PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 17-23: The Richenthal Gets Richer

News   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 17-23: The Richenthal Gets Richer Who needs to look for news when you've got David Richenthal around? The theatrical producer has become a one-man font of new items and rampant speculation, and this week he ruled the trades and columns. The week began with more news about his projected Chicago-to-Broadway revival of O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night. Richenthal seems to have won the tug of war with British producer Bill Kenwright over the rights to the play (not a pushover opponent, Mr. Kenwright), and continues to court the star of Kenwright's London production of the drama, Jessica Lange. Richenthal's choice for director, Robert Falls, has also been chatting with Lange, who was sweetly noncommittal with Variety, saying "I'm not through with Mary [Tyrone] yet." Falls was more open about the ongoing negotiations to place the movie star on the Goodman Theatre stage opposite Brian Dennehy. Falls also mentioned that Philip Seymour Hoffman and Billy Crudup were in contention to play the two Tyrone sons. If all goes forward, Richenthal plans to move Journey from the Goodman to a March 2002 debut at a Jujamcyn house on Broadway.
Arthur Miller and producer David Richenthal; Gabriel Byrne and Cherry Jones in Moon for the Misbegotten; Wilson Jermaine Heredia in Rent.
Arthur Miller and producer David Richenthal; Gabriel Byrne and Cherry Jones in Moon for the Misbegotten; Wilson Jermaine Heredia in Rent. (Photo by Richenthal by Aubrey Reuben; <i>Moon</i> by E.Y. Exit; <i>Rent</i> by Carol Rosegg)

Who needs to look for news when you've got David Richenthal around? The theatrical producer has become a one-man font of new items and rampant speculation, and this week he ruled the trades and columns. The week began with more news about his projected Chicago-to-Broadway revival of O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night. Richenthal seems to have won the tug of war with British producer Bill Kenwright over the rights to the play (not a pushover opponent, Mr. Kenwright), and continues to court the star of Kenwright's London production of the drama, Jessica Lange. Richenthal's choice for director, Robert Falls, has also been chatting with Lange, who was sweetly noncommittal with Variety, saying "I'm not through with Mary [Tyrone] yet." Falls was more open about the ongoing negotiations to place the movie star on the Goodman Theatre stage opposite Brian Dennehy. Falls also mentioned that Philip Seymour Hoffman and Billy Crudup were in contention to play the two Tyrone sons. If all goes forward, Richenthal plans to move Journey from the Goodman to a March 2002 debut at a Jujamcyn house on Broadway.

One would think all the rigamarole surrounding the O'Neill would be enough to keep a man busy. But, no. In his spare time, Richenthal was signing Liam Neeson and Richard Eyre to star and direct, respectively, for his new Broadway revival (Richenthal is almost exclusively a Broadway man) of Arthur Miller's The Crucible. The play would premiere for a limited run in February 2002. (That's right, around the same time as Journey.) Every playwright should have a producer as loyal as Richenthal, who has previously backed productions of Miller's Death of a Salesman and The Price.

In case you haven't noticed yet, Richenthal likes classy plays and is particularly enamored of those that have won the Pulitzer (as Salesman, Crucible, Journey and The Young Man From Atlanta, another text he produced, did). In fact, one of his first big shows was the New York City mounting of Robert Schenkkan's mammoth The Kentucky Cycle.

While Richenthal wasn't consumed with the above goings-on, the gossip mills had him putting in a lot of calls to Martin Markinson, the owner of the Helen Hayes Theatre. Why? Some say he wants to take over the jewel box space. Some say he has plans for a season of plays at the Hayes. I think he just needs a bigger office to handle all his affairs.

New productions of George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara and Clare Booth Luce’s The Women were announced for the Roundabout Theatre Company for 2001. Cherry Jones—who, after openly expressing her difficulty mastering the role of Josie Hogan in Moon for the Misbegotten, has apparently gotten right back on that theatrical horse—will star as the title character in the Shaw, to be directed by Daniel Sullivan. The play will begin previews June 15 and open July 12. Scott Elliot, who directed Three Sisters at the Roundabout a few seasons back, will direct Luce’s poison-pen satire of the vicious sisterhood. No cast members have been announced. The staging will debut in November. Both productions will play the American Airlines Theatre. Bat Boy, the Musical, which flapped its way through a West Coast staging and several developmental readings over the past few years, opened Off-Broadway March 21 and most critics seemed utterly surprised with themselves as they penned their positive reviews. Meanwhile, Calista Flockhart may be flying off to London soon to play Tracy Lord in Philip Barry's The Philadelphia Story. Variety reported that the play would begin on May 21, but Flockhart's representative refused to confirm. If Flockhart does go, she won't be the first Yankee to prefer the London stage over New York. Jessica Lange has already been mentioned. And Macaulay Culkin's Madame Melville recently closed. Now, word comes that Glenn Close will star in A Streetcar Named Desire. But nothing beats the news that Robert DeNiro may join the long-running West End hit, Art. This Hollywood-to-London trend began, of course, with Nicole Kidman's famous appearance in The Blue Room. Kidman is set to return to England in the Royal National Theatre's new production of Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea.

Finally, the original cast of Rent has done pretty well for itself since leaving the hit show. Adam Pascal has gone Disney in Aida; Daphne Rubin-Vega's stage career has been less than Rocky (as in Horror Show); Anthony Rapp was a good man in Charlie Brown; and Idina Menzel has wailed her way from the 1920's, in The Wild Party (with Taye Diggs), to The Summer of '42. Jesse L. Martin keeps the "Law & Order" on television every week. And nearly everyone has formed their own rock band. Now, the only Rent actor to win a Tony Award gets some work. Starting April 11, Wilson Jermaine Heredia will star in the Vineyard Theatre's Laura Nyro project, Eli's Coming. And a long time coming, too.

—By Robert Simonson