PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 1-7: See Jane Play

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 1-7: See Jane Play These days, you never know what bold-faced name is going to appear on Broadway. Sean Combs? Sure. Katie Holmes? Of course. Cedric the Entertainer? Why not?
Jane Fonda and Mois
Jane Fonda and Mois Photo by Jemal Countess

But, still, I think few would have predicted that, after 40-plus years, dozens of films, a few Oscars and some very interesting husbands, Jane Fonda would give the old Rialto another try. Back in 1960, she was Tony-nominated for something called There Was a Little Girl. And in 1962, she was in a classic three-performance flop called The Fun Couple.

The vehicle marking her triumphant return is called 33 Variations, which sounds like an apt description of Fonda's many-faceted life. It is the latest by director-playwright Moisés Kaufman and will open on Broadway in winter 2009. Kaufman will also direct. David Binder, who knows how to get a big star to appear in a play (see: Combs in A Raisin in the Sun), will present the Tectonic Theatre Project's production.

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Once upon a time Andrew Lippa and David Lindsay-Abaire — a couple of names familiar to the theatre community — were collaborating on a Betty Boop musical. And now a Betty Boop musical is coming to Broadway, but it's not the work of those guys. It's by pop composer and producer David Foster, and librettists Oscar Williams and Sally Robinson — a trio of names not familiar to the theatre community. Foster is, however, widely known in the music world (and to watchers of reality television, i.e., "The Princes of Malibu," "Celebrity Duets"). He the winner of a shelf-ful of Grammy Awards and has worked with such singers as Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston.

The show will open in a Nederlander theatre to be announced, during the 2010-2011 season. That gives them plenty of time to find a young musical theatre actress with a head shaped like Betty's. ***

The LAByrinth Theater Company's new offering, David Bar Katz's Philip Roth in Khartoum has the greatest plot description of any play this season: "A marriage in the throes of sexual and financial problems is pushed to the brink in a game of Truth or Dare at a cocktail party. Philip Roth in Khartoum examines the destructive power of truth and the devastating impact of bad sex, autism, Philip Roth, absinthe and genocide on husbands and wives during an intimate evening with friends." Yeah — absinthe and genocide just don't mix, do they?

The limited run plays Dec. 4-21 at The Public's Shiva Theater. The cast will comprise Amelia Campbell, Elizabeth Canavan, Alexander Chaplin, David Deblinger, Jamie Klassel, Michael Puzzo, Jenna Stern and Victor Williams. What? Claire Bloom wasn't available?

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The New Year at Royal Court will also feature a season of plays by Wallace Shawn, who has always done well with the crowds in London town. The Shawn season will comprise revivals of his plays The Fever and Aunt Dan and Lemon, both of which Royal Court artistic director Dominic Cooke. There will also be the premiere of — can it be? — a new Shawn play. (That happens about a often as Terrence Malick makes a film.) It's called Grasses of a Thousand Colours. Shawn's longtime directorial collaborator André Gregory will stage it with a cast that includes Miranda Richardson and Shawn himself.

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The worst of times has come for the Broadway musical A Tale of Two Cities: Its producers announced on Nov. 4 that the show would close Nov. 16 after 33 previews and 68 regular performances. Then, by 4:30 PM Nov. 7 they announced they would shutter sooner than that — after the Sunday matinee Nov. 9 (making the performance count 60). The closing was not unexpected; the show opened at the Al Hirschfeld to some of the worst reviews of the season. Still, the producers cited "the recent recession and stock market decline," as the main culprit.

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The starry new revival of Blithe Spirit just looks better and better. Simon Jones is the latest addition to a cast that already includes Angela Lansbury, Christine Ebersole and film star Rupert Everett. The Noel Coward comedy will play the Shubert Theatre.

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