PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 1-7: Hair's How!

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 1-7: Hair's How! Peace, love, understanding, free expression and everything groovy— it all leads to a big pay day, mister!
Barbara Streisand
Barbara Streisand

The Tony Award-winning revival of the '60s rock musical Hair, which plays the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, has recouped its initial investment of $5.76 million, according to Variety. The musical, which only opened in March, has been grossing $1 million or more weekly for over the past two months.

Once upon a time, this commercial transfer of the 2008 Central Park success was considered super risky, with producers going begging for investors. Hair marks yet another one in the "win" column for lead producer Jeffrey Richards, who produced six Broadway shows in 2008-09 and ended up making money on four of them: Hair, Speed-the-Plow, Blithe Spirit and You're Welcome America. Batting .666. I'd take it.

***

The Bridge Project, director Sam Mendes' high-brow, trans-Atlantic classics project, which has been gracing the stage at BAM's Harvey Theater, will in 2010 present productions of William Shakespeare's The Tempest and As You Like It.

The cast will boast Stephen Dillane, Anne-Marie Duff, Christian Camargo and Juliet Rylance. Dillane will play Prospero in The Tempest and Jacques in As You Like It with Duff as Ariel and Rosalind, Camargo as Stephano and Orlando and Rylance as Miranda and Celia. ***

Barbra Streisand never returns to the concert stage without it becoming an event.

This time around, however, the performance will be ridiculously exclusive. To celebrate the release of her upcoming jazz-influenced solo CD, Love Is the Answer, she will give a single performance at New York's Village Vanguard on Sept. 26. Streisand last played the Manhattan venue in 1961 — 48 years ago! — as the opening act for Miles Davis.

Free tickets to the September performance will be made available only to fans who either pre-order the new CD or register an entry blank free of charge. Full details and rules can be found by visiting barbrastreisand.com.

For her next New York concert date, Barbra will be performing in an elevator at Rockefeller Center, singing as many songs as she can fit in a trip from the Lobby to the 20th floor. Audience capacity: 3,200 pounds. Interested parties can gain tickets by participating in a midnight scavenger hunt in Van Cortlandt Park on New Year's Eve.

***

The Skylight Opera Theatre melodrama, which has roiled Milwaukee's artistic community — and been watched carefully by artists across the nation — came to a head this week, when the widely vilified managing director Eric Dillner resigned on Aug. 5.

Dillner received national attention — almost none of it good — after he, in tandem with the troupe's board, headed by Suzanne Hefty (since resigned), fired the popular artistic director as a cost-saving measure, and subsequently retaliated against other Skylight staffers who protested the move. Former artistic director Bill Theisen will now return to direct shows in the coming season, as a free-lancer, a spokesperson confirmed on Aug. 6, and the contracts of the various Skylight artists who quit in protest of Dillner's actions will be honored.

The board of directors plans to explore a full range of options as it considers Dillner's successor. Two Skylight alumni, Joan Lounsbery and Colin Cabot, "have graciously offered to help manage the company [as interim managing director and artistic director, respectively] …. until a replacement can be identified," according to a statement.

Now, perhaps, there might be something to celebrate in Skylight's upcoming 50th anniversary season.

***

What would the U.S.'s award-giving bodies do with playwright Tony Kushner? The writer seems to be on a short list of one whenever it is trophy time.

Kushner — who has been raking in the honors fairly steadily in recent years — will receive the 2009 Chicago Tribune Literary Prize for lifetime achievement on Nov. 8. (He's 53.) Presented as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival, the author of Angels in America and Caroline, or Change will be honored at the Symphony Center, according to the Chicago Tribune.

***

The curtain fell with some finality on story of the collapse of theatre empire Livent, Inc. this week. Garth Drabinsky and Myron Gottlieb, the former leaders of the now-defunct theatrical production company, who were convicted earlier this year of fraud, were sentenced on Aug. 5 to seven and six years in prison, respectively, for their crimes. The men were taken into custody and to a bail hearing, where they were granted bail while they appeal their criminal convictions. (When convicted white collar criminals appeal their convictions and sentencing in Canadian courts, bail and freedom are common.)

The prosecution had sought eight to ten years in prison for the men, whose publicly traded production company created Tony-winning or -nominated Broadway shows including Ragtime, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Fosse, Parade, Barrymore, Show Boat and more. They were convicted of falsifying accounting statements over the decade-long (1989-98) life of Livent, as they raised $500 million in Canada and the U.S. to support their North American theatre-owning and producing empire.

Accounting irregularities at Livent were investigated in the late 1990s, when the company was reaching artistic fruition with the new musical Ragtime. The show would end up winning 1998 Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Score, among others. (Fosse, which won a 1999 Tony as Best Musical, was then in the works.) By late 1998, the decade-old company declared bankruptcy and collapsed, and the stock was worthless. Bloomberg reported that the company's peak value was $269 million in 1996.

Drabinsky and Gottlieb are still wanted men in the U.S. In 1999 they were charged with fraud by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York.

The cast of <i>Hair</i>
The cast of Hair Photo by Joan Marcus