PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 2-8: Sutton Foster Is the Top!; Special Tonys Revealed; Urinetown Returns

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 2-8: Sutton Foster Is the Top!; Special Tonys Revealed; Urinetown Returns
 
Anything Goes, Cole Porter's most popular show (save for Kiss Me, Kate, perhaps), opened on Broadway this week, and proved to be the perennial good luck charm is has in the past. The Roundabout Theatre Company production provided director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall and stars Sutton Foster and Joel Grey with some of their best reviews in memory. Oh, and the Roundabout itself, too! Don't forget about them. It can now enjoy having two boffo hits at once on Broadway (the other being The Importance of Being Earnest), something it hasn't had in a long while.

Joel Grey and Sutton Foster in Anything Goes.
Joel Grey and Sutton Foster in Anything Goes. Photo by Joan Marcus

Foster in particular was lavished with career-high praise, and was called by many critics the reason why the revival of the musical deserved to exist. She was "both goofy and sexy, shruggingly insouciant and rigorously polished," embodied "the essence of escapist entertainment in the 1930s," "the very definition of a Broadway triple threat," "a Swiss watch with a swing hand" (huh?) and "a unique comic presence."

Stay tuned for extensions, and a second Tony Award for Foster.

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Want to experience 15 seasons of the New York International Fringe Festival in one summer? You can! Something called The Alumni Association of the New York International Fringe Festival (do they have a stately clubhouse in midtown?) announced this week that, in an extended drum roll for the coming 15th anniversary of the scrappy theatrical smorgasbord in August, the festival will offer "a taste of 15 of the most beloved shows from the past 15 years of FringeNYC." The series will begin on May 5 at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, located inside West Bank Cafe at 407 West 42nd Street, and continue through Aug. 11.

So guess which show will kick the thing off? That's right, Urinetown. A decade after it hit Broadway, this Tony-winning musical is still the Fringe's main calling card, its major success story. The show will be presented in concert form, with a cast to be announced. The real attraction here, though, is that the evening will feature songs from Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis's new musical, Yeast Nation, which has thus far only been seen in Chicago and, um, Alaska. The other Fringe alumni that were considered worthy are: The Fartiste (from 2006); Cats Talk Back (2003); Williamsburg: The Musical (2007); South Pathetic (2010); The Boys Upstairs (2009); Veritas (2010); MoM - A Rock Concert (2009); The Lightning Field; I Was Tom Cruise (2006); Armless (2004); The Complete Lost Works Of Samuel Beckett As Found In An Envelope (partially burned) In A Dustbin In Paris Labeled “Never to be performed. Never. Ever. EVER! Or I’ll Sue! I’LL SUE FROM THE GRAVE!” (2006); Bridezilla Strikes Back (2005); The Event (2009); and Dog Sees God (2004). Hmm. A lot of works of recent vintage there. No Matt and Ben? No Debbie Does Dallas, Americana Absurdum, Tiny Ninja Macbeth? Nothing by Daniel MacIvor?!

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Marisa Tomei in Marie and Bruce
photo by Monique Carboni

The New Group must be applauded for their devotion to Wallace Shawn, a caustic, querulous, corrosively intellectual playwright whose appeal is about as far from commercial as possible. The Off-Broadway company presented its latest work of Shawn's this week, the first major New York revival of his 1979 work Marie and Bruce. Directed by Scott Elliott, it starred Marisa Tomei and Frank Whaley as a terribly mismatched and miserable couple who break up over the course of a singularly unpleasant evening. Some reviews, notably the New York Times, found the production exquisitely discomfiting. Others just found it plain discomfiting.

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Yet another setback for the long-in-coming, Broadway-aimed revival of You Can't Take It With You. This show was finally supposed to get going this summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. But now it has been replaced with a new Robert Falls-directed production of Jon Robin Baitz's Three Hotels.

You Can't Take It With You, which is slated to open on Broadway Aug. 11 at a Shubert Theatre to be announced under the direction of Christopher Ashley, would not have casting ready in time for the summer debut, it was explained. A representative for the Broadway production confirmed to Playbill.com that the comedy is still on track for its New York return.

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The premiere of one new musical is an ambitious enough prospect for a regional theatre. They're expensive, after all, and very rarely does one hit paydirt, either critically, commercially or artistically. But four musical premieres? That's takes some chutzpah, laced with a side of masochism.

But that's exactly what the Signature Theatre Company of Arlington, VA, is going to do during the 2011-12 season. The Signature has long been devoted to the musical form, and it will show its love by presenting new musicals by Hunter Foster and Matt Conner; Joe Meno and Adam Gwon; John Dempsey and Dana Rowe; and Ted Shen.

The first two new musicals of the season — Foster and Conner's The Hollow and Gwon and Meno's The Boy Detective Fails — will be part of the first American Musical Voices Project Repertory Series, and will run in repertory. The other musicals are Brother Russia by Dempsey and Rowe; and A Second Chance by Shen.

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There was cheering news out of Michigan. After a dormant summer in 2010, The Barn Theatre, Michigan's oldest professional summer theatre and the early stomping ground of future stars, will return for the summer 2011 season.

The 481-seat Equity theatre, in the hills of Southwest Michigan outside of the town of Augusta, is in a converted dairy barn that sits on 80 acres. The same family has managed the troupe for 65 years. The 2010 season was scotched due to lack of funds, a poor economy and a 2009 season that did not sell well.

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Two of Chicago's enduring stage stars will share the stage in the Northlight Theatre world-premiere of Bruce Graham's The Outgoing Tide, come May. John Mahoney and Rondi Reed — both longtime members of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company — play a married couple who, while spending the summer in a cottage on Chesapeake Bay, argue over a plan Mahoney's character has has hatched to secure his family's future. The role of Gunner was written for Mahoney by playwright Graham.

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The Tony Awards Administration Committee has announced the recipients for the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, the Isabelle Stevenson Award and The Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre.These awards will be presented at the 2011 Tony Awards, which will be held June 12 at the Beacon Theatre.

The Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre will be presented to Athol Fugard, the leading South African playwright of his generation, and Philip J. Smith, the former box office treasurer who rose through the ranks to become the Chairman of The Shubert Organization. The recipient of the Isabelle Stevenson Award — which "recognizes an individual from the theatre community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations" — will be V-Day founder and artistic director, Eve Ensler (best known for The Vagina Monologues). This year's Tony Honors will be presented to animal trainer Bill Berloni, The Drama Book Shop on West 40th Street in Manhattan, and Sharon Jensen and Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts.

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