PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 27-Jan. 2: The Sequel

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 27-Jan. 2: The Sequel Andrew Lloyd Webber is ready to let loose with his new musical follow-up to The Phantom of the Opera, and the way the project is being executed has to do as much with cinema as it does the theatre.
Andrew Lloyd Webber
Andrew Lloyd Webber Photo by Aubrey Reuben

The show is, after all, a sequel, a form more common to the screen than the stage. And now we learn that Phantom: Love Never Dies, as it is called, will make its premiere at the end of 2009 simultaneously in three territories, including London, Broadway and China. Wide release!

Lloyd Webber told the Times, "I don't think you could do this if it wasn't the sequel to Phantom ... We've been into the feasibility of rehearsing three companies at once and opening very fast in the three territories. The one which really interests me [in the Far East] would be China ... I think to open Love Never Dies in Shanghai would be an enormous thing."

Lloyd Webber has been proceeding cautiously with the new show. The first act was workshopped in summer 2008 at Lloyd Webber's private Sydmonton Festival at his Berkshire country home. Working with director Jack O'Brien, who staged the Sydmonton workshop, and lyricist Glenn Slater, he is now writing the rest of the show. When they have completed the work, they will do a workshop of the second act, "then take a month off and do it again with both halves this time and then we'll see."

In the new musical, the Phantom has been relocated from the Paris Opera to Brooklyn's Coney Island, with an entirely new story created by Lloyd Webber, lyricist Slater, director O'Brien "and a twist of it was given to us by Ben Elton." The designer will be Bob Crowley.

*** The Herculean effort to get the hit Central Park production of Hair to make the 30-block walk from the Delacorte Theater to Times Square continues. Last we checked, lead producer Elizabeth McCann had raised much of the needed money, but not all of it, because the tough economy had caused many regular investors to place a padlock on their wallets.

Liz now has some help. Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater, announced not only that Eden Espinosa had joined the cast (as Sheila), but that producers Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel have joined the producing team.

Previews for the classic rock musical will now begin March 6, 2009, at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre with an official opening scheduled for March 31. (Previews were originally scheduled to begin Feb. 10 with a March 5 opening. The dates have been modified to "accommodate the logistics of the new producing partnership.")

In a statement Eustis said, "We are delighted to welcome Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel onto the team of Hair. Their joyous and eager commitment has ensured that Hair will open on Broadway and bring its message of hope and love to an audience that has shown its own passionate eagerness to embrace this show. Hair has always been more than just a show; it's a cause. In these difficult economic times, it has been inspiring to watch the New York theater community come together around America's tribal love-rock musical and reveal that it, too, is a tribe: a tribe that will make sure Hair lives on. We have been honored to work with Liz McCann, and are pleased that she will continue to work on the show."

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Speaking of Richards and Frankel, their Broadway production of Neil LaBute's reasons to be pretty has its cast. Marin Ireland, Steven Pasquale, Piper Perabo and Thomas Sadoski will star. (No official statement as to casting for the production has been issued as of yet.). Perabo and Sadoski were part of the original Off-Broadway production. The other two actors are new. The play is scheduled to begin previews at the Lyceum March 13.