PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 4-10: The Jackson Effect

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 4-10: The Jackson Effect Weeks after it happened, the death of Michael Jackson continues to have an impact on a society that, if they hadn't paid the pop star much mind in the last 15 years (aside from the kind of attention one pays the tabloids), now can't seem to get enough of the influential singer’s body of work.
Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson

The hunger for all things Jackson has not escaped the theatre, either. Thriller – Live — the concert spectacular featuring the hits of the late Jackson and The Jackson 5 that is currently playing at the West End's Lyric Theatre and a simultaneous U.K national tour — will embark on a 12-month worldwide tour later this month. Critics dismissed the show when it first opened, but that hardly seems to matter; it's been selling out ever since Jackson died suddenly on June 25.

Performances will begin July 21 in Munich, Germany, for a run to Aug. 2. The tour will then continue with confirmed dates in Barcelona, Cologne, Zurich, Vienna, Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Warsaw, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Berlin. The production will also tour most other European countries and will embark on an extensive American tour within the next 12 months. Further dates will be announced.

The tour is produced by Paul Walden and Derek Nicol. According to Walden, he's been inundated by enquiries for Thriller – Live ever since Jackson died, saying, "It seems clear that what Michael's fans want right now is to celebrate his life by continuing to listen to his music and to have a way to celebrate his legacy. We can think of no greater tribute to the memory of this global superstar than to continue to celebrate his life and his music as we have done for the past three years in Thriller – Live."

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Victor Garber is returning to the Broadway stage at long last. He will star as a vain, and besieged, stage star in a revival of the classic Noël Coward showbiz comedy Present Laughter that will begin previews on Broadway Jan. 2, 2010, at the American Airlines Theatre with an official opening scheduled for Jan. 21. Nicholas Martin will direct. (Martin also directed Garber in the Coward comedy at Boston's Huntington Theatre.)

Once a regular presence on Broadway, Garber's past credits include such impressive shows as Sweeney Todd, Arcadia, Art and Lend Me a Tenor, as well as the original Assassins. But he was waylaid in Hollywood for some years by the success of the series "Alias," which made him a name in households that do things besides go to the theatre. This will be his first Broadway show in more than ten years.

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The producers of Tracy Letts' Broadway transfers are good about being loyal to each production's original cast.

August: Osage County had many great actors in it when it debuted in Chicago—but not a single star. Nonetheless, lead producer Jeffrey Richards chose to leave the cast intact when he brought it to Broadway, and neither the audiences, who kept it going for two years, or the awards-giving bodies, who threw every prize in the book at it, seemed to have minded.

Richards is also producing the Broadway production of Letts' Superior Donuts, which arrives at the Music Box on Sept. 16. This time, the show will have a star of sorts, but he's a star who originated his role in the Chicago premiere: Michael McKean, most recently on Broadway in the 2007 revival of The Homecoming. He will reprise the role of doughnut shop owner Arthur Przybyszewski.

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The Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, Long Island, has always had a talent for attracting star talent. But the cast of the American premiere of Moira Buffini's Dinner, now playing, is starrier than most.

Mercedes Ruehl heads the cast, which also features New York stalwarts Daniel Gerroll, J. Smith-Cameron and Reed Birney.

Bay Street press notes read: "A dinner party from hell is the focus of this wicked satirical comedy, where caustic comments fly like poisonous darts across the dinner table. The playwright reminds us that 'revenge is a dish best served cold,' but at this dinner party it is served frozen."

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Judith Ivey in The Glass Menagerie
photo by T. Charles Erickson

Judith Ivey has something to look forward to after the Off-Broadway musical she's just directed, Vanities, has its run. She will repeat her recent acclaimed Long Wharf Theatre performance as Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie in Manhattan. Roundabout Theatre Company in association with Long Wharf Theatre will present director Gordon Edelstein's production at Off-Broadway's Laura Pels Theatre. Performances will begin March 5, 2010, with an official opening scheduled for March 24.

Ivey will be joined onstage by Patch Darragh (Tom Wingfield) and Keira Keeley (Laura Wingfield); both Darragh and Keeley also starred in the Long Wharf run.

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Shakespeare in the Park's upcoming staging of The Bacchae has a cast, and a nice one, too. Anthony Mackie will star as Pentheus, opposite previously announced Jonathan Groff, André De Shields as Teiresias, Joan MacIntosh as Agave, and Rocco Sisto as Messenger.

JoAnne Akalaitis directs Nicholas Ruddall's 90-minute adaptation of Eurpides' work, which boasts an original score by Philip Glass.

Wait a minute—90 minutes? A Delacorte production that's 90 minutes?! The audience, used to summer evening marathons, won't know what hit them. Some are bound to roam around outside the theatre for a while, thinking the end is only the intermission.