OK, first things first: Seussical delayed its first Broadway preview, by nearly three weeks, until Oct. 29. Now that that's out of the way, let's please talk about something else.
For my money, right now the Thoroughly Modern Millie troubles are far more interesting than the Seussical troubles. As you may recall from last week's column, the La Jolla Playhouse musical was having some difficulty opening, delaying its first show on a day-to-day basis, mainly because Millie seems to be sitting on a thoroughly malfunctioning automated turntable. Well, an audience finally saw the show on Oct. 6 — sort of. What they witnessed was a kind of staged reading, with actors seated in chairs. (Reportedly, crowds were thrilled with the novelty of the evening.) The show finally gave its first full performance on Oct. 10. Owing to a week's worth of canceled dates, however, the official opening is now Oct. 22.
Two plays — Proof and The Tale of the Allergist's Wife — began performances on Broadway this week without a hitch. As if to balance out the fall of new works by young playwrights, it looks like the spring will be replete with classic works by (largely) dead playwrights. The most unlikely addition to the Broadway roster is a new adaptation, by Richard Greenberg, of August Strindberg's The Dance of Death, perhaps to arrive at a Shubert house in the spring. (The project is not as odd as you might think; the last Strindberg to hit Broadway, the Roundabout Theatre Company's staging of The Father with Frank Langella, was a big hit.) Meanwhile, Strindberg's fellow Scandinavian, Henrik Ibsen, may see his anti-Nora, Hedda Gabler, reach New York City, also in spring. A living playwright has his hand in this venture; Jon Robin Baitz did the translation. If the Ibsen does happen, it will have taken two years for the show to crawl from L.A. Geffen Playhouse—where it debuted in March 1999 with Annette Bening—to New York. Between those two dates, it will have been staged at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, The Williamstown Theatre Festival and the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston—always with Kate Burton as Hedda. Burton will be the Gotham gunslinger as well.
Not Scandinavian, and certainly not dead (indeed, he's more active now than when he was an angry young man), is Arthur Miller, whose The Crucible may be mounted on the Rialto next year by producer David Richenthal. Richenthal—who, once he finds something that he likes, sticks with it—was the man behind the recent revivals of Death of a Salesman and The Price.
Patti Lupone begins performances of her concert act, Matters of the Heart, at Lincoln Center Theater this week. A performer with a following, she is bound to pack them in. Still, I doubt if LuPone thought herself powerful enough to cause the reshuffling of a major theatre company's entire schedule. That may have been the case at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. Though the show was never officially announced, reports for weeks had Robert Falls directing Edward Albee's monumental drama, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Goodman and courting LuPone for the role of Martha. For whatever reason, LuPone never bit, and suddenly there was no Woolf on the schedule at all; instead Alan Ayckbourn's House and Garden were on the roster. Plus, several other shows on both of the Goodman's two new stages changed places. Also perhaps influencing these alterations was the fact that the Guthrie Theatre of Minneapolis planned to stage the Albee play at almost exactly the same time, with David Esbjornson directing. The Goodman may not have gotten its Martha, but the Roundabout Theatre Company finally snared its Phyllis. Blythe Danner will play the ice queen in the Broadway revival of James Goldman and Stephen Sondheim's Follies. She will join leads Gregory Harrison, Judith Ivey and Treat Williams. Also confirmed in the cast are Polly Bergen, Marge Champion, Betty Garrett, Larry Keith, Joan Roberts, Donald Saddler and Carol Woods.
Artists and producers/theater owners—always somewhat at odds—were certainly fighting it out across several tables this week. There was some good news. After the longest Production Contract talks in Actors' Equity history, a deal was reached. Actors will likely see a 14.7 percent raise in salaries over the course of the new four-year contract, which covers Broadway work. That pact involves, among others, Jujamcyn Theatres, who probably weren't happy about the outcome of another action recently resolved. The Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers prevailed after two years of arbitration with the Jujamcyns over a $1-per-ticket restoration surcharge. The Oct. 10 decision by an independent arbiter favored the SSDC's contention that Jujamcyn's $1 surcharge was being collected in a way that precluded large sums from being calculated as part of the box office take and reduced the incomes of SSDC members by trimming their royalty base. Other unions and guilds are now reportedly lining up to claim their share of that money.
And more. Producer Elliot Martin and director Gerald Gutierrez will go before an arbitrator next month. Gutierrez was once the helmsman on Martin's Chicago-to-Broadway revival of A Moon for the Misbegotten. But Martin let Gutierrez go before the first Chicago preview and Daniel Sullivan took over. Now, Gutierrez is asserting that he is owed money for the work he put into the project. The director never signed a formal contract with Martin for reasons that are unclear. Finally, SAG and the commercial producers will meet once more on Oct. 19.
Here's a story you've seen before. Nada, the Off-Off-Broadway storefront theatre that has been a jumping-off point for many a fledgling artist, is in financial trouble. If Nada chief Aaron Beall doesn't come up with $20,000 in back rent between now and an Oct. 16 benefit performance, the doors at 167 Ludlow will be shut forever. The play to be performed? A stage version of Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life." With its air of monetary desperation and the impossible happy ending ("It's a miracle, George, a miracle!"), the selection seems just right.
--By Robert Simonson