PLAYBILL.COM’S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March April 1-7: Sweeney Gets Company

News   PLAYBILL.COM’S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March April 1-7: Sweeney Gets Company Well, what do you know: a British director that American theatre critics like.
Raul Esparza in Company at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.
Raul Esparza in Company at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Photo by Sandy Underwood

This is the moment for John Doyle, the former journeyman English director who has quickly turned into everyone’s favorite musical theatre stylist. Already acclaimed this season for his Broadway production of Sweeney Todd—which recently became that four-leaf clover of the theatre world: a Stephen Sondheim show that is critically acclaimed and profitable—it was announced this week that the man’s production of another Sondheim musical, Company, will transfer to a fall berth on Broadway from, of all places, Cincinnati's Playhouse in the Park. (You know people are tracking your work when they hop it to Cincinnati to see it.)

The Broadway production will reportedly retain most of the Ohio cast, which includes Raul Esparza and Barbara Walsh. The Routh/Frankel/Viertel/Baruch Group will produce the Broadway revival.

Company was as heralded by critics as Sweeney Todd , and sports the same staging device—the actors double as the orchestra—that has transformed Doyle into a top-tier director. Doyle’s treatment at the hands of the critics is in stark contrast to the beatings his countrymen have taken in recent seasons. Though Matthew Warchus, David Leveaux and Edward Hall have all had their Stateside triumphs in the past, lately they’ve felt nothing but the licks of the critics circle’s lash.

The Doyle heyday may not end with Company. On April 5, previews of his production of Jerry Herman’s Mack and Mabel began in London, with David Soul and Janie Dee in the lead parts. The show opens on April 10 and if it gets good notices, who knows? Herman has been talking of his wish for a new Broadway production of the musical—his personal favorite—for what seems like decades. This may be the one.

At this rate, half of the New York acting community will have joined the musicians union by 2010. ***

Broadway plans are also coming together for the acclaimed Douglas Carter Beane comedy The Little Dog Laughed, which recently ended an extended run at Off-Broadway's Second Stage Theatre. The New York Times reported that the Beane work will arrive on Broadway sometime during the 2006-07 season, with Roy Gabay as a producer. Julie White is expected to repeat her performance as a cutthroat agent. Scott Ellis will direct the production. (A list of credits as long as Tommy Tune’s arm notwithstanding, Dog will amazingly be the first completely original play script that Ellis will pilot on Broadway.)

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Hot Feet’s feet haven’t failed it yet, and the new Earth, Wind & Fire musical, which ends its only pre-Broadway run, at Washington, DC's National Theatre, on April 9, still intends to open on Broadway. Its arrival date has changed, however. It will now begin on Broadway April 20. The date is two days later than first announced. A press spokesman said the extra 48 hours will give the production the proper amount of time it needs to load into the Hilton Theatre. Opening is still April 30, which means Hot Feet will have a ten-day preview period—shortish by Broadway musical standards. Work continues on the book by Heru Ptah, which was particularly taken to task by D.C. critics. The musical may also be a trimmer version of itself; in D.C., it clocked in at two hours and 45 minutes, the last 20 minutes consisting of an extended ballet sequence called the "Hot Feet Ballet."

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Antonio Banderas, who made a splash in Nine a few seasons back, has chosen the vehicle that will speed him back to Broadway. It is Don Juan DeMarco,, directed by David Leveaux, with whom Banderas worked on Nine. Don Juan DeMarco the musical is based on the 1995 film starring Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway. The film centers on a nearly retired psychiatrist who has a client who claims to be the famed title lover.

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Charles Dickens better watch his back. This year, the King of Christmas Fare will have some fresh competition for the December slot at theatres across the U.S. Irving Berlin's White Christmas, the new stage version of the 1954 Hollywood musical, which has played selected cities with great success the past couple yuletides, will be available for professional licensing beginning in August 2006. For the past few decades, A Christmas Carol has never faced a real rival as a holiday property. But with the arrival of White Christmas—with its bucket of Berlin tunes and appealingly squeaky-clean, post-War America milieu—Scrooge may well become one of the Ghosts of Christmas Past.

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