PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 3-9: March of the Openings

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 3-9: March of the Openings
 
Openings were very thick on the ground this week, as the expression goes.
John Mahoney and Annie Parisse star in Prelude to a Kiss.
John Mahoney and Annie Parisse star in Prelude to a Kiss. Photo by Joan Marcus

Let's start with the single Broadway opening, and then go on to the many Off-Broadway ones. Craig Lucas' Prelude to a Kiss made him a famous playwright when it debuted back in the late '80s. And it's doing well by the writer again in 2007 as a revival that opened March 8 at the Roundabout Theatre Company's American Airlines Theatre, starring John Mahoney, Alan Tudyk and Annie Parisse. Reviews warmly welcomed back the whimsical tragicomedy about a young married couple whose lives are upended when, through a kiss, the bride and a dying old man switch souls. Critics were particularly appreciative of the work of Mahoney, an actor who was bred on the stage and seldom returns to it these days.

Off-Broadway, another old man was in conflict with the young folks, as the James Lapine-directed production of King Lear opened March 7 at the Public Theater. Kevin Kline took on the title role. Most critics had good things to say about Kline, always an accomplished Shakespearean actor, while demurring a bit about the surrounding production. All except the all-important Times reviewer, who called this Lear the most unmoving he had ever seen.

Uptown, at Lincoln Center Theater, Christopher Shinn's new drama Dying City opened March 4 with a cast including Pablo Schreiber and Rebecca Brooksher. The play, about a young therapist whose husband dies in the war in Iraq and who is visited one year later by the husband's identical twin brother, set the critics to thinking. Even those who had problems with the work, admitted it was affecting and offered no easy answers.

Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell opened at the Minetta Lane Theatre on March 6. As the title suggested, the piece was a collection of Gray's writings — some published, some unseen — pieced together by his widow, Kathleen Russo, and spoken by a company of four actors. Many reviewers openly expressed their skepticism toward the project, but confessed themselves surprisingly moved and pleased by the show.

Finally, the New York Philharmonic offered a presentation of Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady — co-starring Kelsey Grammer, Brian Dennehy and Kelli O'Hara — at Avery Fisher Hall. These days, the critical corps often seems to get more excited about concert versions of musicals than they do about the fully produced kind. And, Bingo!, that was the case here again. They loved the show and expressed their hope that it would come to full life sometime in the near future. ***

Finally, it looks like some cast members have been secured for Mel Brooks' new musical, Young Frankenstein, and some of the casting is not what we've been led to expect. Sutton Foster and Shuler Hensley are reportedly on board for the roles of Inga and the Monster. But Elizabeth, the Madeline Kahn role, will not be executed by Kristin Chenoweth, who did all the readings, but by Megan Mullally. Chenoweth was stolen away by a TV pilot. The small screen is also tempting Roger Bart and Andrea Martin, who have been offered the roles of, respectively, Igor and Frau Blucher. (Cloris Leachman, it was thought, would recreate the latter part, which she played in the film.) And one of the candidates for the good doctor? Zachary Levi — you guessed it. He also reportedly had a conflict and won't do it.

(Robert Simonson is Playbill.com's senior correspondent. He can be reached at rsimonson@playbill.com.)

Kelli O'Hara and Kelsey Grammer star in the Philharmonic's concert version of <i>My Fair Lady</i>.
Kelli O'Hara and Kelsey Grammer star in the Philharmonic's concert version of My Fair Lady. Photo by Chris Lee
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