PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 3-9: Return of the Vampires

News   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 3-9: Return of the Vampires It would take a supremely confident guy like Elton John—a man used to success, used to doing what he wants; who hobnobs with superstars, supermodels, royalty and high society; who probably pays precious little time worrying over the tribulations of a minor thoroughfare called Broadway—to announce to a New York theatre community still puncture-wounded by the recent musical Titanic called Dance of the Vampires, that he and Bernie Taupin are going to write a Broadway musical about vampires.

The new show, tentatively titled The Vampire Lestat, will bow on Broadway in 2005 and is inspired by the popular Anne Rice novels known as the Vampires Chronicles, whose central character is the elegant Lestat. Lyricist Taupin is, of course, composer John's original collaborator, the one that penned the words to most of those big hits back in the 1970s. The new musical will feature a book by Linda Woolverton and be directed by Robert Jess Roth, both of Beauty and the Beast fame. Roth was, oddly enough, the first director of John's only other Broadway musical, Aida, but was replaced after that show's disappointing Atlanta debut. The show will mark Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures Inc.'s first foray into the theatre.

Taupin said, "Our intention is make a classically-based show that is stripped of gothic clichés and that shows the vampire dealing with his damnation on a more realistic and human level. Please let me make this clear this is NOT a rock opera. Our hope is that it will be stylish, sexy, intelligent, rich and hypnotically dark."

The final Broadway openings of the season occurred over the past week. The Look of Love, director Scott Ellis and choreographer Ann Reinking's revue of the songs of Burt Bachrach and Hal David, brought in some of the least affectionate reviews of the season, while the Robert Falls revival of Long Day's Journey Into Night, starring Brian Dennehy, Vanessa Redgrave, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robert Sean Leonard, netted some of the most affectionate.

With all shows open and accounted for, the scene is set for Monday's Tony nominations. On May 8, the Tony Administration Committee made its final rulings (well, almost—some will not be made public until Monday). Its main decision was a reversal. Urban Cowboy's score, which was previously deemed ineligible for the Best Score category, will now be allowed. One issue still not resolved, after many months, is how the three rotating casts of principals in La Boheme will be handled. (The show's producers wanted them all to be considered for honors.) It is not the business of this column to make predictions (its "Theatre Week in Review," not "Theatre Week in Projection"), but the delay on this matter until after the nominations are revealed may possibly indicate the opera singers are in for a special Tony.

Is it me, or are New York's nonprofits taking longer and longer each year to announce their coming seasons? Here it is mid-May and such monsters as Playwrights Horizons and Roundabout Theatre Company have yet to go official with their line-ups. This week, three of Manhattan's most important companies finally came through, though a lot of the choices are still listed as "under consideration." One of them was the Roundabout (which, to be fair, has had its hands full opening three shows on Broadway in the past month). Possible 2003-04 attractions appeared on the theatre's website. A couple were expected: Spring Awakening, a new musical featuring the music of pop singer Duncan Sheik with a book and lyrics by Steven Sater, has been in the works for years, as has a new Joe Mantello staging of Stephen Sondheim's Assassins. Newer entries were The Cherry Orchard directed by Mark Brokaw, and The Caretaker directed by David Jones.

New York Theatre Workshop, meanwhile, may see a production of Paul Rudnick's latest comedy, Valhalla. It could also possibly host Kia Corthron's work, Light Raise the Roof at NYTW. And then there's the ever-present unnamed new work by Tony Kushner.

Second Stage is more definite about its commitments. Among them will be the world premiere of Jonathan Reynolds' Dinner with Demons and the New York City premieres of Charles L. Mee's Wintertime and Lisa Loomer’s Living Out. Also, in honor of its quarter-century celebration, Second Stage will launch a "PLAYBACK" series featuring one-night readings of some of its notable productions. Among the plays being considered (there's that word again) are Painting Churches, Coastal Disturbances, This Is Our Youth, The Good Times Are Killing Me, The Further Adventures of Kathy and Mo and Spoils of War.

Chicago's Pegasus Players are once again delving into the underexplored corners of Sondheim's oeuvre. The troupe was allowed to present the American premiere of the early Sondheim work Saturday Night a few years back. Now, it will present Sondheim and Burt Shevelove's quirky musical, The Frogs. The target date is spring 2004. News of the revival of the 1974 show, based on the 450 B.C. play by Aristophanes, comes at a time when Lincoln Center Theater (a previously reported by PBOL) is separately exploring the musical for a revised revival developed and reshaped by actor-writer Nathan Lane and director-choreographer Susan Stroman. The original production was staged in the Yale swimming pool with a cast included newcomers Christopher Durang, Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver.

Finally—and we all knew it would eventually come to this—reality television castoffs have infiltrated Broadway's casting offices. Frenchie Davis, the big-voiced singer who was ousted from TV's "American Idol" pop competition earlier this year, will make her Broadway debut as the "Seasons of Love" soloist in Rent, starting May 16.

(L-R) Elton John, Vanessa Redgrave in <i>Long Day's Journey Into Night</i>, <i>La Boheme</i>.
(L-R) Elton John, Vanessa Redgrave in Long Day's Journey Into Night, La Boheme. (Photo by Joan Marcus (Redgrave))