PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 11-17: Spider-Man Delay, Brian Bedford in a Dress, and Hope for Scottsboro Boys

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 11-17: Spider-Man Delay, Brian Bedford in a Dress, and Hope for Scottsboro Boys
 
Despite its continued ossification as a touristic and corporate stronghold, weird things can still happen on Broadway.

Fran and Barry Weissler
Fran and Barry Weissler Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Take the continuing adventures of The Scottsboro Boys, the unusual musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb which has cast many critics into a slough of despond with its quick open-and-shut career on Broadway. "How could this happen?" they cried. Well, easy. The show had no star, serious subject matter and got mixed reviews in a tough economic climate. That spells: short run.

But maybe not as short as originally thought. Just days after the musical — which used the minstrel show format to tell the true story of the railroading of nine innocent black men in 1931 Alabama — closed on Dec. 12, producer Barry Weissler ascended the soap box to say he was seeking support from the theatre-going public to bring the The Scottsboro Boys back to Broadway in spring 2011.

In one of the odder stunts in the history of Broadway hucksterism, theatregoers are being encouraged to "return The Scottsboro Boys to Broadway" by showing an intention to buy a $99 ticket if the musical show is re-mounted in spring 2011. The message on the website reads: "By providing my email [address] below, I hereby pledge my support for The Scottsboro Boys to return this spring. Once a theatre and dates have been announced, I intend to purchase tickets at the special price of $99. Spread the word and get your friends to pledge!" (The pledge is not legally binding.)

How's that for an inventive way to assemble a crackerjack mailing list?

Weissler — who said he has heard an outcry from fans and potential theatregoers (on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere) saying they wish the show could return — told Playbill.com on Dec. 16, "Let them put their money where their emails are." The kid's got moxie. If it happened, the Broadway encore would be a limited run in the spring (ideal time for Tony voters to see it). Additionally, Weissler revealed that he is in discussions about a future tour that would include stops at not-for-profit theatres that have built-in audiences that would embrace the tricky material.

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Bono and Julie Taymor in April 2009.
photo by Joan Marcus

There is no question. When all is said and done, the Julie Taymor musical Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, which began performances Nov. 28 at Broadway's Foxwoods Theatre, will have had the longest preview period in the history of Broadway. The history of man, for that matter.

It was announced this week that the extravagant undertaking has again delayed its opening. The production, which had been scheduled to officially open Jan. 11, 2011, will now open Feb. 7. The delay, according to lead producer Michael Cohl, is to allow the "implementing truly exciting changes." He added, that the show is "an extremely ambitious undertaking, as everyone knows, and I have no intention of cutting a single corner in getting to the finish line." Bono and The Edge, recently on tour, are expected to continue work on the project. (Are they holed up in a hotel room somewhere banging away at the piano?)

The musical, inspired by the Marvel comic-book character that first emerged in the 1960s, had originally been announced to arrive during the 2009 season, but was postponed due to financing. Revised preview and opening dates, scheduled for Nov. 28 and Dec. 21, respectively, were also canceled.

Meanwhile, there was some good news. Natalie Mendoza, who was injured during the first preview of Spider-Man, returned to the $65 million production Dec. 15.

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Brian Bedford as Lady Bracknell

Brian Bedford is currently furnishing the most notable cross-dressing Broadway has seen since Harvey Fierstein donned a housecoat in Hairspray. The actor, on Dec. 17, stepped into Victorian petticoats and dour lace to play Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest at the American Airlines Theatre.

The Roundabout Theatre Company production, to officially open Jan. 13, 2011, borrows some cast members and elements of actor-director Bedford's 2009 acclaimed revival produced by Canada's Stratford Shakespeare Festival, where Bedford is a fixture.

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Andrew Lloyd Webber is going to keep his theatres after all.

The planned sale of four major West End theatres — the Palace, Her Majesty's, Cambridge and New London — from Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group to a consortium led by Michael Grade and Michael Linnit has been called off.

The sale, previously announced in October and scheduled to be completed in January, was estimated to be for 50 million pounds. But in a press statement issued by the Really Useful Group, it was stated that while "both sides remain satisfied that the price was and is a fair reflection of the value of these theatres, at the eleventh hour, GradeLinnit raised issues relating to a long-standing contractual agreement between one of the theatres and a production company about a possible future production. GradeLinnit decided that they would not want to take this contract forward as owners of the theatre. The Really Useful Group has chosen to continue with the agreement and therefore the sale will not be going ahead."

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