Broadway professionals began their week's work, in typically pretzel-logic fashion, by watching the Oscars. The producers of the upcoming Broadway revisioning of La Boheme, in particular, stayed tuned until the very end, to see if the fortunes of that show's director, Baz Luhrmann , might be lofted by a Best Picture win for "Moulin Rouge."
Alas, it wasn't to be. But Luhrmann's wife and collaborator did well enough for herself and her hubby. Catherine Martin won Academy Awards for both her costume design and art direction on the movie musical. She shared the former prize with Angus Strathie , the latter with Brigitte Broch (for the film's set decoration). That made for some good news for Broadway, as Martin will design sets and co-design costumes for La Boheme. Still, no show was ever sold on the name of an award-winning designer.
Filmdom having had its day, Broadway returned to the business of opening shows with Michele Lowe's dark comedy about three vengeful wives, Smell of the Kill — which got about as welcoming a reception as has most every other Broadway show that's opened in the past month. The New York Times' Bruce Weber yawned, going so far as to say that, as an unmarried man, he really wasn't that interested in the story. That review led to an amusing case of life imitating art, as the play's spurned female producers, Elizabeth McCann and Nelle Nugent , unleashed an ad campaign basically attacking Weber as a thick, unthinking clod of a man. So, at least, that was entertaining.
As for the happier women on Broadway, Elaine Stritch is still doing well while Bea Arthur has decided to throw in the towel. The onetime open run Just Between Friends: Bea Arthur on Broadway will end its run April 14 at the Booth Theatre. But the star can't be all that sad about it; the evening of song and stories was originally to be a limited engagement Jan. 29-March 10, and has earned back its initial investment.
Stritch also started as a limited engagement, to May 26, and she appears to be sticking to that arrangement. But she and her producers are casting their eyes east and west. Currently being explored are a U.S. tour for Elaine Stritch at Liberty, as well as a London visit. The London gig would be a extended sit-down production. The potential is high for a repeat of the actress' commercial and critical success Off Broadway and on. Stritch relocated to London for a good number of years in the middle of her career — a subject covered is her autobiographical show. There she appeared in many plays, as well as a British television show. Off-Broadway, meanwhile, has produced an unlikely hit. Horton Foote's modest and unassuming The Carpetbagger's Children opened at Lincoln Center Theater to some of the best reviews of the season, as well as some of the best reviews Foote himself has won in many a season. LCT must feel like it fell into a pot of jam, since the institution only booked the show a couple months ago when confronted with an unexpected gap in its schedule. The production stars Jean Stapleton , Hallie Foote and Roberta Maxwell , the first two old hands at Foote's work who now are being rewarded for their devotion.
International opera star Bryn Terfel finally gets his chance to interpret the Demon Barber of Fleet Street in a new production of Stephen Sondheim 's Sweeney Todd at the Lyric Opera of Chicago later this year. In early 2000, he was announced as the Sweeney for an all-star New York Philharmonic production of the Sondheim work. But Terfel had to bow out "due to his continuing recuperation from a recent back operation." Meanwhile, Terfel's would-be NY Phil co-star, Patti LuPone , will be spending April Fool's Day taking part in another big deal, one-night-only Lincoln Center concert. She and Howard McGillin will repeat their renowned work in the 1987 Tony-winning revival of Cole Porter's Anything Goes.
Some day, the artistic directors of our nation will be forced to sit down and explain why they tend to book the same damn plays at the same damn time (and I'm not talking about co productions). Is it happenstance? A sort of artistic monkey-see, monkey-do? Or do the rights holders of certain authors periodically wage blanket campaigns on the poor, defenseless non-profit and summer stock circuits? Past multi-production phenomena have included Camino Real, Hedda Gabler and Hair. This year's happy recipient of overexposure is Thornton Wilder's Our Town. Within a month's time, the Westport Country Playhouse , the Roundabout Theatre Company and the Bay Street Theatre all felt an uncontrollable need to take a new look at this American classic. Each production has its claim to importance. Westport has Paul Newman as the Stage Manager. Bay Street promises to shake things up with nontraditional casting. And the Roundabout — well, you know, it's on Broadway.
Finally, the team behind the Broadway-bound stage version of the film "Dirty Dancing" have announced their intention to mount a production in that suddenly white-hot pre Broadway tryout town — Amsterdam. Strangely enough, the Dutch city is shaping up as an effective testing ground for Broadway musicals. The current 42nd Street began in the Netherlands city, as did Cy Coleman's Grace, which is possibly headed for Broadway. I suppose it's only appropriate that shows headed to the former New Amsterdam should begin their journeys in old Amsterdam.