Who says the out-of-town tryout is dead? Just as in days of old, many of the shows due in New York City in 2000-2001 will be first seen in that traditional testing ground to the north, Boston. The big Beantown season begins with Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's Dr. Seuss musical, which has been called Seussical and The Seussical, but now apparently lives under the title Seussical the Musical. (How many SFX board meetings did it take to reach that decision?) The show, which will play a four-week run at the Colonial Theatre starting Aug. 27, will star the finally-confirmed Andrea Martin as The Cat in the Hat.
Just days after the Colonial sends The Cat and company on its way to Broadway, the Wilbur Theatre will open, on Sept. 22, Little Women, a new musical by Allan Knee (book), Kim Oler (music) and Alison Hubbard (lyrics), based on Louisa May Alcott's novel. The show, which will be workshopped in New York City next week, will move to Broadway in time for the holidays.
Christmas in Boston, meanwhile, will see the debut of the long-promised John Kander and Fred Ebb musical version of Durrenmatt's The Visit, starring Angela Lansbury. The month-long Colonial run will begin Dec. 19. Ann Reinking will choreograph and the director is Frank Galati (who will be seeing a lot of Boston this fall; he directs Seussical the Musical as well). The Visit will then most likely travel to Washington, DC, before landing a berth (possibly at the Winter Garden) on Broadway.
The Brahmans will not be seeing only musicals. Also due in Massachusetts is the Kelsey Grammar Macbeth, playing a May 17-28 run at the Colonial before bringing Birnam wood to Broadway. And expected in the fall is Tallulah, the one-woman show about theatrical diva Tallulah Bankhead, which Kathleen Turner has previously premiered in July 1997 at the Chichester Festival Theatre in Sussex, England, and played at Florida's Coconut Grove Playhouse in January 1999. The new October 10-22 engagement is billed as pre-Broadway.
Concerning Turner, somebody ought to tell the British theatre community to get a hold of itself. A season or so ago, the London press dropped their pencils when Nicole Kidman dropped her robe for a brief moment in David Hare's The Blue Room. Not only were the notices ecstatic, but reviewers committed to print such unfortunate phrases as "pure theatrical Viagra." Fueled by that critical hysteria, The Blue Room jumped to Broadway, where the apparently more sober minds and libidos of New York's fourth estate shrugged and wondered what all the fuss was about. On March 24, it was deja vu all over again, as Kathleen Turner stepped on the Gielgud Theatre's stage as Mrs. Robinson in a new stage version of The Graduate. During the seduction scene, she allowed gravity to get the best of the towel wrapped around her body, and wouldn't you know it but the West End press skipped a beat again, sending ticket sales skyrocketing. (There may be a lesson here for American producers, who often see their shows fail in London: Find a comely film actress and relieve her of costuming for a second or two; presto, instant West End hit.) In New York, audiences didn't find David Lindsay-Abaire's Fuddy Meers as fuddy as producers might have hoped. Just two months after the Manhattan Theatre Club hit reopened for a commercial run at the Minetta Lane Theatre, it announced a closing date of April 16. The theatre already has its next tenant: Keith Glover's blues fable about the Devil and a guitar-licks competition, Thunder Knocking on the Door. Glover's play has been seen by much of the nation in various regional productions, but never New York.
Central Park's Delacorte Theatre will see productions of A Winter's Tale and Julius Caesar this summer. The former will be directed by Brian Kulick, whose last assignment at the Delacorte was the as-seldom-done Shakespearian work, Timon of Athens. Piloting Julius Ceasar, meanwhile, is CSC Repertory artistic director Barry Edelstein. Those who have seen Edelstein's recent interactions with Moliere and Ben Jonson shouldn't expect to recognize their old friend, William.
On Broadway, meanwhile, Contact reopened at the Vivian Beaumont Theater and The Green Bird begins previews at the Cort on April 1. The two shows are largely the creations of, respectively, director-choreographer Susan Stroman and director-designer Julie Taymor -- two women who, in a short period, have become the top two directing talents in the musical theatre. The theatre community seems to know this full well, since the two do not lack for work. In addition to The Green Bird, The Lion King director Taymor is working another Disney project, a stage adaptation of Pinocchio. Stroman is even more busy. Once her new rendition of The Music Man opens on Broadway next month, she will turn her attentions to a reading of Mel Brooks' musical The Producers, starring Nathan Lane, and a possible national tour of Contact. And, as first reported by Playbill On-Line, she is developing a new musical with jazz pianist and crooner Harry Connick, Jr., based on the Emile Zola novel, "Therese Raquin."