PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 20-26: Dream Shows

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 20-26: Dream Shows
 
Dreamgirls and Mel Brooks can be thanked for the big news stories of the past week.
Jennifer Hudson, Beyonc
Jennifer Hudson, Beyonc Photo by Dreamworks

The week began with the Academy Award nominations, in which the Bill Condon film of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls did very well, collecting eight nominations, the most of any move of the seasons. These included supporting nods for stars Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy; three Original Song nominations, for "Listen," "Love You I Do" and "Patience"; and, of course, a nomination for….oh, right…it didn't get nominated for Best Picture. This was that bit of surprising news that everyone focused on, and the reason desk editors across the nation inserted the word "snub" into their headlines.

Hudson certainly likes the Henry Krieger-Tom Eyen Musical—so much so, in fact, that she desires to star in a Broadway revival of the show, according to the New York Post. The tabloid reported Jan. 26 that a new production is being discussed by Krieger and lawyer John Breglio, who handles the estate of Michael Bennett, Dreamgirls' original director and choreographer, and that Hudson is a likely contender to star. The former "American Idol" reject is now the most famous talent that reality show has ever produced, what with her Golden Globe win and Oscar nomination. Breglio, who backed the new revival of A Chorus Line, is a probable candidate for producer, the Post said.

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According to reports, Mel Brooks is busy wrapping up one of his musicals and ramping up the other. Young Frankenstein, his stage adaptation of his hit movie—which had a successful workshop last year—is apparently good to go. A casting notice said it would arrive on Broadway in the fall, after an out-of-town tryout somewhere. Susan Stroman will direct and choreograph.

No cast was listed, but the workshop had a pretty one: it starred Kristin Chenoweth as Elizabeth (the role played by Madeline Kahn in the film), Brian D'Arcy James as Dr. Frankenstein (the Gene Wilder role), Sutton Foster as Inga (the Teri Garr role), Shuler Hensley as the Monster (the Peter Boyle role), Marc Kudisch as the police inspector who suspects Dr. Frankenstein (the Kenneth Mars role), Roger Bart as the hunchback Igor (the Marty Feldman role) and Cloris Leachman recreated her own role as the horse-frightening Frau Blucher. Meanwhile, the persistent Post reported that Brooks has invited original The Producers stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick to reprise their performances as Max and Leo for the Broadway musical's final months. Of course, The Producers has announced no final months, so take this information for what it's worth. Of course, if Brooks did decide to close The Producers, he's have no trouble find an open Broadway theatre for Young Frankenstein: the St. James.

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The Broadway production of Frost/Nixon, the new play by Peter Morgan, and directed by Michael Grandage, was made official this week. It opens April 22 at the Jacobs. In will star the previously announced Frank Langella (as President Richard Nixon) and Michael Sheen (as Sir David Frost). Previews for the 20-week Broadway engagement of the London sensation begin March 31.

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Translations, Brian Friel's play about language, boundaries and political might, opened on Broadway Jan. 25 in a fresh production by Manhattan Theatre Club. Critics were in heaven, applauding the inventive idea that pairing a good play with a good director (Garry Hynes) can often lead to a good production.

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Finally, Curt Dempster died suddenly on Jan. 19. As the founder and only artistic director to date of the seminal Off-Off-Broadway outfit the Ensemble Studio Theatre, he was responsible for producing more than 6,000 plays. Many of those were short works that made up EST's most famous enterprise: the annual Marathon of New One-Act Plays. Dempster can be credited for keeping the one-act form alive over the past three decades, and for providing many an actor and playwright with an artistic home as fallow points in their careers. To scan the list of 500 artists who made up the "Ensemble" in the theatre's name was like looking at a directory of the New York theatre community. If everyone who's ever found a safe harbor at EST attends the memorial, they're have to rent a big auditorium.

(Robert Simonson is Playbill.com's senior correspondent. Reach him at rsimonson@playbill.com.)

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