PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 13-19: Blasts From the Past

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 13-19: Blasts From the Past There may have been bigger theatre stories this week, but, to my mind, none was more tantalizing than the news that the fate of Judge Joseph Force Crater, who vanished 75 years ago—and thus engendered one of the enduring mysteries of New York City history—has perhaps finally been ascertained.

OK, OK, this tale is tangentially theatrical at best. But, mind you, Crater's vanishing act occurred in 1930, when the New York theatre was at its peak and every Gotham news story seemed to have a showbiz angle. Crater, a creature of corrupt Tammany Hall, liked his Broadway shows, and even had a long-term dalliance with showgirl Sally Lou Ritz. He was last seen on Aug. 6 exiting Billy Haas' Chophouse, a popular eatery on West 45th Street and was about to go to the second performance of the new David Belasco-produced entertainment Dancing Partner at the Belasco Theatre when the taxi he entered disappeared into the mists of history.

According to a letter that the recently deceased Stella Ferrucci-Good instructed not be opened until after her death, Crater was done in by her husband, Robert Good; a New York cop named Charles Burns; and Burns' cab-driving brother Frank. The letter said the judge was buried beneath the Coney Island boardwalk at 8th Street—the location of the current Aquarium. Officials are now examining human bones that were found there in the '50s when the Aquarium was built.

As for 22-year-old Ritz, well, she disappeared a few weeks after Crater, also never to be seen again. No letters so far about her whereabouts.

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Actress and native New Yorker Marian Seldes turned two years old when Judge Crater was officially declared missing. And, just like Crater, she's still making news today. Most of the praise that greeted the opening of Terrence McNally's Dedication, or The Stuff of Dreams at Primary Stages (and it wasn't all praise by any means) was aimed at Seldes. All agreed she made the outing worth the while, and blew all comers off the stage, including co-star Nathan Lane, who's never been called a slouch. This was no doubt good news for the producers, who no longer have to worry quite so much that Lane will be leaving the show Sept. 4. The show has been extended to Oct. 2. ***

Lennon opened on Aug. 14 and, as of this writing, is still open—something of a miracle given the critical shellacking it received. The production, which has been troubled since trying out earlier this year in San Francisco, was accused of being an anodyne treatment of its subject, rock icon John Lennon, too Yoko-centric, unwieldy in its choice to have several actors play Lennon, and just plain dull. Some kind words, however, were reserved for the talented cast.

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Broadway's Twyla Tharp-Billy Joel collaboration, Movin' Out, will end its three year run at the Richard Rodgers Theatre Dec. 11, producers announced Aug. 18. The dance-heavy musical, a surprise critical hit when it opened in 2002, will have played 28 previews and 1,303 regular performances. Some are saying the Rodgers' next tenant will be Disney's new Tarzan musical. Tarzan and Disney officials aren't saying, but some are.

Speaking of Tarzan, finding an actor with just the right mix of jungle charisma ain't easy. So Disney has decided to hold an open call for the title role of the new Broadway musical on Aug. 29 at the Here Arts Center. If you think you've got what it takes, first peruse this impressive checklist of qualities: "A thrilling pop/rock singer to play in his 20s... He is charming, sexy, vulnerable, animal-like, mysterious, and has lots of humanity. He is physically lean but toned, like a swimmer; he is not a muscle man as in the traditional Tarzan type. He should have strong upper body strength and be physical, agile, fearless, and very comfortable with movement and tackling aerial work. His body must be at one with the environment."

Feeling inadequate yet?

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In other Broadway news, Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, the upcoming musical celebration of the life and art of Tony Award-winning Broadway gypsy Chita Rivera, will begin previews Nov. 23 at the Schoenfeld Theatre.

Also, there was a surprise ending to the ongoing Pajama Game saga. This new Kathleen Marshall-directed revival, promised for Broadway for a couple seasons going, was announced this week as the winter offering at the American Airlines Theatre. As in the Roundabout Theatre Company. As in nonprofit. Apparently, the window of time in which star Harry Connick, Jr. could offer his talents was limited, so the commercial producers jumped at the chance to stage it at the AA, rather than lose Connick and the production altogether. The show will begin performances Jan. 27, with a March 2 opening.

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Al Carmines, who as assistant rector of Greenwich Village's Judson Memorial Theatre, helped create the experimental crucible that was the Judson's Poets' Theatre, and thus became one of the seminal forces of the Off-Off Broadway movement, died Aug. 11 at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan. He was 69. For whatever reason, Carmines' name has never been as renowned as some of his fellow ground-breakers in avant garde, such as Caffe Cino's Joe Cino and La Mama's Ellen Stewart. But his astistic perch was as big a force as any in the new theatre movement that emerged in the 1960s. Judson's senior minister Howard Moody charged him with creating a theatre and gave him only two guidelines: no religious drama and no censorship. He proceeded to write about 80 musicals, operas and oratorios, some about controversial topics that one would hardly expect to be aired inside a church. He could often be seen playing his own music at performances, as well as acting in his shows. On Sunday, of course, he offered a different sort of play called a sermon. Apparently, these sermons seldom mentioned God. "I've discovered for myself," he once said, "that God doesn't disappear when you don't talk about him."

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