Out in Seattle, one of the new musicals potentially vying for the Best Musical Tony Award come June, The Wedding Singer, officially opened Feb. 9 at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre. The work by relative unknowns composer Matthew Sklar, lyricist-librettist Chad Beguelin, and co-librettist Tim Herlihy, is directed by John Rando, and is lead producer Margo Lion's (there are other producers, there are always other producers) follow-up to Hairspray. Like Hairspray, they are working things out in Seattle before arriving at Broadway's Al Hirschfeld Theatre March 30.
While tinkering in the Pacific Northwest, however, Wedding Singer got a brand new competitor in the form of The Drowsy Chaperone, a rare show not based on existing source material or real-life characters. Also created by a host of new names — music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison and a book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar—the musical won a bushel of good notices for its runs in Toronto and Los Angeles, as well as, this week, a bunch of L.A. Critic Circle Award nominations. Sutton Foster will star at the big old Marquis, which went up for grabs when Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Woman in White decided to go dark Feb. 19. Drowsy starts previews April 3 toward a May 1 opening.
At the same time all this was a-happening, Twyla Tharp's run at the oeuvre of Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin' opened at the Old Globe. Many thought for a while that it would claim the Marquis. It may still come to Gotham, and offer still more competition for new musicals, but at present (even with Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life advertising "last weeks") there ain’t no room at the Broadway inn.
Safely booked and lodged was Ring of Fire, the Johnny Cash musical, which began previews Feb. 8 at the Barrymore.
*** The Broadway play field, too, became more interesting this week. The fairly well-reviewed Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire knew that it would contend with Alan Bennett's critical hit from London, The History Boys, but now the British invasion has doubled in strength. Festen, the dramatization of the Danish "Dogme" film of the same name, which set audiences and critics on fire in London in 2004, and made a name for director Rufus Norris, had been hovering around Times Square for some time, with producers all but pacing in front of the Music Box. This week, it was made official, with performances at the Music Box beginning March 23. Larry Bryggman, Michael Hayden, Ali MacGraw and Julianna Margulies will be in the cast.
Meanwhile, Off-Broadway, there is Defiance, the latest by Doubt author John Patrick Shanley. This only began previews at Manhattan Theatre Club Feb. 9, won’t open until Feb. 28, and runs until April 16. And, again: Yes, we have no Broadway theatres. But Doubt transferred pretty darn fast. At the very least, if the new work stirs up critical admiration, it will claim a big place in the Off-Broadway awards sweepstakes.
Sure to attract as much, if not more, critical attention Off-Broadway will be David Hare's acclaimed play Stuff Happens — based on the incidents that led to the current war in Iraq. This week, it pushed back its start at Off-Broadway's Public Theater to March 28. No opening date has been decided upon. Neither, at this late date, have any actors been announced to play W., Rummy, Veep, Condi and all the of the rest of that White House gang who are busy either ruining or saving the world, depending on who you talk to. The powerful Scott Rudin is a co-producer on this one. He is also one of the producers of Red Light Winter, which opened Feb. 9 at the Barrow Street Theatre. The explicit three-hander about two friends and a prostitute won mixed notices. Even detractors, though, called it Adam Rapp’s most mature work to date.