PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 11-17: A Boy and His Show

News   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 11-17: A Boy and His Show Will theatredom's version of the yellow brick road (i.e., Broadway) lead either of this fall's big, new, Oz-related musicals to The Emerald City. Emerald as in green, as in money. That's been the question on the minds of the people behind The Boy from Oz and Wicked. Both cost a lot to put up, and both are sitting on the cushion of a sizable advance. But each needs the validation of reviews to truly catch fire.

Wicked will have to wait until Halloween to know its fate, but The Boy from Oz found out this week. The verdict was not a surprise. Star Hugh Jackman—playing entertainer Peter Allen in a musical retelling of the showbiz-dipped Aussie's life—was long thought to be Oz's raison d'etre and the show's primary asset. The reviews echoed this belief, praising Jackman as dazzling and charismatic, and faulting the show as schematic and dull. Can a newly christened matinee idol keep a show floating on the sighs of dreamy-eyed women and men alone? Stay tuned.

Less of a matinee idol, but delivering just as powerful a star performance is Tovah Feldshuh, in fat suit, wiry wig and false nose as Israeli prime minister Golda Meir in William Gibson's solo show Golda's Balcony, which opened Oct. 15 on Broadway. The reviews were by and large positive about the play, and specifically flattering to Feldshuh, though the grumpy old Times groused.

After a decade and a half as the heart-rending eyesore of West 47th Street, the old Biltmore Theatre reopened this week and took on its first client since 1987, Richard Greenberg's The Violet Hour. Both refreshed building and play are courtesy of the nonprofit Manhattan Theatre Club, which no longer has to come begging to the Shuberts or Nederlanders for a Broadway house. Rather appropriately, Greenberg's drama takes place in New York in 1919, just a few years before the Biltmore was built.

Time to update your scorecards on a couple ever-fluctuating Broadway wannabes. Paper Doll, the romantic comedy about bigger than-life novelist Jacqueline Susann which has set its cap for Broadway more than once, postponed its opening yet again. "A delay in certain financing," was named as the culprit. (Before you could say "Valley of the Dolls," the show's star Swoosie Kurtz was stolen away by MCC's production of Bryony Lavery's Frozen.) And it seems like old times at the new revival of Sweet Charity. The show has re-engaged its original director, Walter Bobbie, and is pursuing its most consistently mentioned leading lady, Marisa Tomei.

If you have as many shows to your credit as lyricist-librettist Betty Comden, it's not surprising that someone's always working on a new revival of some title in your canon. Arthur Laurents and Amanda Green, daughter of Comden's late partner Adolph Green, are revising the 1967 musical look at African-American history, Hallelujah, Baby!, in hopes of staging it Off-Broadway during the 2004-05 season. Another forgotten black musical from around the same time period, The Me Nobody Knows, may also soon see the light of day again. Maurice Hines will direct a new Broadway revival of the show, according to its composer Gary William Friedman. Finally, the New York premiere of Paula Vogel's latest work, The Long Christmas Ride Home, began at Off Broadway's Vineyard Theatre on Oct. 14. It's only Vogel's second new play to reach New York since she won the Pulitzer in 1994 for How I Learned My Drive. But then, the Pulitzer has in recent years acted as a sort of Bermuda Triangle of honors. Win a Pulitzer, disappear from the stage—that seems to be the pattern. 2001'S Homebody/Kabul was Tony Kushner's first sizable drama since he claimed the prize in 1993 for Angels in America: Millennium Approaches. Margaret Edson, the 1999 victor for Wit, has made it clear she'll never write another play. New York is still waiting for the next opuses from Donald Margulies and David Auburn, the 2000 and 2001 champions. The late composer Jonathan Larson sadly was refused by fate the chance to follow up on the award given to Rent. And Robert Schenkkan seems to have entered the Witness Protection Program since being tapped for The Kentucky Cycle by the 1992 Pulitzer committee. So, watch out, Nilo Cruz.

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