PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 29-Sept. 4: Alive and Well

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 29-Sept. 4: Alive and Well The Sherman Brothers want to tell you that they're alive and well and living in Beverly Hills (Richard) and London (Robert).

When producers who were shepherding the musical Busker Alley toward a commercial future announced on Aug. 25 that they were abandoning the project, in part, because of the "health issues" of one of the writers, it was a surprise to collaborator Robert B. Sherman, the Academy Award-winning songwriter who penned the score with his brother, Richard Sherman.

Producer Margot Astrachan and her producing partners cited "the loss of one member of the writing team and the health issues of another" as reasons for dropping the romantic musical comedy based on the film "St. Martin's Lane."

Librettist AJ Carothers died in April 2007, more than two years before the producers finally pulled out of the project. So that part is true. But Robert Sherman, 83, told Playbill.com in an exclusive Aug. 31 statement, "The reports of my ill-health have been greatly exaggerated, to paraphrase Mark Twain."

He said that potential producers making public statements about his health could be "damaging to Richard's and my various ongoing projects. I'm not sure why the producers said it. It is true that during a critical moment in our negotiations I suffered a bad flare-up of gout, but it wasn't the Plague. That was three weeks ago. I'm feeling great now. Richard is healthy too, to the best of my knowledge."

He continued, "The negotiations just broke down. We simply couldn't see eye to eye with the producers on a number of key issues. These things happen. …Don't write off Busker Alley just yet. This show has had more lives than a Cheshire cat." Meow!

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Broadway can, apparently, forgive a lot.

Eric D. Schaeffer, the longtime artistic director of the Signature Theatre, has had plenty of success down in Arlington, VA. But his plane tends to catch on fire every time he tries to land on Broadway. Since he's an adept hand at the work of Stephen Sondheim, people expected his first venture, the 1999 revue Putting It Together, to last longer than three months. As for his second try, 2008's one-performance-only Glory Days, the only polite thing to do is not bring it up.

Perhaps, three's a charm. Schaeffer will return to the Great White Way with Million Dollar Quartet, the Chicago hit that played a commercial run at the Goodman Theatre before a transfer to the Apollo. It will arrive on Broadway in spring 2010 at a theatre to be announced.

Schaeffer directs the new musical that was inspired by the famed 1956 recording session that brought together four of the most legendary figures in the history of rock 'n' roll: Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley. (What? No Roy Orbison?) Million Dollar Quartet features a book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux and tunes from the aforementioned music legends, including "Blue Suede Shoes," "Sixteen Tons" (which would be "Tennessee" Ernie Ford, wouldn't it?) "Who Do You Love?," "Great Balls of Fire," "Riders in the Sky," "I Walk the Line," "Folsom Prison Blues" and "Whole Lotta' Shakin' Goin' On."

Casting will be announced at a later date. Get your pompadours ready, actors.

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Somewhere, the late Horton Foote is very happy.

The world premiere of late Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award-winning playwright's The Orphans' Home Cycle begins performances at Hartford Stage Sept. 3. That's nine plays, folks! Count 'em! The cycle traces the lives of three Texas families over the course of three decades. Hartford Stage artistic director and longtime Foote collaborator Michael Wilson stages the production that runs through Oct. 24. And you just know that daughter Hallie Foote is in the cast. Orphans' Home Cycle will later arrive Off-Broadway at the Signature Theatre Company Nov. 5, 2009-March 6, 2010.

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Tyler Perry is the filmmaker and cross-dressing actor behind such broad filmic comedies as "Madea Goes to Jail" and "Why Did I Get Married?" Ntozake Shange is the Tony Award-nominated playwright of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. It's funny enough seeing their two names in the same sentence. But to have them work on the same project?

Call it counter-intuitive team-building.. Perry is going direct and produce a screen adaptation of Shange's classic, which was recently, briefly, scheduled to return to Broadway. Filming will begin in November in Atlanta. A 2010 release is planned. Casting is yet to be announced. (Will Madea be in it?)

Perry has the Edward Albee Disease, where everything he does has to have his name as part of the official title, as in "Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself." This begs the question: will the movie will be called "Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf"? That would be confusing.

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Drama critics remain on the endangered species list.

This week, we lost John Heilpern, longtime reviewer for the New York Observer. Heilpern exited with a zinger worthy of Addison DeWitt: "I wish the paper all the best," he told the New York Post. "I don't want to be too negative about the 12-year-old owner, Jared Kushner, but as my ma and pa from Manchester, England, used to say, 'That boy couldn't run a chip shop.'"

Heilpern will be replaced by two critics, one of them being former Gawker gossip hound, Jesse Oxfeld, who has written about theater for New York magazine. In this move, the Observer follows the moves of New York magazine, which has never gotten around to permanently replacing drama critic Jeremy McCarter, who left last year for Newsweek. Instead, the magazine has diluted its theatre voice by featuring a rotating array of stage reviewers.

That's one way to shrink your health insurance pool, I guess.

Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman
Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman
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