PLAYBILL.COM’S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 29-May 5: Three Days in May (and one in April)

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM’S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 29-May 5: Three Days in May (and one in April) At this time last year, Broadway critics—their duties having been fulfilled with the filing of their Sweet Charity notices—had settled down to a long summer's nap.
Bob Martin in The Drowsy Chaperone.
Bob Martin in The Drowsy Chaperone. Photo by Joan Marcus

In this super-sized season, however, reviewers witnessed and bore testimony on four Broadway openings this week, only to find they had three dates yet un-exed on their calendar. (They are The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, Shining City and Tarzan, for those playing at home.)

All in all, it was a good week to open, unless your show was afflicted with both Hot Feet and the collective cold shoulder of the critical corps. Such was the case of the Earth, Wind & Fire jukebox musical that opened at the Hilton on April 30. It was followed by a single day with the New York unveiling of an utterly new musical (new songs, new book, new story—NEW!), the L.A. hit The Drowsy Chaperone, in which a reclusive show nut, called Man in Chair, shares with the audience his favorite forgotten 1920s musical theatre chestnut. Audiences have been gleeful over the buoyant, cheeky affair. Critics—by nature suspicious of having a good time—were more analytical about the attraction's self-referential charms, though the majority concluded that, yes, it was actually as amusing as it seemed. And all praised the work of Mr. Man in Chair himself, Broadway newbie Bob Martin.

After a day's rest, Broadway's appointed approvers tromped off to the Lyceum to The Lieutenant of Inishmore to bathe once more in the blood that they had earlier anointed when the show opened Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theatre Company. And, again, they found Martin McDonagh 's Irish terrorists guilty of giving a good time. Finally, on May 4, came the new revival of Faith Healer, another bit of Irish terrorism—of the emotional variety, this time. Brian Friel's "Rashomon"-like play—four monologues, three characters, no conclusion—was crowned dramatic royalty by the city's most powerful papers, as were its three stars, Ralph Fiennes, Cherry Jones and Ian McDiarmid.

***

The Lucille Lortel Awards were given out on Monday, and voters chose to remember the considerable merits of The Signature Theatre's revival of The Trip to Bountiful. The show was the evening's big winner, with four awards, including Outstanding Revival, Director (Harris Yulin), Lead Actress (Lois Smith), and Featured Actress (Hallie Foote). Pretty noisy showing for such a quiet show. Runners-up in the award count was New York Theatre Workshop's The Seven, which garnered three wins, and The Lieutenant of Inishmore, which won two. ***

Down south, things have gone from bad to worse for Miami's Coconut Grove Playhouse . The theatre's board decided it would go dark this summer (never a good thing; see London's Old Vic) while options are explored. The Coconut Grove is $4 million in debt. Earlier, producing artistic director Arnold Mittelman, on whose watch the theatre accumulated the debt, had been asked to resign, but he refused. Mittelman reportedly wants to stick around through the duration of his contract, to 2008, to help with the resuscitation of the operation.