PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 21-27: And The Hits Just Keep on Comin'

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 21-27: And The Hits Just Keep on Comin' A few hundred bad reviews are apparently not enough to discourage producers who have hitched a ride on that jerrybuilt, yet unstoppable locomotive called The Jukebox Express.
Bill Crystal in 700 Sundays
Bill Crystal in 700 Sundays Photo by Carol Rosegg

In the wake of the critical drubbing the Beach Boys musical Good Vibrations took this past winter, and the rough tryout Broadway bound Lennon suffered in San Francisco, comes news that The Four Seasons musical Jersey Boys, which enjoyed a record-breaking extended premiere run at La Jolla Playhouse, will fill Broadway's now-vacant Virginia Theatre. Directing the story about how four blue-collar guys — Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi — came to sing such falsetto odes as "Big Girls Don't Cry," is Des McAnuff. The show begins previews Oct. 5.

The aforementioned Lennon, meanwhile, is still on track for a summer arrival, though it recently switched its start date at the Broadhurst from June 28 to July 7, owing to the fact that the Broadhurst's current tenant, Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays, is to busy minting money to move. Prior to that, the musical's backers decided to skip its scheduled Boston run following its world premiere at San Francisco's Orpheum Theatre and head right to New York. At the same time, Neil Sedaka keeps talking about how his Breaking Up Is Hard to You is on its way. Don't any of these people read the papers—that recent article in the Times, for instance, where Ben Brantley mentioned he regretted every minute of Good Vibrations?

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Speaking of bad reviews, Brooklyn, the inexplicably long-lived Broadway musical by Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson, announced it would close June 26 after 28 previews and 283 regular performances. The show was not singled out for praise, but it was singled out for bringing a new kind of singing style to the Broadway stage—the kind America soaks up while watching "American Idol." The heartland that loves that talent show will soon see its legitimate cousin: a national tour will begin in the fall.

*** Producer Jeffrey Richards, who seems to love old forgotten plays that would never occur to other people as being ripe for Broadway revival (i.e. The Best Man, A Thousand Clowns), announced he would be bringing back Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. Jerry Zaks will direct the production, due for the 2005-2006 Broadway season. The 1954 play pits Lieutenant Stephen Maryk against Lieutenant Commander Queeg as Maryk relieves his minesweeper commander of duty after deciding Queeg has become too mentally unstable to pilot their World War II vehicle, the USS Caine.

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Neil Simon's Rewrites will have its world premiere as far from New York as you can get and stay within the continental United Stages. It will run Jan. 19-Feb. 18, 2006 at Seattle Repertory Theatre. The play is based on Simon's own memoir of the same name, and is a young newlywed playwright on the verge of two life-changing events — the birth of his first child and the berth of his first Broadway play.

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The new Center Theatre Group artistic director Michael Ritchie showed this week that he's prepared to weather controversy as he reshapes the institution long run by Gordon Davidson. In one of his first moves, Ritchie has cut the California company's minority-based theatre initiatives created by Davidson, who left the company earlier this year.

The decision, which goes into effect July 1, will do away with the three ethnic-based programs — Latino Theatre Initiative, BlackSmyths and Asian American Theatre Workshop — and The Other Voices Project (which is "dedicated to the empowerment of writers and performers with disabilities in the American theatre," according to the company's website). Ritchie also plans to cut readings and workshops conducted under the direction of playwright Luis Alfaro — who serves as Director of New Play Development, a job that will be eliminated, as will the other lab directors.

"I've never liked having a play read to me," Ritchie told the L.A. Times, saying he had not attended a reading in seven years; he prefers to read them himself. He continued, "I want to see a shorter list of plays in production, as opposed to a long list that gets mired in development... If plays that are in development hell are valid, they'll find a home. With too much development, they wither and die." Ritchie further noted that, in his previous job, at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts, "It wasn't about managing many plays. It was, 'All right, let's put it on.' It was a model that worked." Among the valid works that found a home at WTF were plays by such up and comers like Terrence McNally, A.R. Gurney, Richard Nelson and Eric Bogosian. Hm. Wonder when the last time was that any of them were stuck in development hell?

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