PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 18-24: Lyons Gets a Broadway Den; Bullets Over Broadway; The Bodyguard Musical

News   PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 18-24: Lyons Gets a Broadway Den; Bullets Over Broadway; The Bodyguard Musical Broadway learned of an unexpected, late edition to the Broadway spring-season play sweepstakes this week.

Linda Lavin
Linda Lavin Photo by Carol Rosegg

Nicky Silver's (tortured) family drama The Lyons was a fair success at the Vineyard Theatre last fall, getting mostly positive reviews and a couple extensions. Still, the announcement that it would jump to Broadway just before the Tony Awards cut-off date of April 26 came as something of a surprise.

The cast will again be headed by legendary stage master Linda Lavin, who will reprise her performance as the biting, passive-aggressive matriarch Rita Lyons, who is patiently overseeing the declining days of her husband, who is hospital-bed-ridden, and dealing with her terminally-in-turmoil son and daughter. It's an ironic turn of events for Lavin, who turned down two offers to appear on Broadway this season (Other Desert Cities, Follies) to star Off-Broadway in The Lyons. Guess she knew what she was doing.

Director Mark Brokaw will repeat the work he did Off-Broadway. A long-standing talent Off-Broadway, Brokaw is still looking for his first Broadway success. Past efforts such as Cry-Baby and After Miss Julie has fallen short of the mark.

Surprising as it may seem, this will be the Broadway playwriting debut for Silver, who's been toiling away at the writing table for two decades or more. (He did, however, pen a new book for a Broadway revival of The Boys From Syracuse a decade ago.) He joins two other long-sufferers who are only this season earning their Broadway play bonafides: Jon Robin Baitz and David Ives.

*** Additional casting has been announced for the Manhattan Theatre Club's world-premiere production of David Auburn's The Columnist, which will begin previews April 4 prior to an official opening April 25 at MTC's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.

Joining the eminent John Lithgow, who plays the title character, will be Margaret Colin, playing Lithgow's wife, and four-time Tony Award winner Boyd Gaines, who never lacks for work, as Lithgow's brother. Daniel Sullivan directs. More casting will be announced.

The creative team includes scenic designer John Lee Beatty, which ensures that this particular newspaper columnist with have a neat, immaculate office.

***

Woody Allen
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Woody Allen's film comedy Bullets Over Broadway, about a playwright who collaborates with a mobster to create a stage hit, came out in 1994. And it's not much of an exaggeration to say that there's been a stage musical version of the movie in the works ever since.

Producers attached to the project over the years have included Martin Richards, Jean Doumanian and Sam Crothers. Marvin Hamlisch was for a long time mentioned as the composer, with Craig Carnelia for lyrics.

Well, now it looks like the thing is actually happening, and will arrive in 2013. But Julian Schlossberg and Letty Aronson, who backed Allen's recent Broadway venture Relatively Speaking, are the producers behind the project, and there's no mention of Hamlisch and Carnelia. But Allen is at work adapting his original 1920s-set screenplay, co-authored with Douglas McGrath, who co-wrote the film. It will now apparently be a sort of jukebox musical, incorporated pre-existing songs from the period. Still no director mentioned.

***

The headlines have been full of Whitney Houston ever since the pop star's sudden death at 48 two weeks ago.

Now comes news that a stage musical adaptation of Houston's best known film, The Bodyguard will open in London this November at the Adelphi Theatre, according to the Daily Mail.

Thea Sharrock is directing the work about a pop diva and her, yes, bodyguard. It will star Tony Award-winning Aida star Heather Headley. (Remember her?)

Michael Harrison and David Ian — who apparently believe in striking while the iron is hot — are producing The Bodyguard, which has a book by Alexander Dinelaris. The musical will include the hits form the film, including "I Will Always Love You."

An official announcement about the musical's London debut has yet to be made.

***

F. Murray Abraham and Steven Skybell
Photo by Joan Marcus

Finally, Classic Stage Company — which has been on a hot streak, what with its sold-out Chekhov revivals Off-Broadway and Venus in Fur on Broadway — opened a new production of Bertolt Brecht's seldom-seen Galileo starring F. Murray Abraham as the persecuted scientist, and directed by CSC artistic director Brian Kulick. It had already been extended to March 18 prior to opening .

Considered by many to be one of Brecht's masterpieces, Time Out New York rightly pointed out that the production was well-timed: "These days, in which religious hypocrites enjoy the benefits of applied science while casting doubt on, say, evolution or climate change, we need a production that speaks truth to powerful ignorance." However, said the magazine, this was not it. "Instead, Galileo comes across as a collegiate costume drama with some good speeches but a lot of plodding verbiage and trite rhyming couplets between scenes."

The Daily News thought better of the staging, saying while the play was "chatty and preachy," the show was "also consistently engaging in Brian Kulick's airy revival." The Post called it an "overly earnest production that could use some Red Bull: It’s packed with challenging ideas but punches like a kitten wearing boxing gloves." The Times found the mounting "lucid if pallid," but lavishly praised Abraham (as most critics did), saying he "infuses his performance with a physical vigor signifying that Galileo lives as much in his flesh as in his capacious mind. He exudes the earthy pragmatism that is a mark of Galileo’s intelligence but also proves to be the flaw that will erode his integrity. The performance is admirably understated too. Even in the climactic scene in which Galileo castigates himself for his behavior — 'I have betrayed my profession' — Mr. Abraham wisely avoids grandstanding."

Abraham's supporting players, most agreed, were not up to his standard. "Galileo’s adversaries in the church are one-dimensional," wrote the Times, "and the actors portray them accordingly." Time Out concurred.

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