The Broadway stagehands union decided last week that there wasn't nearly enough for which to be thankful, and authorized a strike against the League of American Theatres and Producers. The union -- the toughest of the Broadway guilds by far and the perennial focus of producers' ire -- has been working without a contract since last summer. A strike would disrupt the highly lucrative holiday season, but the League isn't flinching, calling the authorization nothing but a negotiating tactic.
The Nederlanders, meanwhile, should give extra thanks this year. Their theatres are sitting pretty, the organization having reached an agreement with the stagehands last September. The League and the union will sit down again on Nov. 29.
Composer Frank Wildhorn should write a musical about Rasputin. He should know a lot on the subject, since his shows more and more behave like the mad Russian monk, who famously refused to die. We all know about The Scarlet Pimpernel, which has enjoyed a third as many lives as a cat. Now, comes the return of The Civil War, Wildhorn's song cycle, which came and went on Broadway this past spring. The show has been redesigned, reconceived, its cast trimmed and its director replaced for a national tour beginning in Cincinnati, Jan. 18, 2000. The road show, directed by Stephen Rayne, and starring Larry Gatlin and John Schneider (who will alternate in the lead role), is backed by NETworks Presentations, LLC. Six-months of dates are already booked, most of them in Yankee territory.
The perpetual logjam among Off-Broadway houses has broken up a bit lately. Last week, Thwak! announced it would clear out in January, freeing up the much sought-after Minetta Lane Theatre. Now the Cherry Lane Theatre's current tenant, the revue Stars in Your Eyes, has given up the ghost, posting a closing notice for Nov. 28. Already laying claim to the not-yet-empty stage is Fully Committed, the hit one-man show which has been poised to pounce on the soonest available theatre since closing an extended run at the Vineyard Theatre several weeks ago. There was a bit of a shuffle at Off-Broadway's Public Theater, where a problem with the set resulted in the first performance of the much-anticipated production of Hamlet, starring Liev Schreiber, being pushed back a week to Nov. 30. An extra week of performances has been tacked onto the end of the run in January. Meanwhile, elsewhere at the Public, Suzan-Lori Parks' In the Blood opened to largely strong reviews, and promptly extended until Dec. 19 (the show's second extention).
The Thanksgiving weekend brings several openings across the nation. Anne Meara's latest play, Down The Garden Paths, opened at New Jersey's George Street Playhouse on Nov. 23. Starring are two members of Meara's family -- daughter Amy Stiller and, via video cameo, hubby Jerry Stiller -- as well as three of the Wallach-Jackson clan -- Eli Wallach, Anne Jackson and daughter Roberta Wallach. The remainder of the cast are not relations to either family, not even cousins.
New Haven, CT, gets a new look at Preson Sturges's comedy A Cup of Coffee, when the Yale Repertory Theatre production opens on Nov. 26. On the same day, audience's of Cambridge's American Repertory Theatre's staging of Ivanov will see how Debra Winger fares with Chekhov. And Off-Broadway, again on Nov. 26, Elizabeth Ashley and Sam Trammell return to the New York stage in If Memory Serves at the Promenade Theatre.
Though the producers of Ragtime are standing firm behind the show's Jan. 16 closing date, rumors continue to circulate that the sprawling musical will shrink and open at another Broadway house. Whatever happens to the show, novelist and "Ragtime" author E.L. Doctorow has taken a symbolic leaving of the turn-of-the-century story. He has placed on the market the three-story, 12-room house located on Broadview Street in the "North End" of New Rochelle -- the place he's called home for years and the house which gave birth to the novel and, later, the show.
"Ragtime was inspired by this house," Doctorow told Playbill On Line, "and my wife and I really have mixed feelings about selling it. It's too big, though, with just the two of us banging around inside of it."
Doctorow hopes to close a deal at the same time the Ford Center closes Ragtime.
--By Robert Simonson