Critics said is was fresh, alive, exuberant, joyous, passionate, wonderfully staged by Diana Paulus and acted with conviction by a cast led by Jonathan Groff — which is all pretty good news for a show that is fairly inextricable pinned to its time period and could have easily suffered under such damning words as "dated," "old-fashioned" and "passé." The production has been the subject of some whisperings about a transfer to Broadway. These reviews should help fuel that talk.
Hair will continue its extended run through Aug. 31. The cast also features Will Swenson as the free-loving Berger and Patina Renea Miller as Dionne. The production features choreography by Karole Armitage (Passing Strange), who was also praised in reviews. The show reunites much of the 40th anniversary cast of Hair, which played the outdoor theatre in September 2007. If you want to see the cast as it now stands, however, you should do so before Aug. 16. Groff exits the production then and will be succeeded by Christopher J. Hanke beginning Aug. 17.
Fifty Words, a rare major Off-Broadway production for a new Michael Weller play, is getting itself a nice cast. Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz will join the previously announced Elizabeth Marvel in the MCC Theatre staging.
Austin Pendleton will direct the work slated to begin previews Sept. 10 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre and open Sept. 28. Pendleton and Weller have a history together. Back in the late '80s, Pendleton directed Weller's Spoils of War, which was a success Off-Broadway, and then less of a success when it transferred Off-Broadway. It was also Weller's last visit to Broadway to date. ***
This column doesn't usually take time to address that hoary, but lovable theatre tradition: the Sardi's caricature. But we could help but notice that this week actor Boyd Gaines received that honor of having his portrait hung on the walls of the famous Times Square eatery. Finally. Now, let me get this straight — he didn't have one before? The man has four Tony Awards, right, collected over 20 years? And he had to wait behind Stephanie J. Block, Tony Danza, and Jay Johnson and his dummy Bob, who all got Sardi's caricatures before Gaines did? Heck, so did Gaines' Gyspy co-star Laura Benanti, who's very talented, but a mere babe in the woods career-wise next to Gaines.
I guess all's well that ends well. I'm just saying…
Finally, playwright Simon Gray died this week. He was a man both prolific (more than 30 plays, plus novels, teleplays and some achingly confessional memoirs) and profligate (countless packs of cigarettes and bottles of Champagne consumed over a lifetime). His literary targets were typically well-educated, emotionally distant members of the English middle-classes — a group to which he himself belonged — and he nailed the subject with what seemed like effortless wit and intelligence. The world "classic" was rarely applied to his efforts, but recent revivals of such works as Butley and The Common Pursuit have made it clear that some of his titles will be with us for years to come.