PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 20-26: Addams Family's Demise, a Broadway Ghost, New Godspelleers

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 20-26: Addams Family's Demise, a Broadway Ghost, New Godspelleers
 
It was rumored, and now it's confirmed. Ghost, the high-tech London pop musical based the 1990 film will indeed materialize on Broadway in March 2012 at a Nederlander theatre to be announced.

Caissie Levy and Richard Fleeshman
Caissie Levy and Richard Fleeshman Photo by Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin adapted his script for the stage, and it's directed by Matthew Warchus. It has music and lyrics by Grammy Award winner Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics — which, beyond the name recognition of the title, may be this show's main selling point — and Glen Ballard.

No casting has been announced for Broadway. Richard Fleeshman and Caissie Levy created the roles of Sam and Molly in London, but names more familiar to American theatregoers would seem to be the ticket for the Broadway production. Can Stewart get Annie Lennox to play the phony psychic? She can sing.

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Celisse Henderson of the Wicked national tour, Lindsay Mendez of Broadway's Everyday Rapture and Wallace Smith of Broadway's American Idiot have joined the cast of the new Broadway production of Godspell.

They join previously announced cast members Hunter Parrish (as Jesus), Uzo Aduba, Nick Blaemire, Morgan James and Telly Leung in the production directed by Daniel Goldstein. The rock musical begins performances at Circle in the Square Theatre Oct. 13 prior to an opening night of Nov. 7.

The show, which put composer Stephen Schwartz on the map, had a five-year run Off-Broadway (the musical opened at the Cherry Lane Theatre May 13, 1971, and transferred to the Promenade in August of that year). Godspell then opened at Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre in June 1976. It eventually played both the Plymouth and Ambassador theatres before closing Sept. 4, 1977, after 527 regular performances.

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Speaking of the Cherry Lane, Angelina Fiordellisi, artistic director of the historic Off-Broadway house, made theatre historians very happy by reversing her decision to sell the venue.

Fiordellisi had announced in December that she was going to sell. But a significantly reduced deficit, a new managing agent and an outpouring of support from neighbors in the West Village changed her mind. "I was overwhelmed by the response from my neighbors and the artists who have worked with me at Cherry Lane over the past 15 years," Fiordellisi said in a statement. "I received hundreds of phone calls and emails and visits from people who were concerned to hear that I was leaving and that the theatre was for sale. And when those people started referring rentals to us, I was able to look ahead and feel more secure about the theatre's financial future. It made me feel like I was doing something essential in the community and that I belong here."

Key to her decision to keep the Cherry Lane is the theatre's reduction of a $250,000 deficit by two-thirds through reductions in staff and expenses, along with a streamlined budget and a steady succession of rentals on Cherry Lane's 179-seat mainstage and its 60-seat Studio Theatre throughout the year.

Fiordellisi expects to play off the deficit by January 2012.

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Brooke Shields and Roger Rees in The Addams Family
photo by Jeremy Daniel

The Broadway musical comedy The Addams Family will close at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre Dec. 31 following 725 performances and 34 previews, the producers announced. Brooke Shields, who plays Morticia in the show inspired by the funny-macabre cartoons of Charles Addams, recently extended her contract to that date.

The musical, by Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman (book) and Andrew Lippa (music and lyrics), ran rather longer than expected given the critical pummeling it received upon opening. The national tour of The Addams Family launches on Sept. 15 at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre for the Performing Arts in New Orleans. Bookings are planned in more than 30 cities through 2012.

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Finally, Price Berkley, the founder of Theatrical Index — the singular, low-tech weekly compilation of Broadway production data sold by subscription to journalists, producers, agents and other industry folk — died Aug. 21 at his home in Manhattan. His age was not revealed.

Theatrical Index is a publication that could only exist in the theatre. In a technically advanced, digital world, it is defiantly lo-fi — basically just a stack of 8" x 11" pages held together by three staples. Yet for all its simplicity, the Index is also incredibly expensive; a year's subscription for weekly delivery is $425. Still, people continued to buy it through the years, partly out of a sense of tradition, partly because the information within was so solid and complete. (The warning on the cover page that copying of the document is prohibited is routinely flouted.)

As with the Index, Mr. Berkley himself was one of a kind, an eccentric to put other Broadway eccentrics to shame. Foppish, loquacious and mysterious, he took taxis everywhere, ate out seven nights a weeks, and proclaimed himself to be the most relaxed man in the world. A native of Philadelphia, he initially wanted to be an actor. When that didn't work out, he fell from job to job until finally carving out the niche of niches in 1964, when he came out with the first issue of the Index. Soon enough, he had a sweet little monopoly. Frequently, people approached him wanting to buy the Index. But he never sold.

Mr. Berkley retired from the Index in 2007, but continued as a consultant until 2010. Steve Bebout, a longtime employee at the Index, took over as editor. "I have nobody to support," Berkley once told this reporter. "I don't even have a dog. I have one companion, and that is the theatre."

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