Fewer were probably surprised by the critical reception afforded the gothic musical, after it opened on Broadway on Nov. 17, least of all Lloyd Webber, who must by now have philosophically accepted a mixed reaction as his lot in life where the critics are concerned. Still, there was more than enough in many of the reviews for press agents to harvest as blurbs for the coming ad campaign. Reviewers had approving things to say about stars Maria Friedman and Michael Ball. And many applauded the creative scenic design of William Dudley, involving countless projections on a mobile, curving wall, as the real star of the show.
Sarah Jones' acclaimed one-person Off-Broadway show Bridge & Tunnel has been promised for Broadway for some time now. This week, word finally came that the uptown move will indeed happen. Jones returns to New York for a limited run at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre, Jan. 13-March 12, 2006.
Tony Taccone, who staged the work Off-Broadway and in a month long pre-Broadway run at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, continues as director of the solo show. Eric Falkenstein and Michael Alden produce.
*** Off-Broadway received a series of kisses and kicks this week, often within the same review.
The week began with the opening of Classic Stage Company's new mounting of Hamlet, directed by Brian Kulick. The lightning rod of this production was thought to have been the casting of 45-year-old Michael Cumpsty as the Dane. A good actor, he was nonetheless widely considered too old for the part. It was a bit of a happy surprise then, when reviews roundly applauded his performance, instead finding fault in various aspects of Kulick's production.
Opening the next night, Nov. 14, was the New York Theatre Workshop presentation of Itamar Moses' Bach at Leipzig, which was highly touted in some quarters, and had the stamp of approval of Tom Stoppard, who wrote the introduction to the printed version of the text. Indeed, critics saw plenty of Stoppard in the story—an erudite comic burlesque about the battle between six composers in 1722 Germany to grab the top musical position in the land. (The title tells you who won the real contest). Still, many concluded concluded by telling Mr. Moses that though he knew Stoppard and Stoppard was a friend of his, he was no Stoppard.
Finally, The Ruby Sunrise opened at the Public Theater on Nov. 16. The show was doubly significant, since it was the biggest production to date for a rising playwright, Rinne Groff, and was the first show directed at the Public by the company's new artistic head, Oskar Eustis. Though some reviews faulted the script as muddled and underrealized, others said it was challenging and ultimately rewarding.
Tony-nominated Avenue Q actress Stephanie D'Abruzzo has her next starring role, after having graced the puppet filled musical for more than two years. She will headline I Love You Because, which will begin previews at Off-Broadway's Village Theatre Jan. 19, 2006. The show is described as a modern day retelling of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" (it even has characters named Bennet and Fitzwilliams). It features book and lyrics by Ryan Cunningham and music by Joshua Salzman.
Finally, Red Light Winter, the new play by the prolific playwright Adam Rapp, which had an acclaimed run at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company earlier this year, will have its New York debut at the Barrow Street Theatre. New Yorkers curious to see what all the fuss was about will be able to see exactly what Chi-town audiences did; the show, which begins previews Jan. 20 and opens Feb. 9, will feature the original Steppenwolf cast: Christopher Denham, Lisa Joyce and Gary Wilmes. Rapp directs his own work.