PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 16-22: From 'Day to Night

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 16-22: From 'Day to Night Some weeks you can fill a column with only items about Stephen Sondheim shows. This is one of those weeks.

Stephen Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Critics were over the moon about Olivier Award-winning Menier Chocolate Factory London revival of James Lapine and Sondheim's Sunday in the Park With George, which opened at Broadway's Studio 54 on Feb. 21, courtesy the Roundabout Theatre Company, partnering with commercial producers. Reviews applauded director Sam Buntrock's minimalist staging and use of digital technology to create the art-related effects in the musical about French artist George Seurat (act one) and his descendent (act two). They also liked the two stars Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell, who were brought over from London. Soon after, an announcement came that the production was extended by two weeks to June 1.

 

Sunday in the Park with George
photo by Joan Marcus

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The Roundabout is in a Sondheim kind of mood these days. Well, actually, it's been in one for years, what with recent revivals of Assassin and Pacific Overtures. As Sunday was getting ready to open this week, news came that the huge nonprofit was considering a new Broadway production of the short-lived 1981 Broadway work Merrily We Roll Along. The flop earned wide fan loyalty after the release of its original cast album, and there has been talk of bringing it back (to Broadway) for years, though nobody has yet dared. The show's famously tricky set-up tracks the travails of a pair of Broadway songwriters, Frank and Charley, and their friend, Mary, while going backward in time from 1980 to 1955. James Lapine, a frequent Sondheim collaborator, who staged a revised Merrily in California years ago, will reportedly direct.

*** Another Sondheim show that hasn't seen on Broadway in a very long time is his biggest hit of the 1970s: A Little Night Music. There's still no word of a new New York production, but that same Menier Chocolate Factory will be mounting a full London production of that Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler musical.

Variety reported that Tony Award winner Trevor Nunn has committed to direct a revival. Dates and casting have not been announced. Nunn's used to bringing his shows to New York, and now that Menier is a proven transfer machine, who knows? Maybe Broadway will get a new Night Music soon.

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OK, so I lied. Not all the news this week is about Sondheim. The dysfunctional Oklahoma family explored in August: Osage County has found a new home. Beginning April 29, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company production will begin performances at the Music Box Theatre. The acclaimed Tracy Letts play will offer its last performance at its current home, the Imperial Theatre, April 20.

Also moving will be the hit Atlantic Theater Company world-premiere production of Ethan Coen's Almost an Evening. It will transfer to an Off-Broadway run at The Bleecker Street Theatre March 20. (Transfer to a commercial run Off-Broadway? Does that even happen anymore?) The limited run will continue to June 1.

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Elsewhere Off-Broadway, Brett C. Leonard's LAByrinth Theatre Company production of his new drama Unconditional officially opened Off-Broadway Feb. 18. Reviews were mixed for the Mark Wing-Davey directed work. Some found the patchwork of short scenes and interconnected characters terrific gritty theatre and thought the cast excellent, while others those the vignettes were too short for the characters to gain hold on the viewers' attention and the action so unrelentingly dark as to leave one numb.