Mamma's finally coming home to Papa. Since opening to rave reviews and sell-out crowds in London's West End in the spring of 1999, all New Yorkers have wondered when the ABBA-scored camp musical Mamma Mia! was coming to Broadway (as everyone knew it eventually would). Instead, we found out when it would premiere in Toronto; in San Francisco; in Los Angeles; in Chicago; in Washington, D.C.; in Boston. It's enough to give the greatest city in the world an inferiority complex. Finally, this week, it was announced Mamma Mia! would move into the Winter Garden Theatre on Oct. 18, 2001, becoming, perhaps, the first tenant at that storied house since Cats -- which closes on Sept. 10 -- infested the place some 18 years ago. Of course, whether some other show sneaks in briefly before Mamma's arrival all depends on how long the scheduled renovation of the joint will take.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's felines arrived with a lot of luggage, if you recall, most of it titanic-sized junk -- tin cans, tires and such. One thing's for certain: given ABBA's worldwide appeal, it's a safe bet that the Winter Garden will remain home to a highly heterogeneous audience. The tour, meanwhile, will have its U.S. debut in San Francisco on Nov. 15. A separate New York City company for Mamma Mia! may be formed, although the show's producers have often remarked on their interest in moving slowly to Broadway.
While Mamma Mia! is now definitely coming to New York, The Visit announced it was definitely not paying a visit this season. The high-profile John Kander-Fred Ebb-Terrence McNally musical, which has been percolating for several years, finally looked as though it might see the light of day this fall. But it never recovered from star Angela Lansbury's decision to leave and care for her ailing husband. After an exhaustive and very public search for a new lead actress to replace Lansbury -- with the script reportedly passing through the hands of Glenn Close, Diana Rigg, Judi Dench and Shirley MacLaine, among others -- the producers cried uncle. "If Angela could come back -- and this all depends on her husband, who is elderly now -- then that would be something I would hope for," said co-star Philip Bosco. "After all, the role really was written with her in mind."
The Visit was supposed to debut in Boston, the same town where Seussical opened Sept. 6. Reviews were mixed, and, given that the show recently got a new costume designer in William Ivey Long, it's likely that the cast and crew have their work cut out for them in the days preceding the first preview in New York on Oct. 15. The show will continue performances in Boston through September.
In New York, new names are swirling around the upcoming Broadway musical of Mel Brooks' The Producers. Everyone knows about Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, the all but-certain stars of the piece. Now, other cast members likely to be taking Susan Stroman's direction are Cady Huffman, best known for playing Ziegfeld's Favorite in The Will Rogers Follies, as the leads' sexpot secretary, Ulla; Gary Beach (Beauty and the Beast's candelabra) as effete director Roger DeBries; and Ron Orbach (Laughter on the 23rd Floor) as unregenerate Nazi playwright, Franz Liebkin. Furthermore, word on the street has it that Tony winner Roger Bart (You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown) is close to signing for Carmen Ghia, Roger's even-more-effeminate manservant. But enough of Broadway to come. Broadway of today saw the first previews of Gore Vidal's drama The Best Man, Sept. 5. Seventeen actors populate the cast of Best Man, with six leads: Charles Durning, Spalding Gray, Chris Noth, Elizabeth Ashley, Christine Ebersole and Michael Learned.
Still, the best cast to be found on Broadway this week was seen at the Royale Theatre on Sept. 7. There, in mid-afternoon, the Screen Actors Guild sponsored a rally aimed at strengthening the bond between SAG and Actors' Equity during the Guild's now four-month old commercial strike. Philip Bosco, star of Copenhagen (currently at the Royale) organized the event. Among the celebrities who turned out were Blair Brown, Robert Klein, Harry Belafonte, Kevin Bacon, Treat Williams, Kyra Sedgwick and Richard Dreyfuss. Bosco told Playbill On-Line that the rally has been called to specifically help bring Equity's theatre actors onboard in the ongoing SAG commercial strike, now the longest action in the union's history. "I'm usually a skeptic about a lot of these things," said Bosco, "but I've come to believe that this is probably the worst crisis the entertainment unions have faced since they were founded. If they get us to cave in, it could be a terrible blow, almost a death blow. What they want is a buyout, to be able to run commercials in perpetuity without having to pay for play.... And while there is a tendency for some people in Equity to think they don't necessarily have an interest in this strike, that really is a mistake. In reality, if the unions cave in, there is a ripple effect with all the other unions in terms of health, welfare, pensions and employment."