PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 8-14: Web of Intrigue

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 8-14: Web of Intrigue Production on the much-talked-about new Julie Taymor musical Spider-Man, Turn Off The Dark was temporarily halted late last week. This is not a thing you really want to happen to a huge musical with a reported $35 million budget and a schedule that has it beginning previews at Broadway's Hilton Theatre Feb. 25, 2010.
Julie Taymor
Julie Taymor

Hello Entertainment, one of the producers of the big-budget musical, released a statement to the Times explaining production had been suspended due to "an unexpected cash flow problem." The statement, however, added, "The plans necessary for this correction are in hand now, and it is expected that activities, including work in the theater, will resume within the immediate future and with no material impact upon the planned production schedule."

A spokesperson for the musical previously told Variety that the work stoppage is not expected to affect the preview date.

We've been hearing about Spider-Man for about five years now, and from the beginning it's been spoken of in nearly mythical terms. This is not surprising, given the facts. First of all, it's a show about Spider-Man! The webbed wonder has been kind of a big deal on the silver screen of late. It would be the first new Broadway show since The Lion King for Julie Taymor—whose status as a legendary talent has only grown the longer she's stayed away from the stage—and the score was to be written by U2's Bono and The Edge, who are, you know, the kind of rock stars who are so cool they never take off their sunglasses or hats. It takes a good deal of imagination just to picture what a show created by that trio would actually be like. And then there's that curious title, which, I have to admit, I've been reading over and over for a year now. I still don't know what it means.

In the past year, the show's progress has been a regular feature in the New York Post, which has turned the musical into a regular target, focusing on such alleged matters as the producers' inexperience and the runaway budget. Every week, the tabloid prints more bad news. Even if only a third of it is true, the show seems to be in a very bad place right now.

That said, producers are still standing by their musical. In fact, a spokesperson released this statement to Playbill.com Aug. 14: "Hello Entertainment is aware of the speculation about the future of Spider-Man on Broadway and is re-confirming that the plan is to resume production shortly and preview on February 25th, 2010 at the Hilton Theatre when cash flow issues have been resolved." ***

Hey, what happened? I thought theatrical wunderkind Martin McDonagh, the Bard of Brutality, had given up playwriting for good. Isn't that what the Irish playwright was telling the world a couple years back?

Well, I guess he thought it over again. McDonagh's new dark (aren't they all?) comedy, A Behanding in Spokane, will get its world premiere on Broadway in March 2010. (Spokane, huh? Glad to see McDonagh is getting off the Emerald Isle. But what's he going to do for Gaelic whimsy and charming accents?) Tony Award nominee John Crowley (The Pillowman) will direct and Robert Fox will produce. This will be McDonagh's first play to originate on Broadway.

Here's how the play is billed: "The title is just the starting point; take a man searching for his missing hand, two con artists out to make a few hundred bucks, and an overly curious hotel clerk, and the rest is up for grabs.

An "all-star cast" of four will be announced shortly.

***

Tony Award winner Lillias White will star in the Broadway musical Fela!, in a maternal role. The theatrical portrait of a singular African music artist will begin performances at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Oct. 19. White, a Tony winner for The Life, will portray Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, the mother of the legendary African composer and performer Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. As previously reported, Sahr Ngaujah, who starred in the title role Off-Broadway, will again star on Broadway. Opening night is set for Nov. 23.

***

Stephen Rea and Sean McGinley will reprise their starring roles in the American premiere of The Abbey Theatre's production of Sam Shepard's Ages of the Moon for Off-Broadway's Atlantic Theater Company.

Ages of the Moon will begin Jan. 12, 2010, and will open Jan. 27, 2010. The run lasts to March 7, 2010, at Atlantic's main stage.

The work is billed as "a gruffly poignant and darkly funny play. Byron (McGinley) and Ames (Rea) are old friends re-united by mutual desperation. Over bourbon on ice, they sit, reflect and bicker until 50 years of love, friendship and rivalry are put to the test at the barrel of a gun."

***

Yet more Irish-flavored news!

Tony Award-winning Irish director Garry Hynes has joined Manhattan Theatre Club's spring 2010 Off-Broadway season. Hynes will direct the upcoming New York City premiere production of Bill Cain's Equivocation, a new play set in the age of Shakespeare. It's part of Manhattan Theatre Club's upcoming Off-Broadway season at New York City Center.

Equivocation is set in 1605 England and begins when King James' right-hand man commissions William Shakespeare to write a new play about the Gunpowder Plot, a recent failed attempt to blow up Parliament and the Monarchy.

***

The weirdness of Jerry Springer's career is a never-ending wonder. The talk show host, lawyer, former mayor of Cincinnati and opera subject will now make his Broadway debut.

Springer will play slick lawyer Billy Flynn Aug. 18-Sept. 6 in the long-running Chicago.

As previously reported, Springer will play Flynn Sept. 8-13 at Atlanta's Fabulous Fox Theatre and Sept. 15-20 at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center's Academy of Music. For a man such as Springer, who's had more lives than a cat, it's no surprise to learn that he is a musician and songwriter who has performed professionally, and has acted quite a bit here and there on television, usually playing himself—which is a pretty showy part when you think of it.