PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 19-25: Legally Bailey

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 19-25: Legally Bailey
 
Reality television has chosen yet another of our stage stars.
New Blonde Bailey Hanks
New Blonde Bailey Hanks Photo by Andrew Walker

Bailey Hanks was this week named the winner of the MTV reality casting competition, "Legally Blonde The Musical: The Search for Elle Woods."

Hanks, who beat out other contestants who had names like Autumn and Rhiannon, was picked to succeed Tony nominee Laura Bell Bundy as Elle Woods in the New York production of Legally Blonde. And it wasn't 48 hours before she was actually in the show. While the actual contest ended months ago (with Hanks rehearsing in secrecy ever since), the switchover seemed to happen in a flash from the public point of view. Bundy gave her final performance on July 21; Hanks was named the winner of the competition on national television July 21; and Hanks gave her first performance at the Palace Theatre July 23.

Additionally, Ghostlight Records released Hanks' single version of Legally Blonde's first-act closer, "So Much Better," on iTunes beginning July 22.

In contrast to previous reality shows used to cast Broadway and West End productions, the Legally Blonde result was not in the hands of a voting audience, but tightly in the control of the musical's creative team, heading by director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell.

Finalists Autumn Hurlbert, Rhiannon Hansen and Lauren Zakrin have all been cast in either the Broadway production or the first national tour of the musical, which launches in Providence, RI, Sept. 23. Hurlbert, the first runner-up in the competition, will understudy the role of Elle Woods on Broadway and will perform in the ensemble. Bailey Hanks has a standard, six-month Equity contract. At press time, the producers had not decided whether they were going to invite critics back to rate Hanks' performance.

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Tom Cavanagh, Anthony Rapp, Corey Stoll and Enid Graham opened in the Second Stage Theatre revival of Richard Nelson's 1989 play Some Americans Abroad this week. Gordon Edelstein directed the comedy, which was a hit 20 years ago at Lincoln Center Theater. Critics this time around were split. Some found the tale of fussy, Anglophilic American academics on a tour of England as entertaining and skillful as their predecessors had, while others thought the production's pace was slack and limp.

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A new musical entitled Robin and the 7 Hoods, based on the 1964 Rat Pack comedy of the same name, is aiming for a Broadway opening in spring 2010. The new musical will feature a book by Peter Ackerman and a score by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen. The Drowsy Chaperone's Casey Nicholaw will direct and choreograph the production.

Press notes said that Robin and the 7 Hoods will "shine a Broadway light on that sexy era in pop culture that ushered in the 1960's and whose hold remains firm on the American psyche – where James Bond reigned supreme, martinis flowed freely, and Sinatra and Martin ruled the night."

Now, if they can only find actors up to the task of playing Sinatra and Martin. (Let alone Bing Crosby and Sammy Davis, Jr., who were also in the film and who essentially played themselves.)

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The tribal rock musical Hair is back in town. A new production, starring Jonathan Groff, Will Swenson and Patina Renea Miller, began performances in Central Park July 22. Diane Paulus directs the Delacorte staging that reunites much of the 40th anniversary cast of Hair, which played the outdoor theatre in September 2007. The current Shakespeare in the Park presentation — with choreography by Karole Armitage — officially opens Aug. 7 and will play an already-extended run through Aug. 31.

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