PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 18-24: Going Dutch

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 18-24: Going Dutch
 
It's always a bit disconcerting when you find out a treasured and iconic American creation — the Chrysler Building or Budweiser, say — is actually now foreign-owned. So imagine how theatre fans reacted this week when they found out the Rodgers & Hammerstein catalog — possibly the most utterly American collection of music in existence — had been sold to Imagem Music Group, the music publishing investment fund of ABP, the Netherlands-based pension fund, and CP Masters BV, a European independent music publisher. Planning on staging Oklahoma!? The money will be going to Amsterdam.
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II

Rumors of the legendary organization being up for sale have been flying around for a year, though many thought the recession might have temporarily shelved matters.

RHO owns the rights to some of the most popular stage musicals, including Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music, each boasting a collection of American pop song standards, including "People Will Say We're in Love," "You'll Never Walk Alone," "Some Enchanted Evening," "Getting to Know You," "Climb Every Mountain" and "My Favorite Things." As a licensing agency, the company represents more than 12,000 songs, 900 concert works, 200 writers and 100 musicals, including works by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sheldon Harnick, Stephen Schwartz, Rodgers' grandson Adam Guettel, Irving Berlin and Rodgers & Hart.

The existing RHO management team, led by Theodore S. Chapin, president and executive director, will be retained. Heirs Mary Rodgers Guettel and Alice Hammerstein Mathias will continue as consultants. The three together have gained a reputation in the theatre community of keeping close watch over the various musical properties, and tightly controlling what creative liberties may be taken with them.

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Lynn Nottage
photo by Aubrey Reuben

As expected, Lynn Nottage won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play Ruined, which is currently playing an extended engagement at Manhattan Theatre Club's New York City Center Stage I through May 10. She is only the second African-American woman to win the honor. The Pulitzer Prize for Drama finalists were Becky Shaw, by Gina Gionfriddo; and In The Heights, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes.

Whether Ruined will remain Off-Broadway or graduate to a Broadway house is a good question. The last Pulitzer Prize-winning play to not receive a Broadway production — either before, during or after the prize was bestowed — was Dinner With Friends by Donald Margulies in 2000.

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The critics loved the royal smackdown depicted in the Donmar Warehouse's acclaimed production of Mary Stuart, which officially opened at the Broadhurst Theatre April 19. Notices found the 1800 play (as adapted by Peter Oswald, anyway) exciting and trenchant still, and the lead actresses playing Queen Elizabeth I and her troublesome Scottish cousin Mary, Harriet Walter and Janet McTeer, in top bravura form. Which is what you want when you stage Mary Stuart, one of the few classics to offer two meaty parts for women. The reviews may give Schiller his first Broadway hit in — well, ever.

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Critics had another good time on April 23, when another British production (actually, three) of Alan Ayckbourn's comedic trilogy The Norman Conquests, opened at Circle in the Square. The verdict: funny; really funny; unbelievably funny. When was the last time you remember reviewers called a play "hilarious"? Well, that word was used over and over again in connection to this seven-hour marathon.

The Norman Conquests includes three full-length plays (with separate admission): Table Manners, Living Together and Round and Round the Garden. "The action is simultaneous and each exit in one play turns out to be an entrance in another," according to production notes. The action is set in the dining room (Table Manners), living room (Living Together) and garden (Round and Round the Garden) of an English country house, and follows six characters. The limited run of The Norman Conquests plays to July 26.

The company of <I>The Norman Conquests</I>
The company of The Norman Conquests
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