PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 10-16: Clear Day Is Cloudy, Lysistrata Jones Scores With the Times

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 10-16: Clear Day Is Cloudy, Lysistrata Jones Scores With the Times
 
The best thing to happen to the beleaguered basketball world this year was, arguably, Lysistrata Jones, which opened this past summer in a gymnasium downtown to surprisingly positive reviews. The Douglas Carter Beane-Lewis Flinn musical, based on a 2,500-year-old Greek comedy, was called great fun. Duly complimented, it promptly hopped the "1" train uptown and opened this week on Broadway at the Walter Kerr, with the same cast.

Patti Murin
Patti Murin Photo by Joan Marcus

Alas, the critical reception this time was as troubled at the NBA negotiations. The New York Times is a Big Fan, saying "Lysistrata Jones has been dressed up (and scaled up) real pretty for Broadway, bringing a heightened touch of summer sun and silliness to what has been an exceptionally gray season for musicals." The Post agreed: "A lot of people whine that Broadway doesn't know how to make entertaining musicals anymore. Happily, it turns out that Broadway still knows how to make 'em. With its catchy pop score, charming cast, zippy staging and wickedly funny book, Lysistrata Jones is one of the season's tastiest pieces of candy."

But others felt producers had done themselves no favors to moving to show to the big time. "Junk food at Broadway prices is a tough sell," carped Bloomberg. "Pumping up the volume to ear-splitting levels only heightens the show's irritation quotient. Don't blame the game young cast. Producers, on the other hand, ought to know better."

Some thought the show wasn't much to begin with. "You can't combine so many cliches together and come up with something fresh," opined the Daily News, while Time Out wrote, "the plot remains silly, the music humdrum and the characters trite." The Newsday critic, who never saw the Off-Broadway mounting, had harder words still: "In terms of entertainment, if not message — this is also ludicrous, busy and unrelentingly dull."

Mark Kennedy of AP, meanwhile, won the award for most sports metaphors. The show wasn't "a slam dunk," "a few of the actors seem overmatched," and "the air is seeping out of the ball."

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Jessie Mueller and Harry Connick Jr. in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
photo by Paul Kolnik

Still, the producers of Lysistrata Jones could count their blessings. For instance, they weren't On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.

That 1965 Broadway musical — remembered for its richly tuneful score, its lead performance by Barbara Harris, and its you've-got-to-be-kidding-me reincarnation plot — opened in a re-imagined form at the St. James Theatre. Star Harry Connick Jr. — playing a Freudian psychiatrist (you could tell, because he wore glasses) — headlined the second Broadway coming directed by Michael Mayer, with a new book by playwright Peter Parnell.

The changes made to the story were considerable. In the original, the shrink falls in love with the woman that his female patient was in a previous life. Now the patient is a gay man, and the person he was in the past is a 1940s jazz singer. With the patient role split between two actors, the focus of the revival is clearly on the good doctor.

That the new show would succeed always seemed a long shot. And, indeed, Clear Day posted badly. "It was broke," wrote Time Out, "but they sure ain't fixed it." The Times registered basic disdain for the reconnection, and said the production "has the approximate fun quotient of a day in an M.R.I. machine." "The diagnosis is in for Harry Connick Jr.'s Broadway musical about a psychiatrist undergoing a psychic meltdown: It needs more time on the couch," said AP. "Its plot doesn't quite sing and it spends too much time oddly listless."

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Soon the producers of Venus in Fur will be able to wrap themselves in fur.

Fortunes keep rising for this little show that could. David Ives' dark comedy about a director auditioning a mysterious actress for a stage adaptation of an erotic novel began its life Off-Broadway in 2010. It then moved to the nonprofit Broadway world of Manhattan Theatre Club. Now it will graduate to a commercial Broadway engagement in spring 2012. Stars Nina Arianda and Hugh Dancy will return. Performances will begin Feb. 7 at the Lyceum Theatre.

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Flashdance, the movie-inspired pop-rock musical that had a short life in London in 2010-11, is being revised and will come to Broadway for a fall 2012 launch, according to the New York Times.

Sergio Trujillo will reportedly direct and choreograph the project. As we all remember (but try to forget), the story concerns Alex, a lady welder by day who dances with buckets of water at night. The 1983 made a star of Jennifer Beals, a fashion trend out of leg-warmers and a hit out of "Maniac."

There is no official announcement of the show's Broadway timeline or Manhattan home. The creative team includes composer and co-lyricist Robbie Roth, lyricist and co-librettist Robert Cary; and co-librettist Tom Hedley (drawing from his screenplay).

Malcolm Gets

Malcolm Gets, Daniel Jenkins and Becky Ann Baker are heading out to Cincinnati, all for the love of John Doyle. They will star in the director's interpretation of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Merrily We Roll Along at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

Gets is familiar with the role of songwriter Franklin Shepard; he previously played the role Off-Broadway in the 1994 York Theatre Company staging of the musical, which famously tells its story of disillusionment backwards. Jenkins will portray songwriting partner Charley Kringas, and Baker is Franklin and Charley's pal Mary Flynn. Doyle will again incorporate his directorial signature, in which the actors double as the orchestra.

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Kim Cattrall and Paul Gross in Private Lives.
photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

The Broadway revival of Private Lives, which co-stars Kim Cattrall and Paul Gross, did not catch the fancy of either the critics (though some reviews, like the one in the Times, were respectable) or the public. It will play its final performance at Broadway's Music Box Theatre Dec. 31. The limited engagement was originally scheduled to run through Feb. 5, 2012.

*** The producers of the new Broadway-bound, Alan Menken-Glenn Slater musical Leap of Faith, based on the film, have brought in some new help.

Director Christopher Ashley, playwright Warren Leight, and choreographer Sergio Trujillo are new members of the creative team. Ashley will direct and Leight joins Janus Cercone to revise the book. Trujillo is the new choreographer. Raul Esparza remains attached to play conman Jonas Nightingale.

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At one time, it was thought that Detroit, Lisa D'Amour's critically acclaimed 2011 Steppenwolf Theatre Company play about unhappy suburban neighbors, was headed to Broadway. Well, it is coming to town, but not Broadway. It will make its New York City debut Off-Broadway in fall 2012 at Playwrights Horizons.

The show's lost other things in transition as well. The play, directed by Austin Pendleton in Chicago, will not be staged by Anne Kauffman, who's currently on a hot streak. Laurie Metcalf starred at Steppenwolf. No word on whether she'll return.

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