PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 1-7: Broadway Cleans House as Merchant and Night Music Recoup

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 1-7: Broadway Cleans House as Merchant and Night Music Recoup
 
New year, fresh start.

Benjamin Walker takes a final bow at Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Benjamin Walker takes a final bow at Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Broadway cleaned house this week. Some shows were simply ending what had been announced as limited runs. Others were holdovers from last season. And, some were cut down in their prime by public disinterest and poor reviews. The one thing they had in common was their closing date.

Shuttering together on Jan. 2 were The Pee-Wee Herman Show, Fela!, Brief Encounter, Promises, Promises, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Elf and West Side Story. Of the nine, only West Side Story said it had recouped its investment.

Among the falling debris, however, a few shows had some good news to crow about.

The producers of the Broadway engagement of The Merchant of Venice claimed their pound of flesh. The acclaimed production, starring Al Pacino as the moneylender Shylock, has recouped its Broadway investment. No great shock there. Any Broadway sharpie would have bet at the beginning of the season that this Shakespeare transfer was the surest best of the fall.

A show that they would have likely bet against, meanwhile, is Lombardi, the bio-play about the football coaching legend which has no Pacino, or anything like a Pacino, in its cast. But what it does have is some crafty and determined producers, who have been reaching out to unlikely ticketbuyers (alumni from colleges with football programs, members of the Miami Dolphins), the kind who are interested in the gridiron more than the Great White Way. This week, they made the risky announcement that tickets are now on sale through June 19. Another recoupment of the week: The Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's A Little Night Music, which currently boasts Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch, has made back its initial investment, making it the only Sondheim show to have made money as both an original musical and a revival.

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Michael Bush will direct Cactus Flower
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Daryl Roth will bring back one of the last hits of the 1960s when she presents an Off-Broadway revival of the 1965 Abe Burrows comedy Cactus Flower.

Cactus Flower played 1,234 performances before closing on Broadway. The original cast included Lauren Bacall and Barry Nelson. It was subsequently made into a film, but it's hardly been heard from since.

Based on the play Fleur de Cactus, by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy, Cactus Flower tells the story of Julian Winston, a handsome, middle-aged Park Avenue dentist and bachelor, who hatched the notion of a fiction wife so he won't have to commit to his much younger girlfriend Toni. When Toni attempts a lame suicide, Julian decides to marry Toni and tells her that his wife also wants a divorce. Only now Julian has to come up with someone to play the part of the wife. He enlists the help of a woman who actually turns out to secretly be in love with him.

See: Farce! And we all know how well farce plays these days, the successful revival of Boeing-Boeing notwithstanding. Michael Bush will direct the production, which is scheduled to begin its open-ended run in February at the Westside Theatre Upstairs with an official opening in March. If there doesn't prove to be a name star or two in the cast, I'll eat a cactus flower.

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Did something say "star"? Julia Stiles was announced as the latest cast member of the Broadway production of Fat Pig. She will join the previously announced Dane Cook and Josh Hamilton in the Broadway debut the Neil LaBute play, which will begin previews at the Belasco Theatre April 12 prior to an official opening April 26.

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Finally, the Off-Broadway revival of Dracula opened at the Little Shubert this week. The production has been troubled, with its name performer, film actress Thora Birch fired a few weeks ago, and reports circulating that the designers had not been paid. The reviews didn't reverse that bad fortune. The production was called creaky and inept.

Kevin Mambo and Patti LaBelle
Kevin Mambo and Patti LaBelle
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