PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 2-8: Orphans and Idiots

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 2-8: Orphans and Idiots Broadway's 2010 calendar got three exciting additions this week.
John Gallagher, Jr. in American Idiot
John Gallagher, Jr. in American Idiot Photo by Kevin Berne

Producers Tom Hulce and Ira Pittelman announced Jan. 5 that the hit, acclaimed engagement of American Idiot (first seen at Berkeley Rep last fall) will begin previews on Broadway March 24 and open on April 20 at the St. James Theatre. No surprise. That bullet train couldn't have been stopped if Polly Pureheart had been tied to the tracks.

Trivia buffs take note: The show show has a character named St. Jimmy, and the show is playing the St. James. Discuss.

The Broadway cast will be announced shortly, but look for much of the original cast — including John Gallagher, Jr. as Johnny — to follow it to New York. This is not a show that needs name stars. The property itself, known to Green Day fans of all ages across the world, is the star, and will sell the tickets.

Unless something unexpected happens, the show will become the second rock musical sensation put together by Hulce, Pittelman and director Michael Mayer, the Tony-winning men behind Spring Awakening. And it looks as though Green Day frontman Billy Joe Armstrong, he of the sharp suits and heavy eye-liner, is ready for his new career as a theatre geek. His terribly sweet, radically uncool press statement reads: "Experiencing American Idiot on stage in Berkeley was incredible. We have really enjoyed working with Michael, Steven, Tom and the cast. The energy and chemistry of the group is contagious. Michael Mayer was able to bring life to the characters of American Idiot and Tom Kitt's musical arrangements are breathtaking. We're so proud that the show is coming to Broadway."

Big plans were also revealed this week for The Robedaux clan, the central family of late playwright Horton Foote's The Orphans' Home Cycle. The ambitious, three-part, play cycle, now at the Signature Theatre Company, will likely make its Broadway debut in the fall, according to the New York Times. Producers were initially looking to bring the critically-acclaimed nine-play cycle to Broadway in time for the 2010 Tony Awards this spring, with the soon-to-be-vacated Neil Simon Theatre as a home. But Signature artistic director James Houghton and Hartford Stage artistic director Michael Wilson (whose theatres co-present the large-scale work Off-Brodway) and their fellow producers wanted more time to ensure proper marketing for the Broadway transfer. A spring extension Off-Broadway is likely. In more Horton Foote news, a new prize honoring the work of American playwrights has been established in the memory of late Academy Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. The $30,000 cash prize, established by the Austin, TX-based Greg and Mari Marchbanks Family Foundation, will be presented on a bi-annual basis to "an American playwright who has written an original work of exceptional quality." Resident theatres across the country will be invited to submit a play by a playwright who has penned three original full-length works produced by a professional theatre. (Translation: no fledgling scribes need apply.)

The third addition to 2010 was the official confirmation that two-time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington will star in the first Broadway revival of August Wilson's Fences, the 1987 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning family drama. Viola Davis will co-star. Kenny Leon (Broadway's Radio Golf, Gem of the Ocean, A Raisin in the Sun) will direct the play about a Pittsburgh trash collector's tense relationship with his star athlete son.

Opening at the Cort Theatre will be April 26, after previews that start April 14. This is a limited 13-week engagement.

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Jeremy Irons
photo by G. A. Hansen

Across the ocean, actor Jeremy Irons is to return to the Royal Shakespeare Company for the first time in 23 years to star in the world premiere of Dennis Kelly's The Gods Weep, starting March 12 at London's Hampstead Theatre. It will open March 17 for a run through April 3. Irons was last with the RSC in the 1986-87 season, when he played Leontes in The Winter's Tale and the title role in Richard II. Irons plays Colm, who has taken a lifetime to build his empire. When he decides to divide power between his subordinates, the world he has created rapidly begins to fracture. Hm. Might play nicely in rep with King Lear.

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Hannah Cabell and Stephen Barker Turner will co-star with Tony Award winner Mandy Patinkin in the Yale Repertory Theatre world premiere of Compulsion. Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis will stage Rinne Groff's drama that will run Jan. 29-Feb. 28 (opening Feb. 4) in New Haven, prior to a West Coast bow at Berkeley Rep and a subsequent transfer to the Public Theater Off-Broadway. Eustis has been a consistent Groff booster and staged her Ruby Sunrise at the Public previously.

Patinkin will star as Sid Silver in the play, which is inspired by real events surrounding writer Meyer Levin's battle to have his adaptation of "The Diary of Anne Frank" produced on stage. Levin, of course, was beaten to the punch when when Hollywood writers Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett saw their version of the story brought to Broadway first and transformed into a huge success. Levin went on to battle for 30 years, filing many suits, to get his stage version produced. He never prevailed and died in 1981.

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Norbert Leo Butz has won the plum role of disgraced corporate executive Jeffrey Skilling in the Broadway production of Lucy Prebble's Enron, the producers announced Jan. 7. First seen in England, where critics embraced it, Enron is the highly theatrical, music-infused new play about the 2001 collapse of the American energy corporation. Rupert Goold directs Enron, to begin performances at the Broadhurst Theatre on April 8. Opening is April 27.

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