PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 15-19: Andrew Lloyd Webber is Ready to Rock and a Deadly Duo May Come to Broadway

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 15-19: Andrew Lloyd Webber is Ready to Rock and a Deadly Duo May Come to Broadway
 
Second Stage wants $58 million for Christmas.

The long-standing, well-respected, Off-Broadway nonprofit, which has long had designs on the tiny Helen Hayes Theatre, this week made clear the details of the final push that will make Broadway’s smallest house Second Stage’s Broadway home.

The company, founded in 1979 by director Carole Rothman and actress (now producer) Robyn Goodman, is in the process of raising a total of $58 million to acquire and maintain the Hayes Theatre. It was announced was back in 2008 that Second Stage acquired the rights to purchase Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre. Five years ago, the cost to buy and renovate the Broadway house was $35 million. The total cost has also increased because construction prices are expected to be higher than they would have been in 2008. Also, according to Casey Reitz, Second Stage's executive director, the company will create a reserve budget to ensure that they have money to operate the theatre and produce desired works.

David Rockwell
David Rockwell Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

It also doesn’t hurt to drive up costs when you hire noted architect and set designer David Rockwell to create "fresh and contemporary" ideas for the marquee, lobby and auditorium, dressing rooms and office space. Seventy percent of the $58 million is in place, and Second Stage will accept a donation in return for the right to rename the theatre.

According to the New York Times, the sale is on a fast track to close in mid-February.

Second Stage's hope for the 597-seat Broadway residence is to dedicate the home exclusively to the development and presentation of contemporary American theatrical productions. Next to Normal, The Little Dog Laughed and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee are among the Second Stage works that transferred to Broadway. The company will also continue to present productions at its current Off-Broadway homes: the 296-seat Tony Kiser Theatre on West 43rd Street and the 108-seat McGinn/Cazale Theatre on the Upper West Side.

When Second Stage arrives, nonprofits will own/operate six of the 40 Broadway theaters: the Vivian Beaumont (Lincoln Center Theater); American Airlines Theatre (Roundabout Theatre Company); Stephen Sondheim Theatre (Roundabout); Studio 54 (Roundabout); Friedman Theatre (Manhattan Theatre Club); and the Helen Hayes.

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School of Rock written by Andrew Lloyd Webber. “School of Rock” was a 2003 film of the same name starring the anarchic comic actor and sometime rocker Jack Black as a failed, aging rock musician masquerading as a private school teacher.

Andrew Lloyd Webber
Andrew Lloyd Webber Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Andrew Lloyd Webber is, well, Andrew Lloyd Webber, the man who gave the world lavish, operatic musicals about Cats and Phantoms. He did, however, begin his career as a writer of one of the first of the big rock musicals, Jesus Christ Superstar. Not exactly Black Sabbath, but close to that mark than, say, Jerry Herman.

Indeed, the composer said, in a statement, “It is a joy for me to return to my Jesus Christ Superstar roots — when Deep Purple's Ian Gillan was recording Jesus for Tim Rice and me at London's Olympic Studios, Led Zeppelin was recording next door and a glimpse of a Stone or two was routine!”

The Really Useful Group, Warner Music Group and Access Industries, The Shubert Organization and The Nederlander Organization announced Dec. 18 that the musical — featuring music from the movie as well as new music written by Lloyd Webber and lyricist Glenn Slater — will open Dec. 6, 2015.

Making the project even more odd is that the book is being written by Mr. “Downton Abbey” himself, Julian Fellowes. Laurence Connor, currently represented on Broadway with the re-imagined revival of Les Misérables, will direct.

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In the American dramatic canon, there are those plays whose titles are known to all, but which have long been thought the province of community theatre, not the professional stages of New York. One of those titles is Joseph O. Kesselring's Arsenic and Old Lace. Famous though the play may be, it hasn’t been seen on Broadway in decades.

That may change soon. Real-life sisters Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad have plans to star as the Brewster sisters in a new production aiming to play Broadway in the 2015-16 season.

Otis Sallid, who co-conceived and provided additional staging for the popular 1995 musical revue Smokey Joe's Café, is spearheading the project.

"For the last four years, I've been trying to get this production up and running," he told Playbill.com by phone. "It's always hard to get Phylicia and Debbie on board for the same thing. I thought it would be a brilliant, brilliant idea to get Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad in a Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace. They, at this point, have agreed to do it.”

*** Shock waves rippled through the Washington D.C. theatre community this week when it was learn that Ari Roth, who has served as the artistic director of Washington D.C.'s Theater J for nearly 20 years, told the Washington Post that he was fired Dec. 18.

Roth said that Carole R. Zawatsky, chief executive officer of the DC Jewish Community Center, of which Theater J is an arm, delivered notice of his dismissal and that the given cause was insubordination.

The DCJCC released a statement quoting Zawatsky Dec. 18 that read: "Ari Roth has had an incredible 18-year tenure leading Theater J, and we know there will be great opportunities ahead for him. Ari leaves us with a vibrant theater that will continue to thrive.”

"They’ve crafted a letter that’s saying I’m resigning, not fired," Roth told the Post, adding, "I was terminated abruptly." He said he refused to sign a severance agreement and that he had been discussing "an elegant transition" that would result in him departing Theater J in a few months.

The Post reports that Roth and Zawatsky frequently disagreed on Roth's programming choices, with the most recent being over the the fate of Theater J’s Voices From a Changing Middle East Festival. In November, the Jewish Daily Forward reported that the DCJCC was removing parts of the festival; Roth told the Post that his comments to the media following that article were used as an example of his insubordination.

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The campaign to save Cafe Edison, the midtown Manhattan haunt for theatregoers and theatremakers, has failed. Though a petition collected 10,000 signature and people from Ira Glass to Bill DeBlasio voiced support for the cafe's continuance, the Edison Hotel’s owner, Gerald Barad, chose not to renew the Cafe Edison’s lease, thus breaking a longstanding handshake understanding between his father, the late Ulo Barad, and the extended Edelstein family that owns the diner. Cafe Edison will close its doors Dec. 21.

Cafe Edison said it will stay open "until the last person leaves." Jordan Strohl, grandson and son of the owners, said that the family is optimistic in finding a new space.

"We lost the fight, but we did not lose the battle,” Stohl said. “Six weeks ago, we would have just shut down, but the campaign to Save Cafe Edison re-inspired my family. We are committed to reopening in a new space, and to bringing our food and our family warmth back to the city. A thousand thank-yous to everyone. We cannot say thank you enough." As previously reported, the cafe will be replaced by a white-tablecloth restaurant with "a name chef." Among the theatre community, I think I already know that chef’s name. It’s mud.

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