PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 12-18: Arcadia, Fat Pig, Funny Girl, Tales of the City

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 12-18: Arcadia, Fat Pig, Funny Girl, Tales of the City
 
This week, casting was revealed for the spring-summer world premiere of the new musical Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, to bow at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, where the story is set (in the 1970s).

Judy Kaye
Judy Kaye Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Tony Award winner Judy Kaye will play the mysterious, weed-friendly landlady Anna Madrigal (Betty Buckley played her in a 2010 workshop), with Betsy Wolfe (Everyday Rapture, 110 in the Shade) as Midwestern transplant Mary Ann Singleton, Mary Birdsong (Martin Short Fame Becomes Me, "Reno 911") as the free-spirited Mona Ramsay and Wesley Taylor (Rock of Ages, The Addams Family). Tony nominee Manoel Felciano (Sweeney Todd), an A.C.T. company member, will play Norman Neal Williams.

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The new American-cast production of director David Leveaux's revival of Arcadia opened on Broadway March 17. You had to step over puddles of St. Patrick's Day vomit on the streets of Manhattan to get to the classy, smart Tom Stoppard play, which got a conditional rave in the powerful New York Times. The revelers in green were particularly aggressive this year, but that's why we have theatres — to escape the chaos, finding order in English country estates like the one Stoppard famously imagines.

For many, the play is, along with The Real Thing, considered one of Stoppard's very best. The New York Times, always primed to love a play by the mentally bracing playwright, noted that "many truly witty, intellectually detailed considerations of languages and landscapes and thermodynamics are developed" in the play. There's genuine passion in the ideas, and in the human quest for answers. (This is not, you see, Priscilla Queen of the Desert.)

The work bored the New York Post, but over at Newsday came this exclamation (as part of a very enthusiastic review): "Be not afraid of the chatter about geometry, the squabbling about Newtonian physics and English landscape architecture, about chaos theory and obscure romantic poets and, yes, something called iterated algorithms." *

The acclaimed National Theatre production of War Horse, the tale of a boy who goes searching for his beloved horse after the quadruped is enlisted into in the cavalry in World War I, began performances for its American premiere (with an American cast) on March 15 at Lincoln Center Theater's Vivian Beaumont. The equestrian puppetry is striking; the video clips might just put a lump in your throat

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Neil LaBute
photo by Aubrey Reuben

Producers of the Broadway production of Neil LaBute's Fat Pig announced that a key investment in the production fell through, prompting the postponement of the imminent spring production (which was to star comedian Dane Cook as a guy who berates a pal for having an overweight girlfriend). With the Belasco Theatre now free, fans and industry folk wondered if the venue might become the fall home of the acclaimed Jon Robin Baitz play Other Desert Cities, or if the stained glass and gothic interior might make a proper setting for a quick-move of the rave-reviewed Peter and the Starcatcher, the prequel to Peter Pan that tells the origin of The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up. We like stoking those fires, but there has been no official word about future home for those productions. (It was announced March 14 that Peter will get a two-week extension at Off-Broadway's New York Theatre Workshop, to April 17.)

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The calendar of events for the 2010-2011 Tony Awards season was announced. As previously reported, the 65th Annual Tonys, celebrating the best of Broadway, will be broadcast live from the Beacon Theatre June 12. CBS will telecast the three-hour evening beginning at 8 PM ET.

The cut off-date for Tony eligibility is April 28. To be eligible for nomination for the 65th Annual Tony Awards, Broadway shows must open on or before this date.

On May 3, the nominations for the Tony Awards will be announced live from The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center at Lincoln Center. Playbill.com will publish the complete list of nominees that morning.

On May 4, the annual Meet the Nominees press reception, which allows members of the New York press to chat with those nominated for Tony Awards, will be held.

On May 31, the Tony Nominees Luncheon, where the nominees celebrate each other's achievements, will be held at the InterContinental Times Square.

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Bartlett Sher
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The launch of a new Broadway-aimed revival of Jule Styne and Bob Merrill's 1964 musical Funny Girl will be at Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theatre as part of the Center Theatre Group's 2011-12 season (it will run Jan. 15-Feb. 26, 2012). Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher (South Pacific) will direct, but who will play Fanny Brice? Is it possible that a TV star with a big voice and box-office appeal could shoot her TV series by day and play Fanny by night? That would be a gleeful commercial proposition, no? It's early yet — no casting has been announced. (We are full of speculation today.)

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Not-for-profit regional theatres are now announcing their 2011-12 seasons, and, more than ever, the slates seem to resemble recent Broadway seasons. Due to a number of circumstances (whether it's the small-cast size or the marquee value of a Tony win or nomination), our regional theatres continue to swipe Broadway titles, making the programming of those institutions resemble commercial theatre in a way that seems to betray the original goals of resident theatre. (Wasn't regional theatre supposed to reject what could be seen on Broadway, or at the local touring house?) John Logan's Red and Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage are popping up all over (Playbill.com has reported that Reza's play will appear at at least eight resident theatres in 2011-12, with more to come).

There's a kind of bravery, then, at modest places like Purple Rose Theatre Company in small-town Chelsea, MI, and the Peninsula Players Theatre in rural Door County, WI. PRTC, largely committed to world premieres by Midwest writers, announced casting this week for Carey Crim's third new play there, Some Couples May…, about infertility and parenthood. Peninsula, an Equity summer stock theatre, will stage the world premiere of Sean Grennan's Making God Laugh, about the history of a family over a series of holidays.

Will it surprise you to learn that Peninsula's summer season also includes God of Carnage?

(Kenneth Jones is managing editor of Playbill.com. Write him at kjones@playbill.com or follow him on Twitter @PlaybillKenneth.)

Raul Esparza, Lia Williams, Billy Crudup, Tom Riley and Grace Gummer
Raul Esparza, Lia Williams, Billy Crudup, Tom Riley and Grace Gummer
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