Harold Prince. That's the name at the root of the week's big stories, one about a show which just opened on Broadway, the other about a show the may reach The Street next year, after a start at Chicago's Goodman Theater. The Goodman is where the first work, Hollywood Arms, started as well. Carol Burnett and her daughter, the late Carrie Hamilton, adapted the play from Burnett's memoir, and were lucky enough to interest Prince in the project.
Unfortunately, the play received largely poor reviews in Chicago, and at the Oct. 31 Broadway opening, the New York critics agreed. The show has a lot of talent behind it. Besides the authors and director, there's the cast, which features Linda Lavin, Michele Pawk and Frank Wood. Whether that will be enough to keep the show open is something the show's producer—one Harold Prince—will have to keep an eye on.
The opening of Hollywood Arms was nearly overshadowed within the industry by casting news from that other Prince project mentioned above, the Stephen Sondheim-John Weidman musical, Gold!. Though the show is still more than six months away, sitcom star Richard Kind, current Broadway Phantom of the Opera Howard McGillin and the lately never unemployed Faith Prince have been offered roles. McGillin and Kind will take the roles played in the 1999 workshop by Victor Garber and Nathan Lane, who are currently being held captive by their respective television series.
If Harold Prince is down about the notices for Hollywood Arms, he might commiserate with James Lapine, another proven Broadway director (and Sondheim collaborator) who had trouble getting his latest project, Amour, on its feet. The French musical by Michel LeGrand will close Nov. 3 after one of the shortest Broadway runs in recent memory. Meanwhile, another musical of sorts, with considerably less at stake plot-wise, far worse music and no name stars to speak of—but with one hell of a tantalizing premise—opened well Off-Broadway. This was Debbie Does Dallas, the tongue-in-cheek stage adaptation of the famous porn film. One critic predicted the knowingly naughty production may become a popular date destination. Strangely enough, he may be right.
Elsewhere Off-Broadway, there was Ibsen, some quasi Chekhov and a guy name Morrie. Amy Irving and Daniel Gerroll take the leading roles in Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts, starting Nov. 1 at Classic Stage Company. At the Vineyard Theatre arrived Januz Glowacki's The Fourth Sister (and if you can't immediately figure out who the other three sisters are, you have no business reading a theatre website). Three of the best young stage actresses working—Jessica Hecht, Marin Hinkle and Alicia Goranson— are in the play, directed by Lisa Peterson. Morrie, meanwhile, is the sage old coot at the center of Tuesdays With Morrie, the Jeffrey Hatcher-Mitch Albom stage version of the smash best-selling memoir by Albom. Off Broadway performances began this week at the Minetta Lane Theatre. Paper Doll, the new play by Mark Hampton and Barbara Zitwer about outrageous author Jacqueline Susann, which was once announced for an April 2002 Broadway bow, resurfaced. The Susann role, first played by Marlo Thomas, then rumored for Fran Drescher, has now been given to Andrea Martin. The new stage is a wee bit north of Broadway: New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre next spring.
Finally, if playwright-librettist Richard Nelson was looking for a work of literature harder to adapt into a stage musical than James Joyce's "The Dead"—the show he premiered Off-Broadway and then brought to Broadway—he has found it. Musical Proust anyone? Nelson and Ricky Ian Gordon's My Life With Albertine—which will debut at Playwrights Horizons next year with a cast including Brent Carver, Emily Skinner, Amy Spanger, Chad Kimball and Kelli O'Hara —is drawn from the French novelist's monumental tome, "Remembrance of Things Past" (these days more accurately translated as "In Search of Lost Time"). Like "The Dead," the Proust classic in written in highly cerebral prose. There is very little action and most of writing concerns the workings of the self-absorbed hero Marcel's febrile mind. The section of the book concerning Marcel's lover Albertine dwells in microscopic detail on Marcel endless obsessions with whether Albertine loves him or not, is cheating on him or not, is secretly a lesbian or not. So paralyzed by his thoughts does Marcel become, that for about 700 pages or so, he and she almost never leave the house and the narrative never leaves his brain. Oh, and there's almost no sex. So, is there anyone in the musical theatre who loves a challenge more than Nelson?
—By Robert Simonson