PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 4-10: Awash in Brooks and Waters

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 4-10: Awash in Brooks and Waters Two of the biggest Broadway musical hits of the first decade of the 21th century were The Producers and Hairspray. This week, there was news from the follow-ups shows hatched by the two minds that inspired them.
Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks Photo by Paul Kolnik

Mel Brooks, the man behind Max and Leo, launched his latest film-to-stage creation, Young Frankenstein, in Seattle on Aug. 7. The show will reach Broadway in the fall, playing the Hilton Theatre. Meanwhile, Cry-Baby, the new musical based upon "Hairspray" filmmaker John Waters' Universal Pictures film of the same name, announced it was aiming for a March 2008 bow on Broadway with an official opening in April. The musical features a book by Mark O'Donnell and the ever-busy Thomas Meehan (who also contributed to the Young Frankenstein book) and a score by David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger. Mark Brokaw will direct with choreography by Rob Ashford. The out-of-town tryout will be presented at the La Jolla Playhouse Nov. 6-Dec. 16.

Brooks' The Producers won the Best Musical Tony Award in 2001, while Waters' Hairspray won the same trophy in 2003. This time the two men will be competing head to head for the Best Musical prize.

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By the time today, Aug. 10, is over, The 2007 New York International Fringe Festival will have a few dozen performances under its belt.

The annual summer event, now in its 11th year, boasts the usual overload of material: more than 180 attractions. If you squint, the extravaganza still ranks as an international affair: there are shows from Sweden, Japan, Australia, France, Ireland, England and Romania. But most of these August artists hail from the five boroughs. And, judging by the titles, the Fest still steadfastly refuses to take itself or theatre in general terribly seriously. Some of my favorite titles for 2007: Princess Sunshine's Bitter Pill of Truth Funhouse; Two-mur Humor: He's Malignant, She's Benign; Whence Came Ye Scarlett O'Hara O'Hanrahan?; Pogo & Evie: A Zydeco Musical and Fish. Yes, just Fish.

If you have the stamina, the patience, and are impervious to heat and masses of theatre people, it all continues through Aug. 19.

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Christian Slater, who's had to put up with a lot from drama critics over the past few years, is a stubborn man. He will return to the West End this October in a stage adaptation of the Hollywood comedy thriller Swimming With Sharks. He was last seen on the London stage in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

In Sharks, he will play film producer and boss-from-Hell Buddy Ackerman, a role played on screen by Kevin Spacey, a guy who spends a lot of time in London lately (he's artistic director of the Old Vic and will be able to catch's Slater's act). Wilson Milan, of The Lieutenant of Inishmore fame, will direct.

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Kirsten Childs, the composer-lyricist-librettist who burst through with her Off-Broadway musical hit The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin,, works slowly, producing a show only every few years. But her latest offering, Funked Up Fairy Tales, is shaping up to be another success. It has extended its run at Barrington Stage Company through Aug. 18.

The title is apt. She has taken some classic fairy tales and given them a funky, hip spin, filling familiar stories with characters called K-Pig (based on the Italian fairy tale "The Pig Prince"), Tammi-Lynn (based on the Scottish fable Tam Lin) and Mistah Skin (a re-imagination of "Rumpelstiltskin").

Barrington has had some luck lately sending its shows to New York (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is the prime example). Given Childs' recent track record, don’t be surprised if Tales moves south as well.

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The career of Chazz Palminteri, a New York City native, took off in the late '80s, when he performed his one-man show A Bronx Tale on stage in Los Angeles and New York. Now, 20 years and some 50 films later, he will return to the work that has most defined him as an artist. A Bronx Tale, starring Palminteri, will play Broadway this fall in a limited engagement, beginning Oct. 4 at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Jerry Zaks directs. (Robert De Niro directed the 1993 film version that made Palminteri a movie star.)

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Theater for a New Audience this week announced its 2007-08 season, a continuation of the sociological programming approach that worked for the company last season. In 2006-07, TFANA explored the role of Jews in western literature, staging productions of The Merchant of Venice, The Jew of Malta and Oliver Twist. The new, three-play line-up will look at literary "collisions" between Euro-American culture and Africa.

The roster includes Ohio State Murders by Adrienne Kennedy and Oroonoko a play based a 1688 novella by Aphra Behn. But the most eyebrow-raising title is a new mounting of Antony and Cleopatra starring Christine Baranski as the Egyptian queen who risks life and kingdom for love. Baranski, who has only recently returned to stage work after many years in Hollywood, has played many roles over her long career. But she is known for her comic work. She has only rarely been seen in dramas and almost never in the classics. The production should prove a hot ticket for both steady theatergoers and curiosity seekers.

Chazz Palminteri will bring <i>A Bronx Tale</i> to Broadway.
Chazz Palminteri will bring A Bronx Tale to Broadway.
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