PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, June 19-25: Foster Care

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, June 19-25: Foster Care Hardly a Broadway season goes by without a Sutton Foster vehicle, and 2010-11 will be no exception.
Sutton Foster
Sutton Foster Photo by Aubrey Reuben

The Tony Award winner will follow in the footsteps of Tony and Olivier winner Patti LuPone and the late, great Ethel Merman when she stars as Reno Sweeney in a new Broadway revival of Cole Porter's Anything Goes. Roundabout Theatre Company will present the production, which will be directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall. Performances will begin in February 2011 at a Broadway theatre to be announced. The creative team will have their work cut out for them. It's been more than 20 years since the LuPone version lit Lincoln Center Theater on fire, but memories of the production are still fresh in theatregoers' and critics' memories.

The West Coast got some nice casting news, as well, this week. Four-time Tony nominee Raul Esparza and Brooke Shields will star in the world premiere of the new musical Leap of Faith, which begins performances at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre in September. Directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford, performances will begin Sept. 11 with an official opening scheduled for Oct. 3. Performances will continue through Oct. 24. Esparza will play Reverend Jonas Nightengale, the con man created by Steve Martin on the screen, and Shields will be Marva, the small-town woman and single mother who was first played by Lolita Davidovitch. Leap of Faith features a score by Alan Menken, a book by Janus Cercone (who wrote the original screenplay) with Glenn Slater and lyrics by Slater.

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La Cage aux Folles producer and Menier Chocolate Factory artistic director David Babani is eyeing a couple Stephen Sondheim musicals. In previous years, the small London theatre brought new life to Sondheim's Sunday in the Park With George, and recently revisited an intimate A Little Night Music under the direction of Trevor Nunn. Both productions transferred to Broadway.

"We are looking at doing a production of Road Show next year, if all goes to plan," Babani told Playbill.com. The chamber musical about the eccentric American Mizner brothers, featuring a book by John Weidman, debuted at the Public Theater in 2008 to a rather lukewarm reception from the critics. But taking on Sondheim's more historically challenged works seems to be Babani's intention. "The year after that, we're looking to do a production of Merrily We Roll Along, which Maria Friedman would direct for us, which would be thrilling," he added. Merrily notoriously flopped on Broadway, and has been a cause celebre among musical enthusiasts ever since. ***

Michael Wilson
photo by Aubrey Reuben

Hartford Stage is losing its leader. Artistic director Michael Wilson — only the fourth chief the theatre has seen in its 45 years — will leave the Connecticut theatre company following the conclusion of the 2010-2011 season, after 13 years of service. He will use his new free time to direct more in New York. Wilson's profile has risen slowly and steadily in New York circles. His 2003 production of Enchanted April didn't exactly impress critics. Neither did his rendition of the old chestnut Old Acquaintance at the Roundabout. But he found his metier with playwright Horton Foote, wowing critics with Dividing the Estate in 2008 and stunning them into silence this past season with The Orphans' Home Cycle. Both productions played in Hartford before coming to Manhattan.

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Who owns the Broadway rights to the Michael Jackson music catalog?

Broadway producer James Nederlander Jr., a member of the theatre-owning dynasty, has filed a lawsuit against the estate of the late King of Pop over song rights for a potential Broadway musical, the New York Times reported.

In 2009, the Nederlander Organization announced the negotiation of a rights deal to produce a stage musical based on Jackson's iconic song and video "Thriller." Jackson was to be involved in the creation of the musical that would have featured songs from the "Thriller" and "Off the Wall" albums. Nederlander's civil suit seeks to uphold the 2008 contract in which Jackson allowed for the use of his songs. The contract also provided Jackson with approval of the musical's book writer and products related to the show. The suit also seeks an injunction that would ensure that the executors could not license the songs for use in another musical. (In April the Jackson estate announced a deal with Cirque du Soleil to create two shows featuring Jackson's music.)

The 2008 contract between the Nederlanders and Jackson granted the producers the rights to develop the tuner through October 2011 (with a possible option to extend through 2013).

A lawyer for Jackson estate executors John Branca and John McClain said in a statement that the contract may not be enforceable following Jackson's death in 2009.

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