mizner brothers, who thrived in the early years of the American Century. They particularly applauded Sondheim's score. But most agreed the story and its tone needed clarification. ("Dramaturgical chaos" is how Variety sweetly put it.) Perhaps director Harold Prince and his collaborators anticipated this reaction and for that reason booked a second, pre-New York stint for the show at the Kennedy Center. Stay tuned for Bounce, Take Two.
Katharine Hepburn, one of the few actors left who can honestly be called legendary, died at her Connecticut home on June 29. Her singular triumphs on screen ensured she'll be remembered as primarily a film actress, but her triumph as Tracy Lord in the original production of Philip Barry's sparkling comedy The Philadelphia Story is enough to forever earn her a place in the annals of American theatre history. (Barry wrote the part for her.) Throughout her career, she would return to the stage from time to time, exhibiting a genuine affection for live performance. Anyone who attempts her first Broadway musical (Coco) at the age of 62 must be given her due.
The closing of two shows which once showed distinct commercial promise illustrated Off-Broadway continuing financial woes. Jonathan Tolins' comedy The Last Sunday in June, the zany musical Zanna, Don't! both closed on June 29. Each had opened to good reviews and enthusiastic audiences. Zanna, Don't! producer Jack Dalgleish told Playbill On-Line he's continuing to explore a Broadway and/or tour future for it. Broadway has its troubles, too, of course. Baz Luhrmann's Tony Award-winning Broadway production of La Bohème, a critical and cultural sensation last fall when it opened, quietly ended its run at the Broadway Theatre June 29 after 12 previews and 228 performances.
Brian Stokes Mitchell seems to bring out the worst in his frequent co-star Marin Mazzie. When they first shared a Broadway stage, in Ragtime, Mazzie played a proper Victorian mother, with all the right morals and manners—though Mitchell's anarchist musician Coalhouse Walker, Jr., did his utmost to shake up her little world. By the time they were paired again, in Kiss Me, Kate, Mazzie had become tempestuous stage diva, Lilli Vanessi, who possesses a terrible temper and hardly any manners at all. Beginning, July 1, Mazzie was exposed to that bad influence Mitchell again, in the revival of Man of La Mancha, in which the actor plays deluded "knight" Don Quixote and Mazzie plays, well, a wench and a whore. Watch for the duo to soon star as Macbeth and his Lady.