PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 30-Dec. 6: Christmas Rush

News   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 30-Dec. 6: Christmas Rush Broadway openings in December are so plentiful that one might think the Tony Awards people had moved the annual June ceremony up to January. This week alone saw two of them: Our Town on Dec. 4 and Man of La Mancha the following day. Baz Luhrmann's La Bohème, Dance of the Vampires and Medea with Fiona Shaw will follow on Dec. 8, 9 and 10, respectively. Later comes Imaginary Friends, the Lillian Hellman Mary McCarthy play by Nora Ephron, on Dec. 12, and Lincoln Center Theater's revival of Dinner at Eight on Dec. 19. Then, finally, the industry breaks for the holiday, by which time it will sorely need a break.

Broadway openings in December are so plentiful that one might think the Tony Awards people had moved the annual June ceremony up to January. This week alone saw two of them: Our Town on Dec. 4 and Man of La Mancha the following day. Baz Luhrmann's La Bohème, Dance of the Vampires and Medea with Fiona Shaw will follow on Dec. 8, 9 and 10, respectively. Later comes Imaginary Friends, the Lillian Hellman Mary McCarthy play by Nora Ephron, on Dec. 12, and Lincoln Center Theater's revival of Dinner at Eight on Dec. 19. Then, finally, the industry breaks for the holiday, by which time it will sorely need a break.

The receptions of Our Town, which stars Paul Newman in his Broadway return, and Man of La Mancha, with Brian Stokes Mitchell, were rather mixed. The commercial fate of both shows rests, to a large degree, on the shoulders of its stars. Newman has already taken his vehicle well past the goal line—Our Town recouped before it opened. Whether Mitchell, a lesser showbiz deity than Newman but a full-fledged musical theatre star, can do the same will be seen in the months to come.

Much of the news this past week had to do with musicals. Into the Woods, which won the 2002 Tony for Best Revival of a Musical, will not make it to 2003. The show will close at the Broadhurst on Dec. 29. But what is bad news for Sondheim and company is just the thing looked for by the producers of Urban Cowboy—the new show based on the 1980 film which had a good run in Florida this fall. The new hybrid enterprise—its score has existing country songs from the original soundtrack and elsewhere, as well as new tunes by Jason Robert Brown and Jeff Blumenkrantz—will move into the Broadhurst in February.

Casting of the hotly-anticipated Bernadette Peters-Sam Mendes rendition of Gypsy has been flowing like molasses. Over the months, the show has slowly, painfully admitted to the casting of Tammy Blanchard as Louise, Kate Reinders as Dainty June and Kate Buddeke as Mazeppa. Now, there's news on the critical role of Herbie, Mama Rose's man. John Dossett's agent confirmed the actor was in negotiations.

The Roundabout Theatre Company has completely cast The Look of Love. The show has been on the Roundabout radar for nearly five years. It will finally see the limelight at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on April 1. The cast features Liz Callaway, Jonathan Dokuchitz, Janine La Manna, Shannon Lewis, and Desmond Richardson. The choreographer is Ann Reinking, and Scott Ellis is director. And the Marisa Tomei revival of Sweet Charity will have a May tryout in Toronto before coming to Broadway in August.

On the play front, Robert Sean Leonard and Parker Posey will star in Fifth of July, the Lanford Wilson play which replaced Talley's Folly for the January 2003 slot in the Signature Theatre Company's current slate of Wilson plays.

Finally, Marian Seldes stepped into the Lincoln Center Theater revival of Dinner at Eight Dec. 3, taking over for an ailing Dorothy Loudon. Seldes may be the only actress left in the American theatre to merit the good old label of trouper. Anyone who has met her knows her to be ever cheerful, enthusiastic and unpretentious (which is not the same as highly mannered—something she absolutely is). She never misses a performance and has stepped in to save productions before—most recently, for another LCT production, Ring Round the Moon, in which she substituted for a sick Irene Worth. What's more, the tireless woman is constantly working. Since 1999, she has appeared on the New York stage in Ring Round the Moon, Dear Liar at Irish Rep, The Torchbearers at Drama Dept., The Butterfly Connection at Playwrights Horizons, The Play About the Baby Off-Broadway, 45 Seconds from Broadway on Broadway, Play Yourself Off-Broadway and now Dinner at Eight. It makes you wonder about the perennial complaint concerning the lack of roles for actresses of a certain age.