PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 19-25: Where Was I?

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 19-25: Where Was I?
 
Let's continue where we left off last week, shall we? Which is to say, talking about shows that have announced their intentions to storm Broadway in the coming season.
Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller

The ink was (figuratively) not yet dry on that column when news emerged that a new revival of Arthur Miller's All My Sons will land on Broadway in September. This will be the first Broadway production of a Miller play since the writer's death in 2005. The production will be helmed by Simon McBurney, the British director who is the founder and artistic director of the theatre company Complicite and is perhaps best known on these shores for his imaginative staging of Ionesco's The Chairs a decade ago. He and his company are hardly known for naturalistic productions — Complicite outings usually hit the ceiling in terms of design and vision — which makes McBurney an interesting choice for the very grounded Miller.

John Lithgow will reportedly star as Joe, the patriarch who knowingly sends fighting boys off to war in planes with defective parts furnished by his company, though no official casting has been announced.

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Jeremy Piven

That proposed revival of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow got more solid as Jeremy Piven, the Chicago actor best known for his role as Ari Gold on HBO's "Entourage," was announced to star as film producer Bobby Gould. Hmm. Plays a cutthroat, amoral Hollywood shark on TV; needs to be able to play a cutthroat, amoral Hollywood shark in the Mamet. Yeah, that casting works. The show, which will mark Piven's Broadway debut, will open at a Broadway theatre to be announced Oct. 23. Atlantic Theater Company artistic director Neil Pepe will helm the production. ***

You know what's funny? Carrie Fisher's biographical show Wishful Drinking will not mark her Broadway debut. She was a Debutante in Irene back in 1973 (opposite her mom, Debbie Reynolds, thank you very much); appeared in some bizarre 1980 creation called Censored Scenes from King Kong; and did a turn as Agnes in Agnes of God.

Anyway, the new show, which has been well-reviewed on the West Coast, will seem like the "Star Wars" star and witty script-doctor's first Broadway show. Before it gets here in 2009, though, it must play San Jose, Santa Fe, Hartford, Boston and Washington, DC.

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James Snyder and Elizabeth Stanley in Cry-Baby.
photo by Joan Marcus

On Broadway this week, the new John Waters musical Cry-Baby opened, with music by David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger, a book by Thomas Meehan and Mark O'Donnell, direction by Mark Brokaw and choreography by Rob Ashford. Critics were split. Some found the story synthetic, the production a tad wan and the stars, James Snyder as Cry-Baby and Elizabeth Stanley as Allison, colorless. The pro side found enough fun and laughter in the campy story to forgive all. All agreed the show as rude and tacky — on purpose. (This is Waters, remember.) And all saved their most copious praise for Ashford's athletic, raunchy choreography — particularly a Stomp-inspired prison dance, which most called the show's highlight. ***

Gone with the Wind, the new musical version of Margaret Mitchell's epic novel, and one of the most ambitious theatrical ventures of this or any century, officially opened at the New London Theatre April 22.

And, well, the show will go down in history in one way: The critical reception was one of the most relentless and unanimous pummelings in memory. The show, they said, was dull, lumbering, dreary, long-winded, generic, leaden and interminable. There was much playing on the phrase "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." (Honestly, you'd think the critics could work a little harder for their barbs.) And many wondered why esteemed director Trevor Nunn attached himself to the project in the first place.

The new musical co-stars Darius Danesh as Rhett Butler and Jill Paice as Scarlet O'Hara. (Paice pulled out of the production right after opening due to ill health, but she's back this weekend.) Music and lyrics were by sociologist-turned-composer Margaret Martin, who may well go to being a composer-turned-sociologist after this.

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