PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, June 27-July 3: Of Fish and Felt

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, June 27-July 3: Of Fish and Felt
 
Puppets and fish will soon make room for some humans on Broadway.
The Little Mermaid's Chelsea Morgan Stock and Avenue Q's Trekkie Monster
The Little Mermaid's Chelsea Morgan Stock and Avenue Q's Trekkie Monster Photo by Joan Marcus, Carol Rosegg

The Little Mermaid, the lavish Disney musical for which, it seemed, the ocean was always half-empty, not half-full, announced that it would end its run Aug. 30 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. A national tour will launch in fall 2010.

The stage version of the hit animated film borrowed Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's movie songs and added new songs by Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater. The show was never the critical hit Disney's The Lion King was, or the massive popular hit Beauty and the Beast proved to be, with critics finding fault with opera director Francesca Zambello approach, which had characters "swim" across the stage on roller-skate-like sneakers. Industry observers have been predicting it would post a closing notice long before this. In the end, The Little Mermaid will have played 50 previews and 685 performances by the time it closes.

A far longer run was had by the Tony Award-winning Avenue Q, which goes down in history as (among many other things) the most successful musical starring puppets ever to grace Broadway. It will play its final performance at the John Golden Theatre Sept. 13. It will have played 22 previews and 2,534 performances.

Avenue Q, featuring music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, and a book by Jeff Whitty, and puppets conceived and designed by original cast member Rick Lyon, was the most improbable of smashes. The cast was half-human, half-puppet; the entire creative team was made up of unknowns; it stretched political incorrectness to the breaking point (one song bore the refrain "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist"); and it boasted no special effects or hit songs. Yet, critics and audiences latched on to its irreverence and original spirit, and, after it slew the mighty dragon known as Wicked at the Tony Awards, the future was wide open.

Wicked is still running and will perhaps have the last laugh, box office-wise, but there's no denying Avenue Q’s victory. ***

Shows exiting means other shows are coming in.

Seizing that Golden Theatre will be a new production of Oleanna, David Mamet's cryptically titled 1992 play about the tension-filled relationship between a professor and a female student. It gets its Broadway premiere starting Sept. 29. Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles, who are currently playing the roles in Los Angeles, will repeat their work. It will be directed by Doug Hughes.

The world premiere of Mamet's Race will also play Broadway this fall, so, as with last season, there will be two Mamet plays on Broadway in 2009-10.

The original Oleanna starred William H. Macy and Rebecca Pidgeon, who both did well for themselves. Macy became a movie star. And Pidgeon became Mrs. Mamet.

***

Jude Law in Hamlet
photo by Johan Persson

Also due to arrive is the current acclaimed Donmar Warehouse production of Hamlet, starring Jude Law in the title role. It will begin on Broadway Sept. 12 for a 12-week engagement at the Broadhurst Theatre. Michael Grandage directs. Law will be joined onstage by the Donmar Theatre company of actors from London and Elsinore. Complete casting for the New York run will be announced at a later time.

The New York run will mark Law's first time on the Broadway stage since his Tony-nominated debut in 1995 in Indiscretions, in which he incited much comment by appearing nude.

***

Also in the Broadway pipeline is a revival of a show of more recent vintage than Hamlet. Much more recent vintage.

Ragtime, which bowed on Broadway only a decade or so ago, will return on Oct. 23 at the Neil Simon Theatre. The production is from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where the Terrence McNally, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty show, based on the E.L. Doctorow novel, features the direction and choreography by Marcia Milgrom Dodge.

The show has many fans among die-hard musical theatregoers, and remains Ahrens and Flaherty's most high-profile musical. Many think the original run was cut short by the enormous success of The Lion King the same season. Kevin McCollum, Roy Furman, Roger Berlind, Max Cooper, Tom Kirdahy/Devlin Elliott, Jeffrey Sine, Scott Delman, Roy Miller, LAMS Productions, Inc., Wendy Federman, Emanuel Azenberg in association with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

***

Laura Linney and Donald Margulies have developed a relationship.

Having starred in the recent Manhattan Theatre Club revival of Margulies' Sight Unseen (as well as the original Off-Broadway production), Linney will now headline MTC's upcoming New York premiere of Margulies' Time Stands Still. Broadway performances will begin Jan. 5, 2010.

The production, directed by Daniel Sullivan, had previously been announced to play MTC's Off-Broadway home at New York City Center – Stage I. Linney will play half of a couple, James and Sarah, a journalist and a photographer, "who have been together for nine years and share a passion for documenting the realities of war. But when injuries force them to return home to New York, the adventurous couple confronts the prospect of a more conventional life."

***

Who says that only the East Coast can have a big old summer production of Twelfth Night?

Patrick Page in Twelfth Night
photo by Craig Schwartz

The Old Globe in San Diego opened Shakespeare's oft-performed show on July 1, after previews from June 17. Paul Mullins directs. The cast includes Patrick Page as Malvolio, Dana Green as Viola, Gerritt Vandermeer as Orsino, and Katie MacNichol as Olivia. ***

Finally, Manhattan Theatre Club announced the final extension for Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize winning play Ruined, which now "must play its final performance" Sept. 6 at New York City Center – Stage I. This marks the eighth Off-Broadway extension for the production. By close, it will have played 22 preview performances and 238 regular performances.

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