PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 12-18: John Gallagher, Jr., Bring It On and the NBA on Broadway

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 12-18: John Gallagher, Jr., Bring It On and the NBA on Broadway
 
There's no stopping the ascent of actor John Gallagher, Jr. these days. The veteran of Rabbit Hole, Spring Awakening and American Idiot, will be among cast members populating Jerusalem on Broadway. Complete casting for the Jez Butterworth play, starring Mark Rylance (another Broadway regular of late), was announced on Feb 17.

John Gallagher, Jr.
John Gallagher, Jr. Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The production, directed by Ian Rickson, will open April 21 at the Music Box Theatre. It will play a limited 16-week engagement.

Jerusalem opened at the Royal Court Theatre in July 2009 with critics praising Butterworth's writing. It won the 2009 Evening Standard and London Critics' Circle Awards and the 2010 Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award for Best Play. Rylance won the 2010 Olivier and 2009 Evening Standard and London Critics' Circle Best Actor Awards for his performance.

The work is set in the woods of South West England, where Johnny "Rooster" Byron (Rylance), former daredevil motorcyclist and modern-day Pied Piper, is a wanted man. The council officials want to serve him an eviction notice, his son wants to be taken to the country fair, a stepfather wants to give him a serious kicking and a motley crew of friends wants his ample supply of drugs and alcohol.

Oh, this other Eden! This England!

*** Didn't we just see The Best Man? And wasn't it produced by Jeffrey Richards?

Yes, we did. In 2000. But we're going to see it again on Broadway, and Richards is going to be the producer. The political drama by Gore Vidal will return to Broadway in spring 2012. (Say, why doesn't Richards just revive it every election year?)

The 2000 revival starred Elizabeth Ashley, Charles Durning, Christine Ebersole, Spalding Gray, Michael Learned, Chris Noth, Mark Blum, Jonathan Hadary and Jordan Lage. So expect an equally starry cast this time around.

***

The sudden involvement of organized sports in Broadway producing is a development that I think few could have predicted. Last fall, the National Football League got solidly behind Lombardi, a bio-play about the most famous football coach in history, written by Eric Simonson (my brother, blah, blah, blah — I'm getting tired of writing these "full disclosure" parentheticals). By an amazing stroke of dumb luck, the play got a big dose of free publicity when Vince Lombardi's former team, the Green Bay Packers, won the 2011 Super Bowl, thus taking the Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson
NBA

Now the producers of Lombardi, Fran Kirmser and Tony Ponturo, are planning their return to Broadway. But this time they're teaming up with the National Basketball Association! The play will be Magic/Bird, and will tell the story of the longtime friendship and rivalry of basketball Hall of Famers Larry Bird and Earvin "Magic" Johnson. The playwright again is Simonson. Of course, unlike Lombardi, the subjects of this play are very much alive. Johnson and Bird will both participate in the creative process of the play.

They better book it into a Broadway theatre where the seats have plenty of leg room.

***

Bring It On: The Musical, the new, high-energy stage production about the world of competitive cheerleading, is readying a national tour that will launch this fall at the Center Theatre Group's Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.

The original musical boasts a creative team of Broadway heavyweights: Music and lyrics are by Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights) with additional music by composer Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and lyrics by Kitt's High Fidelity collaborator, lyricist Amanda Green. Avenue Q book writer Jeff Whitty has penned an original libretto for the musical. Whew! That's a lot of creatives from a lot of (mostly) hit musicals.

In the Heights choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler directed and choreographed the production that began its world-premiere engagement Jan. 16 in Atlanta. He will reunite with Blankenbuehler for the national tour, which will run Nov. 1-Dec. 11 at the Ahmanson. An official opening has been set for Nov. 11.

***

It's been a while since we looked in at Peter Gelb's Metropolitan Opera, which has been aggressive in drafting theatre talents for its productions. But now's a good time to catch up with organization, since this week it announced that the 2011-2012 season will feature two operas helmed by Broadway directors.

Michael Grandage (Red, Hamlet, Frost/Nixon) will stage Don Giovanni, and Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys, The Who's Tommy) will direct Gounod's Faust.

***

The City Center Encores! series, which presents great American musicals in concert format, will boast an expanded performance schedule when it returns for its new season in the fall.

The acclaimed series, which currently offers five performances over one weekend (Thursday-Saturday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM and Sunday at 6:30 PM), will now feature two additional performances: Wednesday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 2 PM.

There's little doubt that the popular series will sell out the additional dates.

***

Jeff Talbott, an unproduced New York City playwright, was named this week the inaugural recipient of the Laurents-Hatcher Award, which comes with a $50,000 prize (!) for the writer and $100,000 (!!) for a producing organization. His aptly-titled work, The Submission, is about a frustrated playwright who makes a bold, life-changing move. It will be presented by Off-Broadway's MCC Theater next season.

Jeff Talbott
photo by Stephen Kunken

Talbott's selection makes for a particularly heartening object lesson for struggling playwrights. He has no agent, has never been produced, and sent the script to MCC cold. Hard to believe such things happen anymore.

The award is named for Tony Award-winning playwright and librettist Arthur Laurents and his late partner, Tom Hatcher. The award is one of the most generous in the sphere of playwriting and is the first major playwriting distinction to be named after a gay couple.

Talbott, a Yale School of Drama grad, is also an actor. He played David Frost in the U.S. regional-theatre premiere of Frost/Nixon, was the priest of Pioneer Theatre's Doubt in Salt Lake City and appeared on Broadway in the revival Sly Fox.

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