PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 17-23: Curtains Treatment

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 17-23: Curtains Treatment Composer John Kander and lyricist-librettist Rupert Holmes returned to Broadway March 22, as did, in spirit, late librettist Peter Stone and late lyricist Fred Ebb, when the musical comedy Curtains, more than ten years in the making, opened on Broadway.

David Hyde Pierce and Debra Monk in Curtains.
David Hyde Pierce and Debra Monk in Curtains. Photo by Joan Marcus

The critics were united on one thing: star David Hyde-Pierce, as a 1950s, musical-loving Boston detective, was impeccable and impossibly charming and had arrived as a Broadway musical leading man. Beyond that, opinions diverged. The approving voices recognized the show for an old-fashioned crowd-pleaser of the old school. Detractors found it a bit mild, of middling quality, with a meandering first act and a lack of the satiric bite Ebb was known for. John Simon, perhaps, summed it up best, saying: "All things considered, if you are looking for another Kander and Ebb classic, you won't find it here. If, on the other hand, you seek no more than some old-fashioned musical-comedy fun, formidably performed, look no further."

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Curtains came to New York after a popular run in Los Angeles, so critics had somewhat of an idea what was coming their way. No one knew what to expect from the new Bob Glaudini play Jack Goes Boating, except that it would probably feature some pretty good acting since it starred Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Ortiz. The opening on March 18 found the reviewers liking the performances, as expected, but also surprisingly pleased with the script, using fuzzy, friendly adjectives like "likable" and "endearing." The extended run will last through April 29.

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The newly discovered Mark Twain play Is He Dead?, found by scholar Shelley Fisher Fishkin at Stanford, will reach Broadway in October, producer Bob Boyett said. Michael Blakemore is directing and David Ives is revising the script, cutting down the large ensemble to 17 characters. Twain's writings had been the wellspring of many a stage show, from Mark Twain Tonight! to Big River to The Apple Tree, but this will be the first play written by Twain himself expressly for the stage.

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Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein will return to Broadway in a new musical that he created with songwriter John Bucchino, based on a Paddy Chayefsky teleplay called A Catered Affair. John Doyle (who staged Broadway's current Company and last season's Sweeney Todd) will direct, and, no, none of the actors on stage will be playing instruments. The show is set in 1953 Bronx and is about "a couple [who] must decide whether to spend their life savings on a family business or to launch their only daughter's marriage with a lavish catered affair." The musical will debut at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre this September before arriving on Broadway in spring 2008. Performances at the Old Globe will begin Sept. 20.

Fierstein has become so cherished as a performer in recent years, it's easy to forget he established himself as a writer of such works as Torch Song Trilogy and La Cage aux Folles. This will mark the first time a new Fierstein creation will appear on Broadway since 1987's short-lived Safe Sex.