PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 17-23: Elton John's Animal Farm, the Musical

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 17-23: Elton John's Animal Farm, the Musical
 
Elton John writing a musical based on George Orwell's masterpiece "Animal Farm"? It's the kind of announcement that makes a slow-news summer more interesting.
Elton John
Elton John Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Pop star John and Orwell — together. That's what makes the forthcoming project, announced this week, so enticing — its sheer improbability. Orwell's allegorical novel is about the Stalin era before the Second World War, and revolves around the corruption of the revolution by its leaders. Not exactly native terrain for the most famous male pop star in the world. Though Elton did get a bit political in Billy Elliot with all the Thatcher-bashing and union business and whatnot.

John will be teaming up with his Billy Elliot co-songwriter Lee Hall for the new work. It apparently took them some time to secure the rights. "It's taken about two years," said John. "We almost gave up..." Hall estimates a further two years of development time to bring it to the stage. Hall is working the lyrics first before handing them over to John to set to music. "I'm deep into it, writing songs for pigs and other four-legged friends," Hall said. ***

Producers Randall L. Wreghitt and Jana Robbins announced July 22 that they will bring D. Tucker Smith play The Great Game to Broadway in the 2011-2012 season.

Sheryl Kaller, a 2010 Tony nominee for her direction of Next Fall, will direct the production. Casting and theatre will be announced at a later date.

The play is set in 1870 and focuses on George Hayward and Safia Das, who each find themselves in the other's territory: he in the mountains of Central Asia, she in London. "The Great Game" is a historical term referring to the strategic rivalry between the Brits and the Russians for supremacy in Central Asia during much of the 19th century. *** Musical flops never die in the theatre.

And so it's no surprise that original Broadway cast members Natascia Diaz, Luba Mason, Myrna Lee Gomila, Frankie Negron and Elan Luz Rivera will take part in the Public Theater's free staging of Paul Simon's 1997 musical The Capeman, which will begin performances at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park Aug. 14.

Mason, who originated the role of Mrs. Krzesinski in the troubled Broadway production of Capeman, will reprise her performance in that role. Diaz will assume the role of Esmerelda Agron (she originally played Yolanda).

Not returning will be the two Broadway leads. Anthony Lee Medina will portray Young Sal Agrón (aka the Capeman) in the role that was originated by Latin singer Marc Anthony. The role of older Salvador Agrón, originally played by Ruben Blades, has not been cast.

As previously reported, Tony Award nominee Diane Paulus, who first staged her Tony-winning revival of Hair as a concert presentation at the Delacorte prior to its Broadway return, will helm the musical that will run for three performances through Aug. 16 at 8 PM.

***

Nick Adams
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Nick Adams, who is currently appearing in the Tony-winning revival of La Cage aux Folles, will join Tony Sheldon and Will Swenson in the North American company of Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical, which will play a limited engagement this fall in Toronto prior to arriving on Broadway in spring 2011 at a theatre to be announced. The show has the silliest name of any Broadway musical since the glory days of Victor Herbert operettas in the early 20th century. The new musical, written by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott and directed by Simon Phillips, will begin its 12-week run at Toronto's The Princesss of Wales Theatre Oct. 12 with an official opening Oct. 26. Broadway dates will be announced at a later time. Adapted from the film of the same name, Priscilla tells of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus searching for love and friendship in the middle of the Australian outback. Priscilla had its world premiere in Sydney in October 2006 and has subsequently played Melbourne and New Zealand. The London production recently celebrated its first year in the West End at the Palace Theatre.

*** Remember the all-male A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum I wrote about a few weeks back? Well, here's the distaff answer to it.

A new production of the profoundly male-dominated musical 1776, which will debut in August at Musical Theater Heritage in Kansas City, MO, will feature an all-female cast. Call them the Founding Mothers.

Sarah Crawford will direct the concert staging of 1776 that will run Aug. 12-29. She told Playbill.com that when she was a child, her family would watch the historic musical on the Fourth of July and "when anyone asked me what role I would want to play if I could play any role in any musical, I always immediately thought to myself, 'John Adams in 1776!'"

Crawford, along with MTH executive director George Harter and associate producer Chad Gerlt, conceived of the production as a way to showcase the talent of female actresses in the Kansas City area.

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