PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 19-25: The Gang's All Here

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 19-25: The Gang's All Here It's late March, and nearly all the entrants for this year's Broadway beauty contest are present and accounted for, strutting their stuff up and down the Main Stem.
Jessica Lange in The Glass Menagerie
Jessica Lange in The Glass Menagerie Photo by Paul Kolnick

Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman, fresh from London, safely touched down at the Booth Theatre March 21. One day later, the new revival of On Golden Pond docked at the Cort. They join such recent arrivals as Steel Magnolias (at the Lyceum) and The Light in the Piazza (at Lincoln Center). Meanwhile, in their final days of rehearsals are A Streetcar Named Desire (due March 26 at Studio 54) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (flying into the Hilton Theatre March 27).

A few of the contestants have already received the judges' verdict (if not that of the folks who dispense crowns). Broadway saw four openings this past week, beginning with the biggest—the new Broadway production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin. For this show's sake, critics admitted they could be caught off guard from time to time. Low expectations of Turner and Irwin were upended, and most critics walked down the aisle pleased as punch at the opportunity to reverse their preconceived opinions. The box office collected a cool half-mil in the subsequent two days.

Ah, if only The Glass Menagerie had been as successful in silencing the Doubting Thomases of Broadway. Alas, the March 22 opening of the David Leveaux-directed revival apparently confirmed the bad buzz surrounding that show that critics couldn't have helped but overhear during the last few weeks. Critical Caesar turned his thumb southward on Leveaux, stars Jessica Lange, Christian Slater and whole shebang.

Jackie Mason's Freshly Squeezed opened the next night. Or so it seemed. Critics don't seem any longer to treat Mason shows as actual Broadway events. Rather, they are inevitabilities that come around every other year, which require a critic only to confirm their presence, and to comment on whether the jokes are better or worse than last time. The conclusion in 2005: Better than the utterly lambasted previous effort Laughing Room Only, but still not as funny as the comic once was.

The week concluded with All Shook Up, the tuner which married Elvis' greatest hits with a Shakespearean comedy plot. Asking reviewers to like a jukebox musical at this post-Good Vibrations juncture is perhaps asking a bit too much. But quite a few were pleasantly surprised. As Howard Kissel of the Daily News said: "Musical-theatre lovers generally regard Oklahoma! as the start of the Golden Age of Broadway musicals. Now that we are in the Tin Age, the comparable landmark is Mamma Mia. Within the new dispensation, All Shook Up is certainly a major work." So, you see, there's Charity yet in the theatre.