PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 14-20: Bounce Back

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 14-20: Bounce Back
 
It must be nice to be Stephen Sondheim. His is a world of second, third and fourth chances, where nothing you write ever really gets shoved in the drawer.
Stephen Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Take Bounce. Decades in the making, it has survived a failed 1999 Manhattan workshop, a hostile law suit from former backer, two not-terribly-well-received regional productions in Chicago and Washington, D.C., an invitation not to come to New York, two different directors and three different titles. And it's still alive, my friends, apparently as adept at lengthening its career as were the self-inventing Mizner brothers, whose tale the musical dramatizes.

Creators Sondheim and John Weidman have returned to an earlier version of the show, which will be given a reading at The Public Theater Feb. 6. The Public could not confirm the personnel involved, but sources close to the venture have Eric Schaeffer directing, and Richard Kind and Bernadette Peters in the cast. Kind was part of the 2003 company and was generally praised for his portrayal of Addison Mizner, one of the scheming, early 20th century Mizner brothers. (He was nominated for a 2003 Joseph Jefferson Award for his work in it.)

The reading would seem to indicate a renewed hope that the show will have a New York production, possibly at the Public, which has never been a Sondheim haven in the past.

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Not able to bounce back this week was Nathan Lane, who went down with laryngitis, causing the cancellation of the Jan. 18 and Jan. 19 performances on The Odd Couple. The rest of the week's sold-out shows were saved, however, by a recently departed cast member. "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Brad Garrett opened with the show as Murray the Cop. In past interviews, Garrett expressed his hope that he would graduate to the Oscar role at some point in the engagement. But he left on Jan. 1, when his contract was up—some thought because Lane and co-star Matthew Broderick recently extended their run June 4, dimming Garrett's hopes of ascension. But sometimes things fall into your lap when you give up looking for them. With Lane sick, the producers appealed to Garrett, who had returned to California. The actor responded and flew back for the opportunity to play Oscar—if only for four weekend performances. Lane is expected back on Jan. 24.

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Harry Connick, Jr., and Kelli O'Hara began previews Jan. 19 in the new Kathleen Marshall revival of Richard Adler and Jerry Ross' The Pajama Game at the American Airlines Theatre. Opening is Feb. 23. The show should prove an interesting test for all three artists. Connick will see if audiences accept him as a musical headliner. O'Hara, who has played a series of near helpless victims until now, will show what she can do with a forthright gal of gumption. And Marshall—whose past efforts as director-choreographer, Wonderful Town and Two Gentlemen of Verona, weren't exactly stamped for life by their original creators—will face off against a serious artistic shadow: Bob Fosse, who famously choreographed the original Pajama Game.

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What's one Neil LaBute play or another between friends? MCC, which produces LaBute plays like Paris Hilton produces gossip, was set to present Neil's Labute's Swallowing Bicycles in the spring. This week, though, they announced a change of plan. But LaBute is probably still happy. The new attraction is his own Some Girls, seen earlier this year in London. David Schwimmer, who starred in London, won't be in this one, but he can go see it if he wants; he'll make his Broadway debut in Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial at roughly the same time.

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Billy Elliot—The Musical, the new Elton John musical based on the film of the same name, headed this year's Olivier Award nominations—announced this week—with nine nods, including one for Best Musical. Guys and Dolls received eight nominations including ones for Ewan McGregor's Sky Masterson, Douglas Hodge's Nathan Detroit and Jane Krakowski's Miss Adelaide.

The nominations for Best Actress in a Play include two performances from the revival of Schiller's Mary Stuart with Janet McTeer's Queen Mary up against Harriet Walter's Queen Elizabeth. Best Actor in a Play nominations include Brian Dennehy for Death of a Salesman and Derek Jacobi in the other Schiller revival, Don Carlos.

The 30th annual Olivier Awards will take place Feb. 26.

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Tickets to the new Broadway production of Richard Greenberg's time-skipping three-hander Three Days of Rain, starring Julia Roberts, went on sale to American Express cardmembers on Jan. 13 and guess what? There were a few calls. Enough to make Telecharge crash for a while, anyway. The producers of this show are not the sort to trumpet numbers, and no figure has been confirmed. But the New York Post put the initial take at $7 million. The production will begin previews on March 28 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre and will have its official press opening on April 19. The limited 12-week engagement will run through June 18.

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Finally, McHale's and farewell. The classic New York bar and restaurant—long a hangout for rank and file theatre types—cried out "Closing Time" for the last time Jan. 16. It was pushed out to make room for a 42-story tower which will no doubt add to the fabric of the theatre district the way a cigarette burn adds to the fabric of an oriental rug.

In a related story, the Edison Cafe is to be replaced by Manhattan's biggest Subway franchise and Sardi's will be converted into a very special, theatre-themed Duane Reade. Just jesting, of course. But check back with me in five years. The way things are going in the current, soulless real estate market, you never know.

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