After returning to the Broadway musical stage for the first time in nearly two decades, in the John Doyle version of Sweeney Todd, and earning plaudits and a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Mrs. Lovett, she is back on The Street as Mama Rose in the latest incarnation of the classic musical Gypsy — and the critical acclaim is, if anything, louder this time around.
When Arthur Laurents, who wrote the original book for Gypsy, directed the actress in the show at Encores! last summer, most everyone agreed that the role and LuPone (who has always been known for her brassy presence and vocal power, above all else) were a natural fit. No surprise, then, that some thought she was brilliant. The fact that Boyd Gaines, as Herbie, and Laura Benanti, as Louise, were equally good was just icing on the cake.
Some critics thought the production had matured and become more disciplined in the intervening months. (The Times' Ben Brantley, who took issue with LuPone's 2007 Rose, admitted he was eating his hat this week — he gave her performance, and the show, a rave.) But Gypsy is a musical that critics love not wisely, but too well, so there were quibbles. It was thought by a few that LuPone was a little overdone, self-indulgent. (This is a frequent thought about LuPone.) Others opined that Laurents' direction was too labored and emphatic. But, these were minor caveats. Mostly, huzzahs filled the air, as well as talk of LuPone's Tony chances.
Off-Broadway, the openings were on a considerably smaller scale. The Four of Us by Itamar Moses, at Manhattan Theatre Club, and The Drunken City by Adam Bock, at Playwrights Horizons, were appraised as interesting and fairly pleasing, but modest efforts, and, even at their short running times, perhaps a bit too long. The former concerned two writers and what happens to their friendship after one of them strikes it big. The latter looked at an uncertain bride-to-be's liquor-fueled night on the town with her friends. ***
The plan to move the well-reviewed coming-of-age pop musical Glory Days to Broadway became official: The show about four young men reuniting a year after high school will begin previews at Circle in the Square April 22. Eric Schaeffer will again direct the show, by 23-year-old newcomers Nick Blaemire (music and lyrics) and James Gardiner (book), which he shepherded earlier this year in a world premiere at his Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA. The Signature premiere featured actors Steven Booth, Andrew C. Call, Adam Halpin and Jesse JP Johnson, who will repeat their work on Broadway.
Minnesota's Guthrie Theatre will be rife with Broadway-caliber talent this coming season. It will get playwright Tony Kushner's latest long-named opus. The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures will premiere in May 2009. Also on the coming season's line-up is the premiere of a new musical based in the popular "Little House on the Prairie" book by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Francesca Zambello (The Little Mermaid) directs the musical penned by Rachel Sheinkin, Rachel Portman and Donna DiNovelli beginning in July.
Finally, Rent will be renting the Nederlander Theatre a little longer. Due to ticket demand, the long-running musical will not close on Broadway June 1, but will play to Sept. 7, the producers announced.