The Great White North has finally caught up with the Great White Way. Canadian officials have charged deposed Livent impresario Garth Drabinsky with a laundry list of allegations connected with his management of the defunct theatrical outfit, ranging from kickbacks, misleading financial filings and the maintaining of the now notorious two sets of books. Of course, the U.S. Attorney's office made the same accusations more than a couple of years ago, but Drabinsky and partner Myron Gottlieb skipped across the border into Garth's homeland. The duo have since resisted all American efforts at extradition. At the time, Drabinsky's chief counsel Edward Greenspan argued that the affair was strictly a Canadian matter.
Well, if it is solely a Canadian matter, Toronto seems to view Drabinsky's reign as Livent's chief much the way New York did. The Ontario Securities Commission accused Drabinsky, Gottlieb, and Livent execs Gordon Eckstein and Robert Topol of altering the company's software, the better to monkey with the accounting books, and of paying out millions of dollars in false invoices only to have the money returned in personal payoffs to Drabinsky and Gottlieb. Garth's lawyers have again denied all charges. A date for a hearing will be set on Sept. 11, and there's little profit in crossing the border this time. Of course, there's always Mexico.
Broadway has its first commercial production of the 2001-02 season. Herb Gardner's comedy, A Thousand Clowns, began previews July 4 at the Longacre Theatre, with leading man Tom Selleck playing against type as the iconoclastic everyman Murray Burns. The ubiquitous John Rando directs (Rando will also bring Broadway its first musical of the season, when Urinetown begins performances at Henry Miller's Theatre on Aug. 20). In recent years, being first show out of the Broadway gate could well be compared to being the first soldier out of the foxhole. In 1999, the honor went to the reviled and short-lived John Pielmeier thriller Voices in the Dark. And last season, the candle of Kelsey Grammer's Macbeth was brief indeed. Perhaps with Selleck, three's a charm.
A Thousand Clowns was revived not long ago at the Roundabout Theatre Company. That production co-starred Marin Hinkle, who has since gone on to television stardom in "Once and Again." Now she returns to the stage in a modest way as the star of the Barrow Group's new production of Craig Lucas' Blue Window, the comedy of modern melancholy which seems to inspire a revival every five years of so. Performances began July 2. In other news, Brooke Shields has shocked — shocked! — audiences once again with her ribald choice of roles, stepping into the part of Sally Bowles in the Broadway revival of Cabaret July 6. And Gene Wilder returned to the stage after a long hiatus, in the Westport Country Playhouse's Don't Make Me Laugh, a trio of comic plays, including Anton Chekhov's The Proposal; Shaw's The Music Cure; and Feydeau's Caught with His Trance Down. Theatregoers who can't get into The Producers may choose to take in this show and thus live vicariously through the original Leo Bloom.
Elsewhere, theatres seems to be having a hard time keeping hold of stars visiting from Hollywood. Mary Tyler Moore and Mike Myers bowed out of productions at the Williamstown Theatre Festival earlier this summer, and Dylan McDermott ducked a booking at the Berkshire Theatre Festival. Now, it appears Ethan Hawke will be a no-show at Boston's Huntington Theatre Company in 2001-02. The movie actor was to have headlined a production of Tennessee Williams' Camino Real. But sources have him exiting that venture, causing a shake-up in the Huntington schedule. As a result, Kristine Nielsen has dropped out of mounting of Christopher Durang's Betty's Summer Vacation, in which she would recreated her triumphant Off-Broadway performance as a motormouthed, alcohol-swilling matron. Huntington has so far declined to confirm the changes. There was news from Chicago this week. The Goodman Theatre's season had been leaking for months, mainly due to the high profile nature of several of its coming productions—namely Kander and Ebb's The Visit and the Robert Falls-Brian Dennehy Long Day's Journey Into Night, both bearing Broadway prospects. Flanking those two monsters will be The Beard of Avon, Amy Freed's dramatic conjecture that Shakespeare, the actor, was a "beard" for a more genteel writer; Galileo, Galilei, Philip Glass and Mary Zimmerman's look at the life of the title scientist; and Charles L. Mee's widely produced reinterpretation of Aeschylus' The Suppliant Women, Big Love, a show that will also be part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music's 2001 Next Wave Festival.
The other big boy of Windy City drama, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, announced plans for its Studio and Garage Theatre seasons. Among the Studio attractions will be Richard's Greenberg's The Dazzle, while the Garage will feature Robert William Sherwood's Absolution, directed by Martha Plimpton, and the Midwest premiere of Stephen Adly Guirgis' Jesus Hopped the `A' Train.
Finally, there is no rest for Terrence McNally. Just when you thought you heard the last about Corpus Christi — the playwright's gay retelling of Jesus' story, which nearly shut down Manhattan Theatre Club in 1998 — the play has sparked religious indignation anew in the Heartland. College student at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne were planning to present the drama Aug. 10-11 when state officials got wind of the undertaking. And because this Corpus Christi is born of a public institution instead of a private theatre company, it's fighting something MTC never faced: a lawsuit, the plaintiffs of which include 21 state lawmakers (all but one, Republican). Said the plaintiffs' attorney, John Price, who sounds like he's been taking lessons from the Catholic League: "This is not just an innocuous little play. It's a full-blown, unmitigated attack on Christianity and its founders." It could not be learned at press time if any of Christianity's founders were among the plaintiffs.
— By Robert Simonson