PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 6-12: Small Screen to Stage

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 6-12: Small Screen to Stage
 
To know what's going on in the musical theatre these days, you may want to watch more television.
A couple of contestants hope they're electrifying enough to win, oh yes indeed.
A couple of contestants hope they're electrifying enough to win, oh yes indeed. Photo by Dean Hendler for NBC/Universal

To explain: "You're the One That I Want," the NBC reality show that will determine who will star in the upcoming Broadway revival of Grease, debuted on Sunday night, Jan. 7—the same day tickets went on sale for the show, as chance would have it. Tuning in were 11.6 million viewers, according to Nielsens. Variety called the numbers "good but not great"—during the 8 PM hour, four other shows beat it; one hour later, it moved up to third place.

"Good but not great" were probably not the words on the producers' lips, however, when they surveyed the $1.3 million in ticket sales that followed the show's airing. Not bad for a show that doesn't hit Broadway until July. If that keeps up, producers could have the musical's $10 million capitalization covered well before opening.

Meanwhile, up at Children's Theater Company in Minneapolis, a stage version of High School Musical—the Disney Channel telepic that has become a phenomenon with young audiences—was unveiled. Appraising its future, Variety said the show "outstrips its source in scope, accomplishment and artistry, while remaining true to its offhand charms. Judging from the uproarious audience reaction on opening night, this is a show that undoubtedly will find further venues beyond its current, already sold-out Minneapolis run."

A second Equity production (one of five separate resident Equity stagings) begins at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta on Jan. 12, starring Ron Bohmer and Alison Fraser as the adult characters. If this keeps up, television may surpass Chicago as everyone's favorite place for a tryout.

*** Meryl Streep has done a lot of things over her brilliant career. One thing she hasn't done, however, is—you guessed it—covers of ABBA songs. Mother Courage herself will play another sort of courageous (well, sort of) mother in the movie version of the international stage smash, Mamma Mia!. She will portray Donna Sheridan, a character created by Louis Pitre on Broadway, who, on the occasion of her daughter's wedding, is besieged by three men from her past, one of whom might be her child's father. (Call it "Donna's Choice.") Depending on how closely the film follows the stage show, Streep can be expected to sing "Money, Money, Money," "Dancin' Queen," "Super Trouper," "Chiquitita," "The Winner Takes It All" and, of course, the title song.

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The Scene, Theresa Rebeck's new dark comedy, opened at Second Stage on Jan. 11 with television stars Tony Shalhoub ("Monk") and Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") in the cast. Reviews were mixed to positive for the comic dissection of the devolution of modern society, and critics particularly admired Anna Camp as a loathsome and beautiful bundle of feckless ambition and amorality.

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Finally, it was announced that Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell, which interweaves the late actor-writer's monologues and stories with unpublished letters and journal entries, will begin previews at the Minetta Lane Theatre Feb. 20. The production remembers the late monologist, who ended his life three Januarys ago by jumping off a ferry into New York Harbor. An ensemble cast of five — including Kathleen Chalfant, Hazelle Goodman and Ain Gordon — will perform the new work, which was co-created by Gray's widow, Kathleen Russo, and Lucy Sexton. The production will include diary extracts as well as excerpts from Gray's pieces Sex and Death to Age 14; Terrors of Pleasure; Swimming to Cambodia; Impossible Vacation; Gray's Anatomy; Monster in a Box; It's a Slippery Slope; Morning, Noon and Night; and Life Interrupted.

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

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