PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 5-11: Gotta Have Heart — and Hope

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 5-11: Gotta Have Heart — and Hope The boys of summer came out swinging — and singing and dancing — in the past week with the July 5 start of previews and the July 10 opening of Damn Yankees, the 2008 entry of the Encores! Summer Stars program at New York City Center.
Sean Hayes and Jane Krakowski in Damn Yankees.
Sean Hayes and Jane Krakowski in Damn Yankees. Photo by Joan Marcus

The Summer Stars mandate is that the shows (unlike popular Encores! concerts) are fully staged, and at bat for this production (using the 1955 script and score of the Richard Adler-Jerry Ross musical comedy about a baseball fan selling his soul to Satan to be a star player) was director John Rando (Urinetown). Jane Krakowski is Lola (dancing Bob Fosse's original choreography), "Will and Grace" star Sean Hayes is devilish Mr. Applegate, Cheyenne Jackson (Xanadu) is hitter Joe Hardy and Randy Graff is the wife who gets left behind.

Reviews were solid. There is no promise that this production will leap to a Broadway run like Summer Stars' Gypsy did, but in show business, as they say in Damn Yankees, "you gotta have hope" (in addition to "heart").

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Theatre insiders and rabid fans reportedly packed the Lyceum Theatre (stamping, cheering and standing) for the July 5 first preview of [title of show], Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell's five-performer meta-theatrical musical about a couple of guys writing a musical about writing a musical. It was a cult hit at the New York Musical Theatre Festival and at the Vineyard Theatre Off-Broadway. The earlier cast is reunited for the Broadway run: Bell, Bowen, Heidi Blickenstaff and Susan Blackwell, plus music director Larry Pressgrove. Opening is set for July 17. (Read this week's Diva Talk column on Playbill.com for Blickenstaff's account of the first preview.)

* Word came this week that "Kinky Boots," the 2005 film comedy about a drag queen cabaret performer who helps revitalize a failing British shoe company by creating a line of fetish wear, is being developed as a Broadway-aimed musical. Broadway producers Daryl Roth (August: Osage County) and Hal Luftig (Movin' Out, Legally Blonde) are shepherding it, with Tony Award-winning choreographer Jerry Mitchell, who directed Legally Blonde, in discussions to direct. The project is in the very early development stage, with no timeline to be made public at the moment.

Feelers are being put out for a book writer and a composer and lyricist. Paging Harvey Fierstein! He knows something about bigger-than-life characters and human hearts.

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Speaking of Mitchell, producer Luftig said this week that the Mitchell-directed musical Going Hollywood, a version of Kaufman and Hart's 1930 Broadway comedy Once in a Lifetime, is expected to surface at The Old Globe in San Diego in early 2010. The Hollywood spoof is by Tony Award winner David Zippel (lyricist and co-librettist), Joe Leonardo (co-librettist) and Jonathan Sheffer (composer).

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And on the topic of poking Hollywood in the eye, the coming Broadway production of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow will star Tony nominee Raúl Esparza (Company, The Homecoming) as Charlie, it was announced this week. His previously announced co-star is Jeremy Piven (TV's "Entourage") as craven Hollywood player Bobby Gould. The temp who tempts and frustrates the pair has yet to be named (Madonna was the original star).

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B.J. Crosby, the dynamic, Tony-nominated Broadway actress known for her powerful belt, is recovering from a stroke, according to a report in the Times-Picayune. Crosby, according to the New Orleans paper, suffered a stroke on the right side of her body in mid-June. The actress is able to speak and walk and has regained some use of her right hand and arm, but is unable to sing at this point.

"My speech is slurred, but I take my time when I talk so you can understand me," Crosby told the Times-Picayune. "It's OK. I know I'm getting better. . . . I'm not mad that this happened to me. But it's difficult to get through. I'm taking it one day at a time. I'm going to recover. It's just going to take a little time."

Crosby portrayed Matron "Mama" Morton in the hit Broadway revival of Chicago. She also starred on Broadway in the revival of One Mo' Time, and she earned a Tony nomination for her work in the long-running revue Smokey Joe's Café.

Illustrating the plight of thousands of performers, Crosby does not have medical insurance. To help raise funds for the actress donations are being accepted, and a benefit concert is planned for the fall.

"I need prayers more than money," Crosby told the New Orleans paper. "Tell people not to stop praying for me. I know prayer changes things."

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Shows in the 2008 New York International Fringe Festival were announced this week. As usual, there are a slew of quirky, eye-catching titles, including The Alice Complex, Revolution on the Roof, Spite, Walls, Kaboom!, Clone, The VaJayJay Monologues, The Fabulous Kane Sisters in Box Office Poison Tim Gunn's Podcast (a reality chamber opera) and Krapp, 39. The 12th annual Festival, running Aug. 8-24, will present the work of over 202 theatre companies from around the world. Visit FringeNYC.org.

The Capital Fringe Festival, which began July 10 in Washington, DC, is not lacking for weird titles. Wiener Sausage: The Musical! is among scores of shows in that fest (in categories of dance, solo, musical, comedy, drama and experimental), running to July 27. Visit capitalfringe.org.

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Theater Oobleck's acclaimed production of Mickle Maher's The Strangerer — described as "part political satire, part classical drama, part contemporary debate, and a murder mystery with the murderers in plain view" — began performances at Off-Broadway's Barrow Street Theatre July 9. The production, which ended its run at Chicago's Chopin Theatre June 29, blends several of Camus' works with the first Bush/Kerry presidential debate in 2004. A six-week engagement is expected. The original Chicago cast — including Guy Massey, Mickle Maher, Colm O'Reilly and Brian Shaw — is featured.

In the play, Bush and Kerry "struggle with the question not of if or why an innocent man should be killed (the man in question being moderator Jim Lehrer), but rather what is the proper manner in which to go about killing him."

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More casting news: Multiple Joseph Jefferson Award winner Hollis Resnik will play Edith and Edie in the Chicago premiere of the musical Grey Gardens this fall at Northlight TheatreSam Robards joined the Broadway company of Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps this week, playing the dashing hero Richard Hannay at the Cort Theatre…Tony Award winner Victoria Clark will re-team with director Bartlett Sher and playwright Craig Lucas, her collaborators on The Light in the Piazza, when she stars in the Playwrights Horizons production of Prayer for My Enemy. Clark currently stars in Roundabout Theatre Company's The Marriage of Bette and Boo (opening July 13)…Marylouise Burke (Fuddy Meers, Kimberly Akimbo, Broadway's Is He Dead? and the revival of Into the Woods) has joined the cast of Playwrights Horizons' 2009 staging of The Savannah Disputation, the New York premiere of a new play by Evan Smith (Psych and The Uneasy Chair)...Scott Cohen (Drunk Enough To Say I Love You at The Public) has joined the cast of the PH season opener, Three Changes by Nicky SilverBrian Murray (The Crucible) will join the cast of the fall production of the comedy To Be Or Not To Be by Manhattan Theatre Club, on Broadway.