Over the past week, in a series of quick changes destined to rest in theatre history alongside the showiest shenanigans of David Merrick, Weissler pulled the plug of the New York-bound revival of Sweet Charity, leaving it stranded in Boston, and then, a few days later, just as suddenly, flicked the Broadway marquee on again. It took a day for busboys to sweep up the dropped martini glasses at Angus McIndoe.The show's journey had already been a singularly weird one when Weissler decided to close the production on March 25. Star Christina Applegate broke her foot back during the March 11 performance in Chicago, two days before that second of three out-of-town engagements ended. Enter Broadway uber-replacement Charlotte d'Amboise, who stepped in to play the role in Boston, while Applegate alternately rested and groused with Weissler over who would eventually open Charity on Broadway.
The New York Times, smelling a natural of a backstage story, printed a huge feature of trouper d'Amboise. Critics were duly impressed—but not exactly through the roof—with the actress' work. About the show itself, they had less laudatory words. And so, citing weak sales on the road and in New York, Weissler brought down the ax. And that, many assumed, was that.
But few stars, apparently, are as determined as Christina Applegate to make their Broadway debut. According to Weissler, he spent the weekend on the horn with Applegate, "who made a passionate and compelling case for moving forward with our Broadway plans." She also reportedly raised some compelling moolah to help nudge the show into the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.
Normalcy will remain at bay when the star-crossed show arrives in town. d'Amboise will begin performances April 11, with Applegate to take over April 18. Some critics are vowing to cover both performances, said the Post, something Weissler has pledged to fight. Right. We all know how he can't stand unwanted press.
*** The Sweet Charity imbroglio was probably more than welcome in the La Cage aux Folles camp, whose troubles this week would have been gossip topic number one in a Weissler-free news cycle. Daniel Davis, who plays Georges in the current revival, was been let go from the cast for undisclosed reasons. Parties not so shy about disclosure mentioned bad behavior, catty remarks, slammed doors, frozen-out co-stars—all signals that the mystifying phenomenon of Divadom is alive and well on Broadway. None of this was, of course, confirmed. What was confirmed is the mid-April arrival of the once-and-future matinee idol Robert Goulet.
"Musical theatre composer" is looking like Elton John's primary occupation lately. News on two fresh shows from The Lion King and Aida tunesmith filled the papers this week. The long-heralded Billy Elliot — The Musical started previews March 31 at London's Victoria Palace Theatre. The stage adaptation of the 2000 film, about a boy who learns ballet against the wishes of his macho father and brother, has an eye on the long haul. So concerned are the producers and director Stephen Daldry about nurturing a continual flow of adolescent talent for the show that they have created the Billy Elliot Academy in Leeds, specifically to train young stars for the show.
Meanwhile, Stateside, Anne Rice's "Interview with the Vampire" character will sing in San Francisco starting in winter 2005, with the world premiere pre-Broadway engagement of Lestat, by John and old pop pal Bernie Taupin. The Curran Theatre will host the run. The book and direction are by Beauty and the Beast's Linda Woolverton and Robert Jess Roth, respectively.
Finally, John Patrick Shanley's Doubt officially claimed its place on Broadway March 31—just in time to remind those Pulitzer Prize judges, who will hand down their verdict April 4.