PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 27-Sept. 2: Hurricane Irene, Hugh Jackman, Kelli O'Hara

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 27-Sept. 2: Hurricane Irene, Hugh Jackman, Kelli O'Hara
 
Blizzards have caused Broadway to shut down in the past. The occasional blackout, too. And, of course, the 9/11 calamity, the tenth anniversary of which will be commemorated next week. But the New York theatre isn't used to shedding performances for a hurricane.

Hugh Jackman
Hugh Jackman Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Still, given the dire warnings of the ferocity Hurricane Irene would bring to the metropolis, Broadway producers had little choice but to follow the example of many New York restaurants and bars, and close last weekend. Members of The Broadway League made the decision to cancel all performances Aug. 27-28. The decision was pushed along by the fact that Mayor Bloomberg decided it was best to suspend subway and bus service.

In the end, while upstate New York State and Vermont suffered horrendous flooding, New York City itself survived relatively unscathed. No power outages, flooding or wind damage to Broadway theatres were reported.

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Broadway's Box Office Boy is back. Hugh Jackman—whose name on the marquee translates into moolah in the till—will bring his Hugh Jackman in Concert, which played limited engagements in Toronto and San Francisco, to the Main Stem, the New York Post reported.

The tabloid said that Jackman's concert evening will begin an eight-week run at the Broadhurst Theatre Oct. 25. Backed by an 18-piece orchestra, the actor performs a personal selection of his favorite musical numbers, including tunes from his Tony-winning turn in The Boy from Oz. Warren Carlyle has the odd title of creative producer (are there creative producers anymore?), and Patrick Vaccariello serves as music supervisor.

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Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis in The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess.
photo by Michael Lutch

A month ago, the Boston opening of the new, Broadway-bound revised staging of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (their title, not mine), shaped by Diane Paulus, Suzan-Lori Parks and Diedre Murray, and starring Norm Lewis and Audra McDonald, would have been exciting, but not national, news. But then Stephen Sondheim came along and savaged the creative team's intentions in a long letter to the editor of the New York Times. This arguably caused the Times' lead critic Ben Brantley, and a number of other critics, to head north to review the Boston bow, which officially opened Aug. 31 at the American Repertory Theater.

Brantley praised McDonald to the skies for her fulsome portrayal of Bess, but said the rest of the cast wasn't up to her level, and the production was uneven and unfocused. The Boston Globe review was much more positive, but the New York Post suggested in print that the production's chances of getting to New York were now in question.

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Kelli O'Hara is keeping busy.

Just a week after signing on as one of King Lear's nasty daughters in the upcoming Public Theater production starring Sam Waterston, this week, her name is attached to the new musical comedy Nice Work If You Can Get It, which will open on Broadway in April directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall. He co-star is Matthew Broderick. He's a wealthy playboy; she's a bootlegger. (I guess some acting muscles will be stretched in rehearsal.) The show will feature a hit parade of George and Ira Gershwin tunes. However, it will not be called The Gershwins' Nice Work If You Can Get It.

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Gary Wilmes

Against all odds, Gary Wilmes is headed to the big time.

The Downtown darling—star of many Elevator Repair Service, Richard Maxwell and Richard Foreman productions—will step into the role of an Ohio businessman in a foreign land in the Broadway production of David Henry Hwang's comedy Chinglish, which will begin previews Oct. 11 at the Longacre Theatre. It will be his Broadway debut.

First seen in a critically acclaimed, extended run at Chicago's Goodman Theatre earlier this summer, Chinglish will arrive on Broadway with much of its original cast intact, including Jennifer Lim as a captivating Chinese government official and Stephen Pucci as an Australian entrepreneur. Wilmes was not part of the Goodman staging.

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Sting is writing a musical.

The mono-named, spiky-haired rock superstar (and former Broadway Mack the Knife) is collaborating with Next to Normal librettist Brian Yorkey on a show called The Last Ship, based on Sting's 1991 album "The Soul Cages." The project—which reportedly will incorporate biographical aspects from Sting's life and is set in the1980s in Newcastle, England, where the rocker grew up as Gordon Sumner—is currently casting for a series of October readings in Manhattan. Yorkey will direct.

Sting has already composed over 20 new songs. However, a source close to the production said that the musical will include a handful of pre-existing Sting songs framed within a new context. Will there be a love interest named Roxanne?

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