PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, June 18-24: From the Folks Who Lit Your Piazza

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, June 18-24: From the Folks Who Lit Your Piazza Lincoln Center Theater continued its ever-growing commitment to nurturing new American musicals by announcing the winter 2006 booking of a new tuner based on Federico Garcia Lorca's famous work, The House of Bernarda Alba.
Graciela Daniele
Graciela Daniele Photo by Aubrey Reuben

The show, which is currently having a workshop, will be the work of three artists. Michael John LaChiusa composed the music, while playwright Richard Nelson has penned the book. LaChiusa collaborates with Nelson on the lyrics, and Nelson and Graciela Daniele will co-direct the work. All three artists have worked at Lincoln Center many times before.

Outside the commercial world, it's unlikely that anyone produces as many musicals as LCT. What's more, the nonprofit's leaders, Andre Bishop and Bernard Gersten, obviously back works based on what they see as their artistic merits. They are also committed to the continued work of certain artists; the careers of LaChiusa, Jason Robert Brown and Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens would be very different without the resources and opportunities provided to them by Lincoln Center. One can argue with the artistic value of such works as Harry Connick, Jr.'s Thou Shalt Not, LaChiusa's Marie Christine and Stephen Sondheim's reworked The Frogs. But one can't bicker with LCT's willingness to sustain and/or create the careers of new musical theatre creators that resulted in those productions. Also, when the head office's urge to take yet another chance results every few years in a Contact or a The Light in the Piazza, it makes the fallow periods in between easier to understand.

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The post-Tony Broadway scene continues to change. On Golden Pond didn't win any Tony Awards, but that's not the reason is will close on June 26. Star James Earl Jones contracted pneumonia and began missing performances starting June 15. This resulted in low sales after Jones' standby Charles Turner went on in his place. Jones' doctors determined on June 23 that "the seriousness of recuperating from pneumonia would prevent his return until sometime in August," according to a press statement. So producers decided to close shop. The show was to have run through Labor Day.

*** The New Group commitment to playwright-actor Wallace Shawn continues. Shawn, who is currently acting in the company's production of Hurlyburly, and saw his Aunt Dan and Lemon revived by artistic director Scott Elliott a season ago, has given the New Group the nod to premiere the The Music Teacher, a new work billed as a "play-opera" which features music by his brother Allen Shawn. As Shawn premieres are few and far between (the last was The Designated Mourner, in London, nearly a decade ago), this is quite a coup.

In other New Group news, Elliott will return to his first strength—the plays of Mike Leigh—and stage the 1977 work Abigail's Party in November. Jennifer Jason Leigh (Elliott's other great strength is star casting) will headline.

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The Signature Theatre announced that its August Wilson season, once scheduled for 2005-06, will now occur 2006-07. It will begin in fall 2006 with a new production of Two Trains Running. The season will also feature a new play by Wilson; Wilson's one-man show How I Learned What I Learned; and a marathon reading of all the dramas that make up his decade-by-decade examination of African American life during the 20th century. The latter will include many of the cast members and artists from the original productions.

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What do you want to bet that Tony winner John Patrick Shanley's new play is being fast-tracked for a New York berth this season? The drama, Chain of Command—which Doubt director called "pretty damn good" backstage at the Tonys—was earmarked for a one-night-only July 16 reading on the grounds of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, as part of the 2005 summer season of New York Stage and Film. This week, however, it was bumped up to a July 29-31 workshop. What's more, Academy Award winner Chris Cooper was announced as the star. That shuffling sound you're hearing is Gotham's big nonprofits make room in their 2005-06 schedules.

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