PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 12-18: Private Lives Opens, Patti & Mandy Sing, Judy Finds a Home

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 12-18: Private Lives Opens, Patti & Mandy Sing, Judy Finds a Home
 
The producers of the limited engagement of Noel Coward's Private Lives woke up to news that they wanted to read on the morning of Nov. 18: The New York Times embraced the revival starring "Sex and the City" icon Kim Cattrall as Amanda.

Kim Cattrall and Paul Gross in Private Lives.
Kim Cattrall and Paul Gross in Private Lives. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Despite the fact that a raved-about British import was the talk of Broadway nine years ago, when Alan Rickman played Elyot opposite the Amanda of Lindsay Duncan (who won a Tony for it, as did the production), the new Richard Eyre-directed incarnation (which also had a London start) was deemed more than respectable. Ben Brantley called it a "larky revival," adding, "Mr. Eyre's production convincingly stakes a claim not only for Ms. Cattrall as a skillfully pliable actress but also for the bubbly pleasures forever on tap in Private Lives." He called Canadian actor Paul Gross (of the TV series "Slings & Arrows") "excellent."

Eyre's production "is frothier, broader and sillier than its immediate Broadway predecessor," Brantley wrote. "And theatregoers who prefer their Coward as dry as Cristal Brut may cry 'blasphemy.' This is Private Lives as farce, for sure."

Makes you want to buy a ticket, no?

Over at the New York Post, Elisabeth Vincentelli called Cattrall "a vibrant presence as Amanda" but thought Gross "one-note," not conveying enough passion for Amanda.

* Speaking of Rickman, he was too ill with a respiratory ailment to perform in Broadway's Seminar on Nov. 17, so the performance was canceled (he plays the snarky sun around which tiny planets spin in the Theresa Rebeck comedy about a famous writer who runs a private class for aspiring novelists).

In a statement producer Jeffrey Finn said, "Mr. Rickman has never missed a stage performance in his entire career. He, the producers and the entire company are deeply disappointed not to be able to deliver a show this evening. We all feel it's in the best interest for everyone to be as healthy as possible prior to our opening this coming Sunday." He was expected back at the Golden Theatre on Nov. 18.

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Tracie Bennett in End of the Rainbow
photo by Nobby Clarke

Judy won't be at the Palace, as she famously was, in concert, 50 years or so ago. Judy Garland's final days will play out at the Belasco Theatre when the hit biographical play with music End of the Rainbow — a London hit — makes its Broadway debut there March 19, 2012. Michael Cumpsty, Tom Pelphrey and Jay Russell will join Olivier Award nominee Tracie Bennett, it was announced this week.

Peter Quilter's drama will officially open April 2, 2012, under the direction of Tony Award-winning La Cage aux Folles director Terry Johnson.

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The February 2012 City Center Encores! concert staging of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's musical Merrily We Roll Along will not reflect the 1981 version of the script and score that played 16 performances on Broadway. Composer-lyricist Sondheim told Playbill.com on Nov. 15 that the Merrily We Roll Along scheduled to play Feb. 8-19 under the direction of James Lapine will be based on Furth and Sondheim's 1980s-90s rewrite of the show.

"Under Lapine's direction, George and I revised it, particularly the first half of the first act, in 1985, when Lapine did it at La Jolla [Playhouse], and this is essentially that version," Sondheim said of the coming Encores! staging. "I'm meeting Lapine tonight and it's one of the things we're going to talk about: which aspects of which version we're going to use. It'll essentially be the 1985 [script and score], which has additional songs, things like that. George and I got it the way we wanted to, finally, in the 1990s when we did it in Leicester, England, and that's the version that's been done since. It was the version that was done down at the Kennedy Center in 2002, and that's based on the Lapine version."

Encores! artistic director Jack Viertel told Playbill this week, in an email, "As we've always said, we're doing our 'concert adaptation' from the version that is licensed by MTI. While it is, generally, the idea of Encores! to do the original Broadway version of the show, when there are living authors who have specific preferences, we take that very seriously. In this case, the authors continued to work on the show after the Broadway production closed, and we certainly want to honor the work they did."

Is this the next step toward a Broadway return for Merrily? "That would be nice," Sondheim said. "Obviously, I suppose if it really works extremely well at Encores! it might do what a lot of Encores! shows do — it might transfer, but that's not why we're doing it. We're doing it because we want to do it."

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Kate Baldwin

Tony Award nominee Kate Baldwin, Aaron Lazar and P.J. Griffith were announced to star in the Dallas Theater Center production of Giant, the new musical based on Edna Ferber's sweeping Texas-set novel, by five-time Tony Award nominee Michael John LaChiusa and Sybille Pearson.

Baldwin, a Tony nominee for Finian's Rainbow, will play Leslie, opposite Lazar (A Little Night Music) as Texas cattle man Bick and Griffith (American Idiot) as young oil tycoon Jett. The musical is based on Ferber's novel but is best known for its iconic 1956 film version that starred Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean.

Michael Greif (Next to Normal, Rent), who also staged a reading of Giant at the Public Theater last January with Baldwin among the cast, will helm the production that will run Jan. 18-Feb. 19, 2012. It will officially open Jan. 27, 2012. Giant is a co-production between DTC and the Public Theater in Manhattan. The Public has not announced dates of production.

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On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, the 1965 Broadway musical remembered as a richly tuneful vehicle for Barbara Harris, but maligned for its confused plotting, extraneous characters — and its downright weird magical elements — has been reincarnated for star Harry Connick Jr. The revised revival began Broadway previews at the St. James Nov. 12.

Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening, American Idiot) and playwright Peter Parnell (QED) are behind the re-thought romantic musical comedy with a score by lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Burton Lane. Opening night is Dec. 11.

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An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin began performances Nov. 16 at the Barrymore Theatre. The former Evita co-stars have toured the concert, with Paul Ford at the piano, and now they bring their signature songs (and some scenes) to Broadway for a limited engagement. (It opens Nov. 21.)

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Producer Alicia Keys
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The Broadway premiere of the comedy Stick Fly, presented by and with original music by Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Alicia Keys, begins performances Nov. 18 at the Cort Theatre. Playwright Lydia R. Diamond makes her Broadway debut; Kenny Leon (The Mountaintop) directs the play about a family reunion on Martha's Vineyard, when two adult sons choose to introduce their girlfriends to their parents. It stars Dulé Hill ("Psych," "The West Wing"), Mekhi Phifer ("ER," "8 Mile"), Tracie Thoms ("Rent," "Cold Case," "The Devil Wears Prada"), Tony Award winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Seven Guitars, Lackawanna Blues), Rosie Benton (Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Accent on Youth) and Condola Rashad (Ruined). Opening night is Dec. 8.

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The Intiman Theatre in Seattle, which abruptly shuttered last spring under the weight of financial debt, has announced plans to reopen its doors in 2012 with a four-play summer festival.

Under Andrew Russell, the new 28-year-old artistic director is planning a festival that will incorporate ideas from a cadre of Seattle-based artists and feature a repertory company of 12 local actors. Shakespeare and Ibsen were mentioned for the menu.

What? They're not presenting Red and The 39 Steps and God of Carnage? Sounds like the new Intiman is committed to addressing what regional theatres first set out to do: Be something separate from the commercial Broadway world.

Kenneth Jones is managing editor of Playbill.com. Follow him on Twitter @PlaybillKenneth.

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