PLAYBILL.COM THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 28-Feb. 3: I Left My First Draft in San Francisco

News   PLAYBILL.COM THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 28-Feb. 3: I Left My First Draft in San Francisco If Chicago has become the tryout town where you go to fine-tune a smash (The Producers, Movin’ Out, Spamalot), San Francisco is the place where troubled shows decide to do or die.
Allison Fischer and Hugh Panaro in Lestat.
Allison Fischer and Hugh Panaro in Lestat. Photo by Paul Kolnik

Wicked toughed out bad Frisco notices to become the Broadway juggernaut it is. The Mambo Kings opted to throw in the towel. Lennon decided to largely ignore the warning signs by the Bay, and met a swift demise on Broadway. And now there’s Lestat, the vampire-populated show by composer Elton John, lyricist Bernie Taupin and librettist Linda Woolverton. Clobbered by trolley-borne critics, it has bravely decided to face its woes head on.

In an effort to fix the show, which was called over-plotted and bland by some, the producers has pushed back the Broadway start from March 11 to March 25, and the opening from April 13 to April 25. Also, Jonathan Butterell, who provided musical staging for Broadway's The Light in the Piazza and the recent Nine and Fiddler on the Roof revivals, has been brought onto the project as creative consultant "to provide an objective overview as it undergoes revisions."

Elton John, meanwhile, told the New York Post that the book will be trimmed, some minor character eliminated and he will write a new song or two.

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Another huge show stumbled on the way to the gate this week. The monolithic stage production of The Lord of the Rings delayed its first performance 48 hours to Feb. 4. But after what the show's producers called "four years of planning…17 weeks of rehearsal [and] five full weeks of on-stage rehearsal," what's another couple of days? The $27 million (Canadian) spectacular is expected to run three hours (or more), a relatively short amount of time where you consider the heft of the three large novels of the famed fantasy trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien.

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On Broadway, playwright David Lindsay-Abaire did something that most playwrights don’t dare in today’s cautious theatre: he departed from his trademark style (in his case, a land of quirk and absurdity). His reward for the result, Rabbit Hole, which opened at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Biltmore Theatre, was a clutch of largely praising reviews. Those who didn’t like the quiet, sensitively wrought view of a couple traumatized by the death of their young son, nonetheless gave the cast, led by Cynthia Nixon, John Slattery and Tyne Daly, high marks for nuanced acting, and applauded director Dan Sullivan for doing his most thoughtful, thorough work in some time.

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Martin Short’s show Fame Becomes Me finally nailed down its Broadway arrival date this week. The "musical mock-autobiography" will open at a Shubert theatre to be named Aug. 10. The production features music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman and direction by Wittman. Shaiman, who will musical direct, will also be seen onstage.

Short will get additional help as well. Four performers will join him onstage. The book for the show was penned by Daniel Goldfarb.

Two out-of-town tryouts are scheduled for Fame Becomes Me: April 25-May 1 at the San Francisco's Curran Theatre and July 5-16 at Chicago's LaSalle Bank Theatre.

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Finally, after a long, public battle with cancer, playwright Wendy Wasserstein died Jan. 30 at the improbable age of 55. Papers, magazines and websites were flooded the next day with obituaries, remembrances and appreciations for Wasserstein, who was without a doubt one of the most beloved members of theatre community. Her abundant humanity, communicated through her plays, essays and many public appearances, seemed to make even those who didn’t know her feel as though they had lost someone close. And critics who usually serve their opinions cold got a little mushy. In short, everyone sort of became Wendy Wasserstein for a day: warm, big-spirited, appreciative of a friend, a fan of theatre, and (even if they lived elsewhere) a proud New Yorker.

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