PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 17-23: Springtime for Springer

ICYMI   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 17-23: Springtime for Springer With all the lesser theatre awards over and done with and the Tonys still two weeks off, the theatre press turned its attention overseas, where a unlikely production called Jerry Springer—The Opera has become the obsession of American theatre producers and owners. The new work, which, yes, has the eponymous talk show host as its protagonist, is currently the hottest ticket in London and many suspect that by next spring it could be the hottest ticket on Broadway as well.

According to the dailies, many a Broadway producer hopes to be part of any potential New York transfer and all three of the major Broadway theatre owners are keen to give Springer shelter. London producers Allen McKeown and Avalon Productions will be in New York next month to explore possibilities. The next step for the Royal National Theatre production would seem to be a move to the West End. (New National Theatre Director Nicholas Hytner smartly chose the opera as his tenure's first production). The show itself appears to be a mix of the sensational and low brow—the first act is the enactment of an episode of "The Jerry Springer Show"—and the high-minded and moralistic—the second act takes Jerry down to Hell for a netherworld debate featuring God and Satan.

Playwrights Horizons revealed the rest of its 2002-03 season, and it includes new works by two major American playwrights. Craig Lucas will see the world premiere of his play, Small Tragedy, directed by Mark Wing-Davey. The story is spurred by "an enterprising Boston director stages his own translation of Oedipus Rex." Jon Robin Baitz's Chinese Friends, meanwhile, concerns a father in exile and his son, who is searching for answers. Baitz seems to be of a foreign frame of mind lately. His other 2002-03 premiere is called The Paris Letter. It, too, is about a man whose past catches up with him. The premiere will be at Boston's Huntington Theatre.

The Tony Awards found its host. He's never been on a Broadway stage, but that will change this fall. Hugh Jackman, the Curly of the London production of Oklahoma!, will be coming to town this fall as Peter Allen in The Boy from Oz. Most television viewers, of course, will identify him as "Wolverine," the character he played in the "X Men" films.

When Edward Albee's The Play About the Baby premiered a few years back, many people wondered if it was about that baby—the one in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. That didn't prove to be the case. Now, word comes that Albee has written a companion piece to his breakout hit, The Zoo Story, and this time there's no mistake about the connection. The play, called Home Life, is billed as a prequel to The Zoo Story, in which two very different men squared off over a park bench in Central Park. The new play, which will bow next season at Hartford Stage, takes place the morning before the Zoo encounter. Whether we'll see the "home life" of Zoo's boho beatnik or its straight-laced everyman, or both, is not known.

Finally, the Philadelphia Theatre Company this week begins the premiere of Jeffrey Hatcher's play A Picasso. This is Hatcher's latest work, though that is not saying much. Not to disparage the playwright's work, which is quite fine; it's just that every three months or so, a reporter may be privileged to announce the arrival of the latest by Jeffrey Hatcher. In the past year or so, this Adam Rapp of the regionals has produced: Tuesdays with Morrie, which ran Off-Broadway this season; Mercy of a Storm, a premiere at City Theatre in Pittsburgh; his adaptation of Herman Melville's Pierre, which debuted at Denver Center Theatre Company; another adaptation, of George Bernard Shaw's The Unsocial Socialist, called Smash, at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre; and Minneapolis' Children's Theatre Company unveiled Korczak's Children. The man works out of Minnesota, where, it is said, the people possess a strong work ethic.

Hugh Jackman, Michael Brandon &amp; company in <i>Jerry Springer </i>
Hugh Jackman, Michael Brandon & company in Jerry Springer (Photo by Spinger: Catherine Ashmore)