PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 26-June 1: Next Year's Contenders

News   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 26-June 1: Next Year's Contenders Does anyone have plans for this weekend?
The Tony Award; Ann Reinking and Ben Vereen in Fosse; Sutton Foster and Marc Kudisch in Thoroughly Modern Millie.
The Tony Award; Ann Reinking and Ben Vereen in Fosse; Sutton Foster and Marc Kudisch in Thoroughly Modern Millie. (Photo by <i>Fosse</i> photo by Eduardo Patino and <i>Millie</i> by Russell Caldwell)

Does anyone have plans for this weekend?

Seriously, everything seems in place for this Sunday's Tony Awards festivities. The Producers has ordered its trophy cases. Host Nathan Lane should be in good form, having spent most of the week out of the Mel Brooks musical while "on vocal rest." Teetering shows like Jane Eyre and A Class Act have found ways to hang on through June 3. And The Full Monty composer David Yasbek found an outlet for his reeling anxiety by throwing spitballs at Brooks (see The New York Times metro section, May 31).

Meanwhile, in the provinces, theatre folk have others things to do — like cook up next year's Tony winner for best musical. A few likely contenders will be here before you know it. ABBA-mad Manhattanites (ahem) have been waiting with bated breath since early 1999 for the arrival of Mamma Mia!. Oct. 5 they will get their wish, when the show begins previews at the Winter Garden. Before that, however, the musical will land in Boston, the national tour's final pre-Broadway date, Aug. 17 to Oct. 28. Meanwhile, Thoroughly Modern Millie, the latest, Broadway-bound example of that form that, to the amazement of all, apparently everybody absolutely loves — Traditional Musical Comedy! (who knew?) — has announced further casting. Sutton Foster had already been announced as Millie, the "thoroughly modern" flapper girl at the heart of the new musical with updated material by Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan. Joining her will be Gavin Creel as Millie's love interest, Jimmy, and Angela Christian as Miss Dorothy. Marc Kudisch is still in negotiations to repeat his La Jolla Playhouse role as Trevor Graydon, the other man Millie falls for. (Is Bells Are Ringing holding him back?) Newsday has mentioned Andrea Martin playing a comic villainess.

Another highly anticipated show is librettist-lyricist-composer Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years, a bittersweet, vest pocket musical about a disintegrating marriage which has extended to July 1 at Northlight Theatre in Skokie, IL. The project — very different from and more commercially viable that Brown's earlier Parade — was loved by the Chicago dailies. The piece was originally written for Lincoln Center Theater, and presumably its future is in the hands of that producing giant.

One Tony-winning musical decided to schedule its exit this week, and the first people to get this scoop were any tourists who happened to pass through Times Square and look up at a new mile-high Fosse poster casually announcing a closing date of Sept. 1. Taking the place of the popular, all-dancing revue at the Broadhurst this fall will be another dance show. Well, "dance" is in the title, anyway. It's the long-promised new production of August Strindberg's expressionistic Dance of Death. Richard Greenberg's new adaptation of the drama will be directed by Sean Mathias. Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren have been repeatedly mentioned for the leads. A couple of new leading lady editions to Broadway: Carolee Carmello became only the second Kate in Broadway's revival of Kiss Me, Kate, taking over the role from the long-serving Marin Mazzie on May 29 at the Martin Beck Theatre; and Brooke Shields will be the next Sally Bowles in the long-running Broadway revival of Cabaret. She will begin her stay on July 3.

It was a bad week for legendary dramatic actresses. Julie Harris was admitted to a Chicago-area hospital with an undisclosed illness, according to Victory Gardens Theatre, which announced she would be unable to continue in the world premiere play, Fossils. Harris was admitted to Chicago's Grant Hospital on May 26, and was transferred to St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, IL, on May 28, where her condition was listed as stable May 30. In Los Angeles, Uta Hagen, 81, fared better. On May 30, she accidentally stepped off the stage of the Geffen Playhouse and into the audience during an Act Two scene change of the play, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks. Though she was examined by two doctors and stood up, apparently fine, the Geffen management decided to play it safe, call off the performance and send Hagan to the hospital. She got a clean bill of health and performed May 31.

And the prize for the most hip and unusual spring funding-raising event goes to Off-Broadway's The New Group. The place: The Russian Tea Room. The attraction: Courtney Love. The former lead singer of Hole and widow of Kurt Cobain will sing — wait for it — standards from the 1920's and 1930's. Fans of the perverse, the line forms to the left.

— By Robert Simonson