PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 22-28: Suddenly, Everyone's Kind of Town

News   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 22-28: Suddenly, Everyone's Kind of Town The movie version of the musical Chicago won the Academy Award for Best Picture on Monday—the first time a toe-tapper has pulled off that trick in 35 years.

The repercussions of this improbable triumph are already apparent. Hollywood producers are bear-hugging the movie musical, a genre long thought to be even more dead than the Western. Miramax mogul Harvey Weinstein said his first order of business would be to start a new musical. And New Line Cinema wants to commit Hairspray to celluloid while the show is still packing 'em in on Broadway. (That would make Hairspray perhaps the first musical inspired by a movie to be made into a movie musical.)

As for the stage show which inspired it all, the current Broadway revival, only recently thought an aging product barely worth keeping alive, is looking pretty spruce. The show is playing to 99.1 percent of capacity, numbers it hasn't hit since its first years. And Melanie Griffith is in rumored to be in talks to play Roxie—surely the biggest star to show interest in the production in years. What's more, Barry and Fran Weissler, who produced the revival, will launch another Chicago tour beginning June 10 at the National Theatre in Washington, DC. It plays there for three weeks. Cities booked so far include St. Paul, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston and, of course, Chicago.

About Chicago—the city, that is—the Broadway-bound production of Sweet Charity, starring Marisa Tomei, has been postponed while the show searches for a new creative team (directed Walter Bobbie departed a month ago.) And Michele Pawk replaces Faith Prince in the Goodman Theater's premiere of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's new musical, Bounce. Also new to the cast are Jane Powell, Herndon Lackey and Gavin Creel. The Goodman's next production is August Wilson's latest, Gem of the Ocean. Marion McClinton will direct such Wilson veterans as Paul Butler, Anthony Chisholm, Yvette Ganier and Raynor Schein.

It has proved devilishly difficult to predict what will succeed Off-Broadway this season. Highly anticipated efforts by established names like David Mamet, David Ives and David Lindsay-Abaire had many fans, but did not inspire uniform enthusiasm. Meanwhile Randal Myler, the pop music excavator who has not exactly rendered himself a critics' darling with bio-revues like Love, Janis, got uniformly rapturous reviews for his latest offering, Hank Williams: Lost Highway, which began a commercial run March 26. The William Finn revue, Elegies, won some lovely notices, but will nonetheless close it 9-performance run—that's right, 9 performances only—on March 30. And then there are those puppets in Avenue Q. The quirky musical, with a cast of humans and Jim Henson-like cloth creations in light-hearted but distinctly adult situations, must surely be the surprise success of the season (and a welcome arrival for co-producers Vineyard Theatre and The New Group, which both badly needed a hit). It has extended to April 27 and commercial producers are planning a transfer.

On Broadway, Urban Cowboy opened to not happy words from the dailies. The show was based on the movie that starred John Travolta and Debra Winger and shared much of the film's familiar score. One imagines that producers, looking at the back to back successes of The Producers and Hairspray, thought Broadway needed and wanted another cinema-inspired show. Of course, before those two smashes came disasters like Saturday Night Fever and Footloose, both of which resemble Urban Cowboy in that they used music from the original flick. Perhaps the future formula for silver screen-mining producers should go something like this: steal the story; leave the score.

Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Chicago," Jen Colella and Matt Cavenaugh rehearsing for <i>Urban Cowboy</i>, and Kate from <i>Avenue Q</i>.
Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Chicago," Jen Colella and Matt Cavenaugh rehearsing for Urban Cowboy, and Kate from Avenue Q. (Photo by Aubrey Reuben (<i>Urban Cowboy</i>), Rick Lyons (<i>Avenue Q</i>))