PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 2-8: A Good Hair Day

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 2-8: A Good Hair Day The London production of Hairspray didn't just do well in this week's Olivier Award nominations; it did better than any show before it. (So it's true: American musicals can succeed in the West End!)
Leanne Jones and Ben James-Ellis in the West End's Hairspray.
Leanne Jones and Ben James-Ellis in the West End's Hairspray. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

The musical collected a record-breaking 11 nominations including Best Musical. The show also boasts Best Actress and Actor in a Musical nominations for newcomer Leanne Jones and West End veteran Michael Ball, respectively. The record for most nominations was previously held by another Yankee tuner, Michael Blakemore's production of Kiss Me, Kate in 2002.

This year the Donmar Warehouse's U.K. premiere of Parade notched up seven nominations, while Lord of the Rings and the short-lived London production of The Drowsy Chaperone each received five.

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The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is providing new work for the generation of African-American actors who were seasoned in the plays of the late August Wilson, ?by reviving each and ever one of Wilson's plays.

The upcoming celebration is entitled August Wilson's 20th Century and will feature each of the playwright's 10 works that were set in different decades of the past century. The celebration will play the D.C. venue March 4-April 6. Kenny Leon is the artistic director for the project with Todd Kreidler as associate artistic director. Among the actors being employed are such old Wilson experts as John Earl Jelks, Michele Shay, Raynor Scheine, Anthony Chisholm, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Keith David, Stephen McKinley Henderson and Harry Lennix. Many will perform in more than one play.

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How does one get banned for life from Actors' Equity? Well, if you really want to find out, ask Randy Quaid, because, if reports in the New York Post and Reuters are to be believed, that's what happened to the actor.

Maria Somma, a spokesperson for Equity, could not confirm the banning, stating "Equity does not publicly discuss member charges and the results from the hearing, which is member to member as outlined in Equity's constitution." She did, however, confirm that Quaid has resigned from the union. And Quaid's lawyer, Mark Bock, made comments in to Reuters which confirmed the ban, including a statement that "the actor participated in the hearing [that resulted in the ban] because he wanted due process."

The whole mess resulted from the alleged erratic behavior of Quaid and his wife Evi in the once Broadway-bound, Bard-inspired musical Lone Star Love, in which Quaid was to have played Falstaff. According to the Post, which said it was drawing from official papers, Quaid hit an actor on the back of the head, had another warned not to make eye contact, tried to rewrite the script, and freely changed blocking, lyrics and lines. The Post reported that Quaid was also fined $81,572, equal to two weeks' pay for the cast.

In response to the charges, the actor told Reuters, "I am guilty of only one thing: giving a performance that elicited a response so deeply felt by the actors and producers with little experience of my creative process that they actually think I am Falstaff."

Uh-huh.

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Tony Award winner Sutton Foster will be part of the cast of Shrek The Musical, which is based on the William Steig book and the DreamWorks film and is scheduled to arrive on Broadway in November following an out-of-town tryout. Foster is a current star of Young Frankenstein and is on a streak of creating parts in new musicals, after having forged roles in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Little Women and The Drowsy Chaperone.

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Doug Hughes will direct the politically themed, Broadway-bound play Farragut North by Beau Willimon, the playwright and former Howard Dean operative whose a name sounds like a character from a George Farquhar Restoration comedy. No casting or theatre have been announced for the play about "a young communications director who works for a fast-rising presidential candidate."

In other news on plays beginning with "F," the Aaron Sorkin play The Farnsworth Invention didn't do quite as well as his last Broadway effort, A Few Good Men. The drama, which explores the battle for the patent for the invention of television, will play its final performance at Broadway's Music Box Theatre March 2. When it closes, the Des McAnuff-directed production will have played 34 previews and 104 regular performances.

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Interesting things were getting underway in the musical world, both Off-Broadway and on, this week.

Passing Strange — the new musical created by singer-songwriter Stew and Heidi Rodewald — begins performances on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre Feb. 8. The show arrives on Broadway following a critically lauded run at the Public Theater last summer. It incorporates autobiographical elements of Stew's life to tell the story of a young black bohemian who leaves behind his middle-class, church-ruled upbringing in Los Angeles to travel abroad in search of his artistic and personal identity.

Meanwhile, downtown at the Minetta Lane Theatre, the 2007 Joseph Jefferson Award-winning musical, Adding Machine, based on Elmer Rice's famous expressionist play about a worker replaced by automation, makes its New York City debut Feb. 8. Adding Machine features a score by Joshua Schmidt and a libretto by Jason Loewith and Schmidt. David Cromer directs, as he did the world premiere at Next Theatre Company in Evanston, IL, in 2007.

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It will be a classic Public Theater summer at the Delacorte Theatre this year, in more ways than one. The Shakespeare in the Park tradition will be upheld in the most noble way possible, with a new production of the Bard's most famous work, Hamlet, starring Michael Stuhlbarg. And, filling the second slot, will be one of the Public's biggest hits, the rock musical Hair, starring Jonathan Groff.

"Both Park shows this year center on idealistic brilliant men," said Public poobah Oskar Eustis, "as they struggle to find their place in a world marred by war, violence, and venal politics." Well! And so they do! That's called synergy, I think.

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Commercial Off-Broadway productions just don't make money anymore, do they? Or do they?

Defying all conventional wisdom, three Off-Broadway works presented by producer Ken DavenportAwesome 80's Prom, My First Time and Altar Boyz — have all recouped their initial investments, the producer announced Feb. 5.

This is good news. Altar Boyz, in particular, had, in its years-long run, come to represent everything that was going wrong with Off-Broadway: a well-reviewed, popular, expertly executed show just couldn't make a buck! Well, it did make a buck! Hope rises once more.

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