Lyricist, librettist and musical theatre standard bearer Adolph Green died on Oct. 23, and Broadway is the poorer for it—not just due to the loss of his talent, which was considerable, or the wealth of theatre history which rested in his memory, but also because of the disappearance of his very being, which, as long as he lived, lent the Street an ebullient, carefree and joyous aura.
Even the most casual theatregoers and artists were familiar with the snow-haired, smiling, dapper figure Green cut at opening nights and theatrical soireés. Unlike other theatre legends, Green was always on parade, forever accessible. He never stopped loving the career and life he had chosen and reminded others that a life in the theatre, or a life going to the theatre (art and other pretensions aside), was supposed to be fun.
The theatre will continue to be blessed with Green's legacy. Recent seasons have been crowded with revivals of his and partner Betty Comden's work (On the Town, Peter Pan, Bells Are Ringing) and future years will likely bring more. His personal example, however—his refusal to suffer or be overly serious in an ever more cynical world; his endless capacity to love and forgive his native New York City—will be harder to preserve.
One of the last Broadway shows Adolph Green attended was Movin' Out, Twyla Tharp's pulsating rock ballet set to the songbook of Billy Joel. The show, which was criticized in its Chicago debut, benefitted from a massive overhaul by Tharp and opened to ecstatic reviews in New York. There has been much debate as to whether dance audiences will flock to Broadway, or if Joel fans will cotton to Tharp's rarified choreography, or if the show belongs to the world of musical theatre at all. But audiences seem to have easily brushed aside these theoretical quandaries, recognizing a hit when they see it.
Another hit was uncovered Off-Broadway, where Dael Orlandersmith's taut racial drama, Yellowman, moved critics. The work, concerning internal racism between differently-shaded people of color, took a long journey through theatres across the nation before reaching New York. The reviews, combined with the play's economical nature (one set, two actors), ought to encourage a producer to try an Off-Broadway commercial transfer. Other openings weren't so happy. Amour, the American version of Michel Legrand's French hit, had audiences and critic weaned of Yankee-style musical comedy and British pop operas scratching their heads at its low-tech virtues and European whimsy. (American theatregoers don't like what they're not used to.) A couple days later, Jackie Mason's latest, Prune Danish, opened and folks agreed once more that the guy can tell a joke.
Mary Stuart Masterson has been offered the choice role of Luisa in David Leveaux's spring 2003 Broadway staging of Nine, for the Roundabout Theatre Company, composer Maury Yeston said. She joins Antonio Banderas, Chita Rivera, Jane Krakowski and Laura Benanti. Further casting was announced, too, for Burn This. The hit play will take a page from The Goat, and shut down for the period Nov. 10-18, reopening Nov. 19 with a new cast of Elisabeth Shue and Peter Sarsgaard.
Mos Def and Suzan-Lori Parks are a couple. When the rapper appeared in the playwright's Topdog/Underdog on Broadway, it had all the earmarks of a fluke. Mos seemed like the kind of casting oddity the theatre would see once and never again. That assumption was wrong. The actor will take a part in Parks' new take on "The Scarlet Letter," a play called Fucking A. Performances start Feb. 25, 2003, at the Public Theater's Anspacher Theater.
Finally, there is sometimes justice, even for theatre producers. It's been four years since Livent's collapse and Garth Drabinsky's retreat to Canada, just ahead of an avalanche of reports of accounting shenanigans carried out in two sets of books. Drabinsky and his cohort Myron I. Gottlieb have since enjoyed star billing on the U.S. post offices, so to speak, but have avoided capture by not crossing the border since 1999. As a separate Canadian investigation dragged on, some people must have wondered if the long arm of the law would ever reach Garth's dry-cleaned collar.
At long last, on Oct. 22, Drabinsky and three of his Livent colleagues, Gottlieb, Gordon Eckstein and Robert Topol, were all arrested. They were later granted bail. Police allege the men, all of the Toronto area, "defrauded creditors, and private and public investors of approximately one-half a billion dollars" between 1989 and 1998. Drabinsky's lawyer, Edward Greenspan, said his client will plead not guilty and "welcomes the chance to clear his reputation." After four years, he'll finally get that chance he has so longed for.
—By Robert Simonson