In a season in which half the show's have trouble simply opening, to say nothing of opening to bad reviews, the journey of The Full Monty from San Diego tryout to Broadway hit is nothing less than a thing a beauty. Mainly good notices from the get-go; nary a change in the cast or artistic personnel; no reports of extensive tinkering during previews; not even a delayed opening night. What's going on here? Moreover, when was the last time a virgin Broadway composer — in this case, David Yazbek — had such fantastic good fortune?
Still and all, there The Full Monty is, succeeding where other film inspired shows (Saturday Night Fever, Footloose) did not, and reaping the good reviews to prove it. Even the musical's few detractors have the air of trying to stifle a smile which keeps creeping onto their faces. And with Proof, which reopened quietly a few days before Monty, Broadway has what looks like two solid hits.
As for Seussical, which has had all the growing pains Monty has not, its Broadway opening was delayed a few days to Nov. 1. The team behind that show need not despair; rather, they should look west for inspiration. Thoroughly Modern Millie, which hit its share of bumps at the La Jolla Playhouse, finally opened on Oct. 22 to — incredibly — good reviews.
One show that never managed to open in New York was the 1998 Paper Mill Playhouse production of Gypsy, starring Betty Buckley. It wasn't for lack of trying. The show was well received, particularly Buckley's Mama Rose, and there were plans to go to Toronto and then possibly on to Gotham. But the word was that bookwriter Arthur Laurents refused to release the rights to the musical and had plans to stage a different version of the show in London. Well, the apparent verification of that rumor came this week with the news that Bernadette Peters would very likely star in a London Gypsy, perhaps during the 2001-02 season. Sam Mendes has been mentioned to direct. A safe prediction: trans-Atlantic flights will hold a disproportionate amount of theatre people, pros and fans, in the days prior to opening.
There was a lot of action in Philadelphia this week. Harold Prince, directing for the first time in the Philadelphia theatre that bears his name, unveiled 3hree — and evening of one-act musicals (The Mice, Lavender Girl and The Flight of the Lawnchair Man) — on Oct. 25 at the Prince Music Theater. Prince staged only Lawnchair Man, a comical look at man’s desire to fly. Robert Lindsey Nassif and Peter Ullian penned the piece, about an average fellow who hopes to soar by attaching hot air balloons to his lawnchair. Elsewhere in Philly, Jeffrey Hatcher's tribute to Restoration theatre actor Edward Kynaston (for whom, playing women was a specialty), Compleat Female Stage Beauty, opened the season at the Philadelphia Theatre Company. Yes, Hatcher usually works in the regions. The difference here: the show is under the guidance of Tony-winning director Walter Bobbie and producers Fran and Barry Weissler reportedly have an option on the play. A safe prediction: Amtrak trains from NYC to Philly held a disproportionate amount of theatre people, pros and fans, this past week.
Finally, it seems some things are forbidden even to Off-Broadway's ribald Forbidden Broadway. The long-running satiric revue was set to premiere its latest edition on Oct. 30, when fate, in the form of an unlikely and unpredictable confluence of events, resulted in creator director Gerard Alessandrini having to drop three numbers. The show was to have included comical musical takes about stage stars Gwen Verdon and Liza Minnelli, as well as the Screen Actors Guild strike against the commercial producers. Then, in a matter of days, Verdon passed away, the SAG strike was resolved and Minnelli turned up in a Florida hospital. Alessandrini decided the trio of songs could not run as is. The best way to hand God a laugh, as the saying goes, is to make plans.