PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 24-30: They're the Ones That They Want

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 24-30: They're the Ones That They Want You've heard of Weber and Fields, Lunt and Fontanne and Lane and Broderick. Now meet Crumm and Osnes. Max Crumm and Laura Osnes, that is, the first Broadway stars to have been cast through a television competition. The two unknowns won top honors March 25 in the last episode of the reality TV series "Grease: You're the One That I Want." They will star in the upcoming Broadway revival of the 1950s-set musical as, respectively, Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbroski. Grease will begin previews July 24.

Laura Osnes and Max Crumm are the ones that you want.
Laura Osnes and Max Crumm are the ones that you want. Photo by Chris Haston

It took some time to get to Max and Laura. The reality show began airing back in Jan. 7. Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall, who will direct and choreograph the new Broadway production, served as one of the three judges of the weekly program. As a result, she is now, strangely enough, probably the most famous theatre director in the United States. Her fellow judges included Grease co-creator Jim Jacobs and theatre producer David Ian.

As with Andrew Lloyd Webber's London reality show, through which he found the Maria for his revival of The Sound of Music, each contestant in the U.S. TV show was given an objectifying nickname. Max Crumm was "Slacker Danny" and Laura Osnes was "Small-town Sandy." Well, Max, welcome to hard work; and Sandy, you're in the Big City now. Good luck.

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Joan Didion's stage adaptation of her memoir about her husband's and daughter's deaths, The Year of Magical Thinking, starring Vanessa Redgrave, opened March 29. Unsurprisingly, given the personnel involved, the reviews were drenched in awed admiration. Critics hailed the moving account of loss and its harrowing aftermath, and director David Hare's austere, spare staging, but saved most of their praise for Redgrave's riveting performance. Result: the toughest ticket in town just got tougher.

*** The Manhattan Class Company announced its 2007-08 season at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. It will kick off with the New York premiere of Grace, by Mick Gordon and the British philosopher AC Grayling (you read that right). Also on tap is Spain, a romantic comedy by Jim Knable, and the company's first-ever musical, The Black Suits, by Joe Iconis and Robert Maddock. The latter is about a man "haunted by the prospect of a dead-end life in a working-class Long Island suburb" who "decides to push forward with his dream" of breaking through with his garage band. Sounds like something Hal Hartley might come up with, if he made musicals instead of movies.

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There were a couple significant Off-Broadway openings this week. Terrence McNally's Some Men, a look at "same-sex life and love against a background of some of the events that shaped the last century," found some mild approval when it opened at Second Stage, though critics carped it was on the sketchy and clichéd side.

Meanwhile, Essential Self-Defense, the latest from Adam Rapp, was unveiled courtesy of Playwrights Horizons and Edge Theater and — oooh, it wasn't pretty. Artificial, indulgent and overly long were some of the terms that kept cropping up in reviews.

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There was news from City Hall for Off-Broadway's Signature Theatre Company. The troupe will not be part of a Frank Gehry-designed performing arts center at ground zero, as previously reported. A grand plan for Signature to have three stacked venues in a building shared by the Joyce Theater has been downsized, the city announced March 27. The New York Times reported that Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff said the Signature is being taken out of the performing arts center plan because of the logistical issues — to say nothing of the $700 million cost — of having two groups in the small space. Instead, the city has proposed moving the Signature to Fiterman Hall at 30 West Broadway, near 7 World Trade Center. Damaged on 9/11, the building is undergoing renovation. It's part of the Borough of Manhattan Community College.

In other institutional news, the troubled Jean Cocteau Repertory has not met just another bump in the road, but the end of the road. It has vacated its Bouwerie Lane Theater home for good and has rebranded itself under the new name The Exchange. The news was not unexpected. The Cocteau has floundered ever since some of its key ensemble members jumped ship a couple years ago, complaining of the company's leadership and direction. An ill-starred partnership with the New Orleans-based company EgoPo and numerous financial worries did not help matters. Sadly, the Cocteau, known for its revivals of classic texts, survived by only six months the October 2006 death of its founder, Eve Adamson.

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Actors interested is giving theatre critics as good as you've gotten, your opportunity has arrived. The cast of Androcles and the Lion, the April 23 Players Club reading of David Staller's ongoing Project Shaw, will feature more reviewers than a Thursday night Encores! performance. Among the poison pens set to take the stage: Time Out New York's David Cote, Raven Snook and Adam Feldman; Theatremania's David Finkle; The New York Sun's Eric Grode; the New York Times' Charles Isherwood; New York magazine's Jeremy McCarter; The Village Voice's Michael Musto and Alexis Soloski; the New York Observer's Rex Reed; the New York Post's Michael Riedel and Frank Scheck; New York 1's Roma Torre; and The Daily News' Howard Kissel, who has been in so many Project Shaw presentations, it's thought he's rooming in Edwin Booth's old quarters upstairs.

Tomatoes will be sold in the lobby.

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Photo by Brigitte Lacombe