PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 21-27: Two Line Up

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 21-27: Two Line Up
 
One thing you can say about the folks behind the upcoming Broadway revival of A Chorus Line—they're organized. This is not an outfit that leaves things until the last minute, making it quite out of keeping with most Broadway productions, which often proceed toward their premieres as if falling down a long flight of stairs.
Charlotte d
Charlotte d Photo by Aubrey Reuben

The revival set its standard for advance planning early on. It announced in early January 2005 that it intended to open on Broadway in September 2006. And not just September, but Sept. 21, exactly. It named its director, Bob Avian, and its designer, Robin Wagner (both of whom worked on the original). In March 2005, it was revealed that the production would play a pre-Broadway engagement in San Francisco July 9 through Aug. 6, 2006. Now, still some six months before that first performance (and only 11 months before Christmas—better get shopping guys!), A Chorus Line has composedly picked its two first cast members. Charlotte d’Amboise will play Cassie, the down-on-her-luck dancer created in the original production by Tony Award winner Donna McKechnie; and Michael Berresse will play Cassie’s former lover Zach, who is now the director of the show for which Cassie has come to audition.

The casting of D'Amboise is particularly apropos for a show about the trials and tribulations of unsung stage hoofers. D'Amboise is well known to theatre pros and aficionados as the definitive trouper. She has frequently stepped into roles created by others in shows like Chicago and Contact, and been a star standby in others, most recently (and most famously) Sweet Charity, in which she spelled for an injured Christina Applegate during the Boston and Broadway legs of the production. She won't have dig deep to understand a character like Cassie.

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The Chorus Line news was just one aspect of a week that saw Broadway generally taking care of business and tying up the loose ends of the spring season.

The Hilton Theatre, once the home of the Dancin' Feet of 42nd Street, will next be the address of Hot Feet, the new dance musical directed and choreographed by Maurice Hines, and featuring the music of Earth, Wind and Fire. Hot Feet will play a pre-Broadway engagement at Washington, D.C.'s National Theatre March 18-April 9. Broadway previews are scheduled to begin April 15 with an official opening night set for April 30. The upcoming revival of Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, meanwhile, laid claim to Broadway's Lyceum Theatre. It will begin performances April 14 with an official opening set for May 7.

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The Tony Administration Committee assembled Jan. 26 to discuss eligibility of Broadway shows that have opened within the past few months, and came up with a couple decisions that surprised some. Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, which features a book by Terrence McNally, will be eligible for nomination in the Best Musical category, despite its possessing a score which boasts only a couple new tunes. Also, the recent limited engagement of Latinologues, a comic evening consisting of 12 monologues on American Latino life, will be eligible for nomination in the Best Play category.

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Producers Bob Boyett and Bill Haber got their wish for Alan Bennett's The History Boys. The Broadway production will feature the original London cast, no member of which could be called a star (the usual criteria set up by Equity for a British actor to be cast in a Broadway production). The play, about a British boys' school, its students and its teachers, will officially open April 23. Nicholas Hytner directs.

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Then there's what could be called the un-Broadway news. Many people have thought that Lois Smith would be a shoo-in for a Tony nomination if the Signature Theatre Company only transferred its lauded production of The Trip to Bountiful to Broadway. But, it's not to be, artistic producer James Houghton revealed this week. He pointed out that all the Broadway theatre are booked and that a commercial Off-Broadway house would be too costly, and attract too little attention to pay off. The show did extend again, however, this time to March 11.

Another show champing at the Broadway bit, Second Stage's hit production of The Little Dog Laughed, was also showing signs of frustration. "We're in the process of exploring [Broadway]," director Scott Ellis told Playbill.com. "The biggest challenge right now is there's no theatre this season. [The thought is] in case something closes, if we get a shot at it this season, we would go in. If not, the talk is that we do it in the fall."

One show that will never have to fret over such things again, is solo artist Sarah Jones' Bridge & Tunnel, which found its home, the Helen Hayes, long ago, and opened this week on Jan. 26. The run is currently slated through March 12.

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There was pre-Broadway news, too. Twyla Tharp's Bob Dylan piece, The Times They Are A-Changin', began its world premiere at San Diego's Old Globe Jan. 25.

The show has one of the most unique plots to hit the stage in some time. Using the creators' own words, it is "set within a low-rent traveling circus run by Capt. Arab, whose wagon hasn't moved from its location in some time — though not by lack of effort from his ragtag band of clowns and performers. One such performer is the animal trainer Cleo, a young woman exploited by Capt. Arab and loved by his son, Coyote. Coyote longs for a world outside the confines of the family business, and as the circus show plays out, he must decide whether to flee or stay, and if he does stay, how to inspire change within the troupe." The circus leaves town March 5.

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Finally, good news from Hollywood: both "The West Wing" and "Malcolm in the Middle" have been canceled, the current seasons being their last. Right, I know, this is actually bad news to fans of the shows, but to them I say: Boo hoo hoo. For, though I understand from my scant knowledge of both programs (glimpses caught through ground-floor apartment windows, strolls through the electronic department at Best Buy) that each show made for exemplary television, their creators are nonetheless guilty of crimes against stage and theatre. "The West Wing" has deprived the legitimate world of superlative stage actress Allison Janney for seven years, and "Malcolm in the Middle" made away with Jane Kaczmerek for six. Now that they have the box office power that small screen stardom can bring, let's hope some producer has the sense to star them in a play. And quick, before they're cast in another pilot.

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