PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Sept. 18-24: It Begins

ICYMI   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Sept. 18-24: It Begins The fall Broadway season got underway this week, with one play and one musical commencing previews on Sept. 23. The play was Craig Lucas' dark comedy, Reckless, a frequently revived Off-Broadway and regional favorite finally getting its Broadway debut. Manhattan Theatre Club and Second Stage have joined forces on this Biltmore Theatre tenant, which stars Mary-Louise Parker—one of the few bankable New York stage stars known solely for her work in plays—back for her first legit credit since exiting the role of her career in David Auburn's Proof. Mark Brokaw directs.

Whereas old hands characterize the Reckless enterprise, the musical Brooklyn is manned primarily by relative newbies, with director and choreographer Jeff Calhoun being the primary voice of experience. Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson wrote the score. Eden Espinosa portrays the title character Brooklyn, heading a company that also includes Cleavant Derricks, Ramona Keller, Karen Olivo, and, for good measure, the seasoned Steppenwolf veteran and sometime Broadway star, Kevin Anderson.

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Another Broadway show due later this fall, August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean, is having a bumpy pre-Broadway ride in Boston. On Aug. 31, Kenny Leon replaced Marion McClinton as director when the latter was hospitalized. A couple weeks later, on Sept. 17, star Delroy Lindo left the role of Solly Two Kings due to "creative differences." Anthony Chisholm, previously set to play Eli, took over, with Eugene Lee stepping into Chisholm's part. The change of director pushed back all the scheduled dates, resulting in a extremely brief Broadway preview period, running from Nov. 4 to Nov. 11, the opening. Wilson's most recent Broadway production, a revival of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, was similarly plagued by actor departures and a McClinton illness.

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Add to the music-chart champions being saluted with Broadway shows the name of the recently deceased country legend Johnny Cash. A show titled Ring of Fire will embark on a national tour in fall 2005 followed by a 2006 opening on Broadway. Produced by Bill Meade and Phoenix Productions, Ring of Fire will feature more than 40 songs composed by Johnny and June Carter Cash, including such hits as "I've Been Everywhere," "Folsom Prison Blues," "A Boy Named Sue," "Hurt" and the title song. The musical, according to production notes, chronicles "the journey of the everyman, taking the audience through several different stages of life, love, loss and faith as experienced by 'The Man in Black.'" Richard Maltby, Jr., who did service to the Fats Waller songbook as director of Ain't Misbehavin', will be at the helm. ***

Jane Krakowski, who's been weighing offers since winning a Tony for Nine, has decided her next Broadway project will be the upcoming Broadway staging of Terry Johnson's London work, Hitchcock Blonde. Also starring are screen star Christina Ricci and original London star William Hootkins. The play, which enjoyed a run at London's Royal Court Theatre in April 2003 before transferring to the West End's Lyric Theatre, is slated to reach Broadway in April for a late April or May opening. Johnson's last Broadway effort, The Graduate, also has a big star (Kathleen Turner) and big box office to match, but no friends among the critics.

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Edward Hall, the son of Sir Peter, has made a splash in New York with a grand, sprawling project worthy of his dad's typically titanic ambitions. It is the Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of Rose Rage, which sandwiches the three parts of Shakespeare's Henry VI into a 5-1/2 hour package. Hall has a definite take on the story, which tracks the long Wars of the Roses. The production is set in a Victorian slaughterhouse and raw meat and red cabbage serve as metaphors. Acclaimed in 2002 in England, it was then Jeff Award-nominated in Chicago. Performances play to Oct. 17 in Off-Broadway's The Duke on 42nd Street.

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If you're a couple of cheeky composers and you've gone and spoofed every aspect of the American musical, what's left to do but send up yourselves? That is just what Urinetown tunesmiths Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann have chosen to do in their first stage work since their Tony-winning Broadway musical closed. In the Kotis-penned play, Eat the Taste, the duo appear on stage as a couple of musical composers called Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann, who happened to have written a show called Urinetown. They are being courted by Attorney General John Ashcroft who wants to turn his life story into an uplifting Broadway musical. The hyper-self-referential work began a Mondays-only run at the Barrow Street Theatre on Sept. 20.

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