PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 2-8: London Assurance

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 2-8: London Assurance All of London—and, indirectly, the world—was shaken July 7 when five morning explosions stunned the city and its people. Terrorists who claimed to be associated with Al Qaeda struck four underground trains and one double decker bus at various locations in the metropolis. At least 50 people were killed and hundreds were wounded.
Mike Leigh
Mike Leigh

As a result, the entire West End shut down Thursday night, as well as the Royal National Theatre, which went dark for the first time in its history, with producers recognizing that it would prove impossible for all the necessary artists and staff to reach the theatre by showtime. However, by Friday July 8 most shows had resolved to resume business. Many producers cited the example of Broadway's quick recovery in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Richard Pulford, the Society of London Theatre’s chief executive, issued the statement: “Like the rest of London, theatre people will not be intimidated by terrorism. They are absolutely determined that life shall go on as normal. Tonight they will take to our stages, man our box offices and care for our audiences as they always have. London is the theatre capital of the world and will remain so despite yesterday's atrocities. The year to date has been one of the strongest on record, and the industry will continue to offer theatregoers the life enhancing experience that the performing arts are uniquely well equipped to provide.”

***

Just one day prior to the London terrorist strikes, when the city was still celebrating its successful bid to host the 2012 Olympics, the National announced its new season. As expected, Mike Leigh (who has become a fairly well known playwright in New York courtesy of some steller Off-Broadway productions by The New Group) will deliver his first new stage play since 1993’s It’s a Great Big Shame! The new play is still untitled (Leigh always develops characters and situations with his casts, only firming up the play itself toward the later stages of his 18-week process), but will open in the Cottesloe on Sept. 15. The cast includes John Burgess, Ben Caplan, Allan Corduner, Adam Godley, Caroline Gruber, Nitzan Sharron, Samantha Spiro and Alexis Zegerman.

Howard Brenton’s new play Paul will preview in the Cottesloe beginning Sept. 30, opening on Oct. 6. Directed by Howard Davies, it explores the phenomenon of religious faith through the story of Jesus' disciple, Paul. The Lyttleton will house Ibsen's rarely-seen Pillars of the Community, opening Nov. 1. At the Olivier, Coram Boy — adapted by Helen Edmundson from Jamila Gavin’s children’s novel — begins previews Nov. 2, opening Nov. 15. And there'll be a rare NT outing for a Kaufman and Hart comedy. Once in a Lifetime, beginning previews Dec. 5 and opening Dec. 15, will be directed by Edward Hall. ***

Lennon, about the life and featuring the music of John Lennon, arrived at the Broadhurst Theatre July 7, one day after Steel Magnolias announced it had had enough of Broadway. The latter will close July 31.

In other Broadway news, The Mambo Kings' recent collapse was good news for The Color Purple, which quickly jumped on the former's projected home, the Broadway Theatre. The musical, based on Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and the Steven Spielberg film of the same name, will begin previews Oct. 25. The official opening is scheduled for Dec. 1.

The new musical made its world premiere at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre in fall 2004. The Color Purple centers on Celie, a woman who endures insurmountable hardships within her own family and struggles to find her identity and love. For the Atlanta run, LaChanze starred as Celie. Gary Griffin staged the work. The book is by Marsha Norman and music is by pop songwriters Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray. No New York casting has been announced.

***

Lincoln Center Theater completed its 2005-06 Mitzi E. Newhouse season with the addition of The House in Town, a new play by Richard Greenberg, the Energizer bunny of the playwriting world. The show will begin on May 11, 2006, for a June 8 opening. It will be the second new play by Greenberg to reach New York this season. A Naked Girl on the Appian Way will play at the Roundabout Theatre Company Sept. 9, with an opening on Oct. 6. Doug Hughes will direct both of them.

In other Off-Broadway news, James Lapine's Fran's Bed, to begin at Playwrights Horizons on Aug. 30, has a sweet little cast. Harris Yulin, Heather Burns and Julia Stiles have joined Mia Farrow in the New York premiere. Farrow, a rare sighting on the boards, plays the incapacitated title character. Yulin is her husband and Burns and Stiles are her daughters.