PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 28-June 3: Tales of the City Opens, Carrie Resurfaces

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 28-June 3: Tales of the City Opens, Carrie Resurfaces The San Francisco-set musical Tales of the City, based on Armistead Maupin's novels, opened at the American Conservatory Theater in that same city on May 31. By the end of the week, additional performances on July 12-24 were added to meet demand.

Judy Kaye
Judy Kaye Photo by Kevin Berne

Reviews were generally positive. The San Francisco Chronicle called the show — written by Jeff Whitty with music and lyrics by Jake Shears and John Garden, and directed by Jason Moore — "a blithe, comic and pleasantly tuneful celebration of sex, drugs and all kinds of coming out in freewheeling, pre-AIDS San Francisco circa 1976," even if the plot needed to be honed and streamlined. The Guardian said, "At its best, the evening exuberantly captures the sweeping current of transformation in Maupin's work… The music does more than just regurgitate the '70s: as well as disco beats and glam rock guitars, there are touches of tango, torch song and vaudeville… As a portrait of the city at a particular time, however, Tales of the City is superficial. " Said the San Jose Mercury News, "While the show has its flaws, musicals are — in the end — a lot like people. If they're charming, it's pretty easy to brush off their weaknesses." As Mrs. Madrigal, however, Tony Award winner Judy Kaye (Souvenir, The Phantom of the Opera) received some of the best reviews of her career.

If the show moves to the East Coast, expect some rewrites.

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Conor McPherson
photo by Aubrey Reuben

The National Theatre announced its summer and fall seasons this week. Among the premieres will be plays by Conor McPherson, Mike Leigh and Mike Bartlett. There will also be a revival of Arnold Wesker's The Kitchen and — get this — readings from the King James Bible to celebrate its 400th anniversary. I guess that's another revival of sorts.

Leigh's play, as yet untitled (they always are with Leigh), will begin performances Sept. 14, prior to an official opening Sept. 21 in the Cottesloe Theatre, under his own direction, with a cast that reunites him with regular actors Lesley Manville, Marion Bailey, Sam Kelly and Wendy Nottingham, as well as Ruby Bentall and David Horovitch. It follows the National's 2005 premiere of Two Thousand Years, and a recent Hampstead Theatre revival of Ecstasy that transferred to the West End's Duchess Theatre. McPherson's new play, The Veil, which he will also direct (not much work at the National for plain old directors this year), begins performances Sept. 27 prior to an official opening Oct. 4 in the Lyttelton Theatre. Set around a haunted house hemmed in a by a restive, starving populace, the play weaves Ireland's troubled colonial history into a transfixing story about the search for love, the transcendental and the circularity of time. McPherson's previous plays include The Seafarer, which premiered at the National and subsequently transferring to Broadway.

Bartlett, last represented at the National by Earthquakes in London, returns to the National with 13, beginning performances Oct. 18 prior to an official opening Oct. 25 in the Olivier Theatre. Wesker's The Kitchen, meanwhile, was first seen at the Royal Court in 1959 and was subsequently revived there by director Stephen Daldry in 1994. The play is set in the kitchen of a West End restaurant in 1950s London. This new production will be directed by NT associate director Bijan Sheibani.

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Jesse Eisenberg
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Off-Broadway's Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre announced its 2010-11 season, and among the attractions is a play by none other than Oscar-nominated "The Social Network" actor Jesse Eisenberg, who appears to be the latest actor to try playwriting. (I'm looking at you, Zoe Kazan.)

Eisenberg's play is called Asuncion. The story goes like this, according to Rattlestick: "Edgar and Vinny are not racist. In fact, Edgar maintains a blog condemning American imperialism and Vinny is three-quarters into a PhD in Black Studies. When a young Filipina woman named Asuncion becomes their new roommate, the pair have a perfect opportunity to demonstrate how open-minded they truly are." Kip Fagan will direct a cast that includes Eisenberg.

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Will there be a song called "Adrian!"? Of course there will.

A spring reading of a musical version of the Sylvester Stallone boxing movie "Rocky," with songs by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and libretto by Thomas Meehan, has encouraged European producers to move ahead with the show.

"We'll go out of town to Hamburg, Germany, next year," Meehan told Playbill.com columnist Harry Haun earlier this spring. "Then, it's supposed to come to Broadway in 2013."

Andy Karl played the title role. "Stallone loved him," Meehan said. Stallone attended the reading. "He had never seen anybody else play Rocky." (Neither have we.)

The New York Times reported on June 1 that the producing team is led by Stage Entertainment (Sister Act, The Woman in White). The show will follow the plot of the first "Rocky" film, about a down-and-out Philadelphia boxer who gets a shot at the heavyweight title. No official announcement or production timeline has been announced.

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Original Carrie star Linzi Hately

Off-Broadway's MCC Theater confirmed Marin Mazzie and Molly Ranson as mother and daughter, respectively, for a revised version of the notorious 1988 Broadway musical flop Carrie in spring 2012.

Mazzie will be following in the pig-blood-stained footsteps of Betty Buckley, who starred in the original, and Ranson will be stepping in the shoes of, uh, Linzi Hateley. The British Linzi was never again seen on Broadway after making her debut in the famed debacle. She continues to work in England, however. Of Carrie, her website says, with beautiful understatement, "Despite the show not being a complete success…"

MCC will also stage world premieres of the award-winning The Submission by Jeff Talbott, directed by Walter Bobbie, and Thomas Higgins' Wild Animals You Should Know, directed by Trip Cullman.

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