PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 21-27: Nixon's the One

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 21-27: Nixon's the One
 
Critics and theatergoers were reminded this week that, if you like fulsome, red-blooded stage acting, it's hard to beat Frank Langella.
Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon.
Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon. Photo by Joan Marcus

Langella knocked 'em flat—as he tends to do whenever to pays a call on Broadway—with his portrayal of former President Richard M. Nixon in Peter Morgan's historical play about the Nixon-David Frost interviews of 1977, Frost/Nixon. Critics found Langella's embodiment of the politician's charms and demons so persuasive as to sweep from one's mind 40 years of indelible images of the much-imitated man. They particularly admired the scene—invented by Morgan—in which the brooding, drunken Nixon places a late-hours call to Frost, unpacking all his seething fears and furies to the bewildering talk show host.

Michael Sheen, as the feckless but savvy Frost, received an almost equal share of good words, but, though Frost won the battle over Nixon in real life, there was no question in most minds who won top honors in this dramatic recreation. The play itself was also applauded, though thought too simple and schematic by some.

According to recent report, the duo will get the opportunity to repeat their performances on screen in the upcoming Ron Howard film, with Langella allegedly beating out such Hollywood heavyweights as Warren Beatty and Kevin Spacey.

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Frost/Nixon and Langella did well with the Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle and the Drama League, all of which bodies announced their award nominations this week. The Morgan play collected more Drama Desk and Outer Critics noms than any play except—natch—Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia. The three-part epic, which was well reviewed, was bound to collect the lion's share of noms given the copious amount of personnel eligible for recognition. On the musical front, opinions were split. The Drama Desk gave the Kurt Weill-Lotte Lenya tale, LoveMusik the most nominations, with 12. Following were Kander and Ebb's Curtains, the stage version of the film Legally Blonde, and the searing rock musical Spring Awakening, all with 10 nods. How's that for a quartet of shows as different from one another as the four Beatles?

The Outer Critics did not agree. They awarded the most nominations—11—to dark horse Mary Poppins, the Disney musical that was pretty well damned with faint praise by most critics. Curtains only got 6, LoveMusik 5, and Legally Blonde, uh, zilch.

This disparity caused producers some consternation. But, at the same time, it's generally held that these nominations don't serve much purpose other than to provide copy for ads until the more important Tony nominations come out on May 15.

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Young Frankenstein, the eagerly awaited new Mel Brooks musical, said it will have a pre-Broadway tryout this summer in Seattle, not Chicago, where The Producers made its reputation. It will play an Aug. 4-Sept. 1 stint at Seattle's Paramount Theatre.

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The Roundabout Theatre Company has finalized casting for its upcoming production of John Van Druten's seldom-seen Old Acquaintance, a work best remembered these days for the film version starring Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins. Stephen Bogardus will join Harriet Harris and Margaret Colin in the story of two childhood friends who have grown into very different adults. It is to be directed by Michael Wilson and will be the first Van Druten play to be seen on Broadway in 55 years.

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Musicals don't stay away from New York long these days. Les Miserables returned to Broadway before we even knew it was gone. And now, John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask's cult classic Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which only ended its long Off-Broadway run in 2000, will return to the Off-Broadway stage this October at the Zipper Theatre.

So, when is someone going to revive The Producers already?

Michael Cerveris and Donna Murphy star in <i>LoveMusik</i> which garnered 12 Drama Desk nominations.
Michael Cerveris and Donna Murphy star in LoveMusik which garnered 12 Drama Desk nominations. Photo by Carol Rosegg
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