PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 30-Sept. 5: A Little Help

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 30-Sept. 5: A Little Help Big-deal musicals honing their acts out of town reached out for a little help this week.
Shrek
Shrek Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Tony Award-winning director and choreographer Rob Ashford was drafted to lend to proverbial "extra pair of eyes" to the new Broadway-bound musical Shrek, Playbill.com first reported.

Ashford flew into Seattle Sept. 2 to assist director Jason Moore with the multi-million-dollar show, which is trying out before a scheduled fall Broadway run. "I called Rob Ashford and asked him to come out and take a look at the show," Moore said. "We've been adding three or four new musical numbers…. We want to get as much accomplished here as we can. Rob got here last night. He'll be with us through Seattle. It will be another pair of hands on deck."

Shrek the Musical — based on the story and characters from William Steig's "Shrek!" and the blockbuster DreamWorks Animation film of the same name — is due to open there on Sept. 10. Moore mentioned that rehearsals will likely continue after the official opening.

Meanwhile, further south down the California coast, there was a second delay of the first preview of 9 to 5: The Musical, another Broadway-bound tuner that is trying out on the left coast. The Dolly Parton-scored show was first expected to bow at the Ahmanson in L.A. in Sept. 3, then on Sept. 6, now on Sept. 9

Previews have been canceled "because the size and scope of the new musical necessitate further technical rehearsals," according to a statement released Sept. 4. Of the previous delay, seven-time Grammy winner Parton stated, "Oh, what's two to three more days on a project that we've worked two to three years on? The sets and the technical end of things are more involved on this musical than they were on the movie! And it's going to look fantastic." You can just hear her saying that, can't you?

As for 9 to 5's director, Joe Mantello, methinks he's working a little more than 9 to 5 these days.

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Fela!, a new musical based on the life of groundbreaking African composer and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti, directed by Bill T. Jones, officially opened at Off-Broadway's 37 Arts Sept. 4. Critics called the show energetic, bold and exuberant (the Times said the musical's energy could "melt walls"), even as they made mild gripes about the slapdash, vague structure. And all praised the moxie and moves of star Sahr Ngaujah as Fela. The reviews were good enough to likely ensure that Fela! has a future.

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Who will be Bing, Danny, Rosemary and, uh, Vera-Ellen in the Broadway premiere of Irving Berlin's White Christmas? Stephen Bogardus, Jeffry Denman, Kerry O'Malley and Meredith Patterson, that's who. Previews for the limited engagement of the splashy musical comedy begin Nov. 14 at the Marquis Theatre toward a Nov. 23 opening. The musical, which is directed by Walter Bobbie and has choreography by Randy Skinner has already been seen in hit seasonal engagements (since 2004) in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit, Toronto, Boston and St. Paul.

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Noel Coward will return to Broadway in the spring. Tony Award winner Michael Blakemore will direct a Broadway revival of the classic comedy Blithe Spirit. Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel and Steve Traxler will produce at (everybody's favorite phrase) "a Shubert theatre to be announced."

No casting yet for novelist Charles Condomine, who is living with two bothersome wives, one living, one dead. The most recent revival of Coward's comedy played Broadway in 1987 and was not a success.

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The Naked Angels production of Frank Pugliese's The Talk, to star Bobby Cannavale, has been yanked from the company's season line-up. Replacing it is a show not with a star actor, but a star director.

David Schwimmer will direct the premiere of Stephen Belber's Fault Lines, which begins previews Sept. 22 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Acting are Noah Emmerich, Dominic Fumusa, Josh Lucas and Jennifer Mudge. The production will officially open Sept. 30. A reason was not provided regarding the cancellation of Pugliese's The Talk.

Press notes for Fault Lines read: "Whole Foods, Edie Brickell and mini-hot dogs abound in this dark and twisted new comedy." Sounds good. But what about Edie Brickell eating mini-hot dogs while in a Whole Foods. Even better.