PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 9-15: Once More, With Feeling

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 9-15: Once More, With Feeling
 
Now, nobody at this column is accusing the New York drama critics of collusion, but if they wanted to make Spring Awakening sound like the second coming of the American Musical, they couldn't have done a better job than they did with the reviews they unleashed the day after the Duncan Sheik-Steven Sater rock musical's Dec. 10 opening.
Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff in Spring Awakening.
Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff in Spring Awakening. Photo by Joan Marcus

The critics—more exuberant than they were when the show opened Off-Broadway last spring at the Atlantic Theatre Company—called it "exhilarating," "brilliant," and "ravishing." One said Broadway may never be the same. Another called it "the most thrilling rock musical ever." (Sorry, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Rent et al.) The ovation was such that it scared some critics, included a weekly reviewer who, a few days after the hailstorm of acclaim, wrote that he was worried his colleagues had oversold the show and that the hype would breed audience disappointment.

Maybe so. But it's certain the hype didn't breed disappointment at the homes of the various producers (including Jeffrey Richards, who, after Glengarry Glen Ross and The Pajama Game, is on a roll). By Dec. 12, they were crowing about a $2 million take at the box office—this from a show that, if you believe the tabloids, had an unnervingly low advance pre-opening. The reviews should also help sales of the original cast recording, which was released (good timing, guys!) on Dec. 12.

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The other Broadway opening of the week, The Apple Tree, didn't fare as well, but didn't do badly either. All hailed the return and wizardry of Kristin Chenoweth, who is here tackling the trio of roles originally filled by the legendary Barbara Harris to Tony-winning perfection. As for the Sheldon Harnick-Jerry Bock show Chenoweth starred in, well, observers thought Kristin could have done better in her choice of material. But, then, that's always been the rap on this actress: great star in search of a great show.

*** Remember last week's column, when I told you the musical High Fidelity had opened on Broadway? Well, on Dec. 17, High Fidelity will close on Broadway. What a difference a week makes.

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Meadow is going out into the field.

Lynne Meadow, the artistic director of Manhattan Theatre Club, that is, and "the field" as in a year-long sabbatical. Her break from the day-to-day MTC grind will begin in fall 2007. Dan Sullivan will step in as acting artistic director to pick up the slack.

Other artistic directors have taken sabbaticals in the past (James Houghton of the Signature Theatre Company, for example), but Meadow's temporary exit is particular notable in that, one, she's never seemed the type who likes to take time off, and, two, she is one of the longest-serving a.d.'s in the New York theatre. She joined Manhattan Theare Club back in 1972, a couple years after its founding, and she's never left the helm in 34 years. In the New York theatre world, you'd have to turn to La MaMa and Ellen Stewart to find a staying power more impressive.

Meadow's track record of late has been a bit of this, a bit of that. No one can deny the complete and utter triumphs of the Pulitzer-Tony-Everything-Else-winning Broadway transfers Proof and Doubt. Likewise, no one can deny the crowd-clearing effect of Losing Louie and Drowning Crow and a few other drab undertakings that have prevented the reopening of the Biltmore from being less than a complete success.

In the meantime, no one will have to tell Sullivan how to run a theatre. Before he became the Broadway play go-to guy of the past decade, he piloted Seattle Rep to glory and national significance.

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Atlantic Theater Company's well-received production of The Voysey Inheritance, David Mamet's adaptation of the Harley Granville-Barker play about a family's secrets, has proved a hit. It has been extended to Jan. 21. The New York premiere production, directed by David Warren, was scheduled through Jan. 7, 2007, but will now play to Jan. 21 due to ticket demand.

Also extending—for the third time—is Signature Theatre Company's production of August Wilson's Two Trains Running, which will now play to Jan. 28, 2007. Signature has found New York audiences have a huge appetite for the last Wilson; the theatre's previous revival of Seven Guitars was also extended. It hasn't hurt that both productions have been praised by critics.

(Robert Simonson is Playbill.com's senior correspondent. He can be reached at rsimonson@playbill.com.)

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