PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 28-Nov. 3: Old Musicals Die Hard

News   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 28-Nov. 3: Old Musicals Die Hard These megamusicals are hard to kill. Following in the paw prints of Cats — which, after being felled with a June 2000 closing notice, rose again, Rasputin-like, to run through September — Miss Saigon has successfully staved off its announced Dec. 31 finale. The rout was achieved when warrior producer Cameron Mackintosh, clad in combat tuxedo, took to the stage of the Broadway Theatre on Nov. 2 (the occasion was the show's 4,000th performance). There, he revealed the imminent return from exile (in a Philippines mounting of Saigon) of the musical's ever-returning, ever-conquering Napoleon, Lea Salonga. Presto! The Broadway Theatre was won again! At least for an extra four weeks. Salonga's first performance will be on Dec. 31. Happy New Year, Gen. Mackintosh.
Reba McEntire; Miss Saigon with Lea Salonga; Donald Sutherland in Enigma Variations.
Reba McEntire; Miss Saigon with Lea Salonga; Donald Sutherland in Enigma Variations. (Photo by <i>Saigon</i> photo by Joan Marcus)

These megamusicals are hard to kill. Following in the paw prints of Cats — which, after being felled with a June 2000 closing notice, rose again, Rasputin-like, to run through September — Miss Saigon has successfully staved off its announced Dec. 31 finale. The rout was achieved when warrior producer Cameron Mackintosh, clad in combat tuxedo, took to the stage of the Broadway Theatre on Nov. 2 (the occasion was the show's 4,000th performance). There, he revealed the imminent return from exile (in a Philippines mounting of Saigon) of the musical's ever-returning, ever-conquering Napoleon, Lea Salonga. Presto! The Broadway Theatre was won again! At least for an extra four weeks. Salonga's first performance will be on Dec. 31. Happy New Year, Gen. Mackintosh.

Donald Sutherland is something of a fighter, too. Last summer, he was licking his wounds in London after Enigmatic Variations — his return to the stage after a couple decades — was generally panned. Sutherland took enough offense from the notices to respond with a highly emotional column in The London Times, which in turn prompted replies in other newspapers. The show announced a six-week extension, with was quickly abandoned a couple weeks later. But Sutherland has now picked himself up, dusted himself off and taken the lead role in Jon Robin Baitz's Ten Unknowns at Lincoln Center Theater, which will bow in February. He takes a part that had been mentioned for Jason Robards. Sutherland's co-stars include Julianna Margulies, Justin Kirk and Denis O'Hare.

Elsewhere in the wonderful world of LCT, the Lyceum has been selected for Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love. The play, which has as its central character 19th-century English poet A.E. Housman, will star Robert Sean Leonard as the young A.E., and Richard Easton as the old A.E. Easton plays a part which has been performed across the nation by the likes of James Cromwell (San Francisco) and Paxton Whitehead (Chicago).

It's been an open secret for what seems like a year. Finally, country star Reba McEntire was revealed as the next Annie Oakley in Broadway's Annie Get Your Gun. She will take over the role assayed by Cheryl Ladd since January and stay with the show until May 27, 2001. A couple of other unlikely female stage stars, meanwhile, will take to the boards briefly in November. Both are sex icons of the '70s, though they share little beyond that. Deborah Harry, the icy blonde bombshell who once (and, recently, again) fronted the rock group "Blondie," will star Off-Off Broadway in Crave, the U.S. debut of the work of the controversial British playwright, Sarah Kane, who committed suicide in 1999 at the age of 28. Performances began at the Axis Theatre on Nov. 1. Uptown, the latest cast member of the long-running The Vagina Monologues, is novelist Erica Jong, author of the 1973 bestseller "Fear of Flying" and the woman who coined the phrase "the zipless fuck." She will join the show on Nov. 7.

Most theatregoers are not that familiar with the work of Harry Kondoleon, but it appears that the late playwright had many friends and admirers in the stage community. The upcoming premiere of Saved and Destroyed, Kondoleon's final play, due to bow at Off-Broadway's Rattlestick Theatre on Nov. 15, will be accompanied by a festival of "talk-backs" with the cast of Saved and director Craig Lucas, as well as readings and discussions of the playwright's works. Participating in the latter will be Kristine Nielson, Kathleen Chalfant, Martha Plimpton, Amy Sedaris, Wendy Wasserstein and John Guare. A couple of additions to the New York season: Arje Shaw's play The Gathering, which enjoyed an Off-Broadway run with star Theodore Bikel in 1999, will come to Broadway, with new lead Hal Linden, in April 2001; and Pete 'n' Keely, the comic musical starring Sally Mayes, found a home at the John Houseman Theatre, previews beginning Dec. 2.

Finally, theatrical auteur and "Genius" grant winner Mary Zimmerman has never had much luck getting her work recognized in New York; over the past ten years, only two of her many works have had runs in Gotham. But there are other cities. Zimmerman had a big Monday on Oct. 30. The L.A. Ovation Awards named her Metamorphoses, a theatrical retelling of Ovid's ancient stories, best play in a large theatre. A few miles east, Chicago's Jeff Awards bestowed the best new adaptation prize on her reworking of The Odyssey at the Goodman Theatre.