PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 26-Dec. 2: Harvey Will Hop, Mormon Recoups, Bonnie & Clyde Opens

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 26-Dec. 2: Harvey Will Hop, Mormon Recoups, Bonnie & Clyde Opens
 
Chances are, during the heyday of Studio 54 in the late '70s, plenty of the revelers at the discotheque saw their share of hallucinations. Maybe one or two even saw a six-foot-tall invisible rabbit.

Jim Parsons
Jim Parsons Photo by Maarten de Boer

This coming spring, a figment of another complexion will come to the space when Roundabout Theatre Company in association with Don Gregory presents a new Broadway production of Mary Chase's Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy Harvey beginning May 18, 2012. The revival will be directed by Scott Ellis.

The play, a gentle-spirited celebration of whimsy and eccentricity, is about the kind but looney Elwood P. Dowd, whose best friend is Harvey, a bunny nobody sees but himself. It premiered in 1944 and became a massive hit, running four years and reviving the career of one-time star Frank Fay. (If you ever wonder what the Tonys namesake Antoinette Perry did, well, one of the things she did was direct the premiere of Harvey.) Jimmy Stewart took the property and made it into a very popular film. He then played the part on Broadway in a brief 1970 production. Since then, the play has been the near exclusive property of regional and community theatres, where it had never offended a soul.

If you're going to do Harvey, you better have a good, and bankable, Elwood lined up. Roundabout does. It's Jim Parson, the lovably geeky actor who has helped turn the sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" into a hit. He proved last season on Broadway, in The Normal Heart, that he can sketch an expert stage portrayal. Joining him on stage will by Jessica Hecht (as Veta Louise Simmons) and Charles Kimbrough (as William R. Chumley, M.D.), Roundabout announced this week.

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Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan in Bonnie & Clyde.
photo by Nathan Johnson

Frank Wildhorn, the Energizer Bunny of Broadway musicals, returned the Main Stem this week with his latest work, Bonnie & Clyde, his and Don Black's (remember him?) tale of the Depression-era American outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. It opened Dec. 1 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre with two very appealing stars: Laura Osnes, the original Hope Harcourt in Roundabout's Anything Goes, and Jeremy Jordan, recently the recipient of excellent reviews as Jack Kelly in Newsies at Paper Mill Playhouse. The reviews, by normal standards, were not great. But by Wildhorn standards, they were not at all bad.

Ben Brantley in the New York Times, gave what has to be considered a sort of a rave when he called the show "a modest, mildly tuneful musical." The post wrote, "The first act, where our anti-heroes meet and begin their illegal activities, is the best. Director Jeff Calhoun moves the action swiftly, combining a wood-slate set, projections and moody lighting to create period atmospherics." The Daily News reported, "In short order, this musical vehicle steers straight to the middle of the road." Hollywood Reporter said, "three exciting performances and a better-than-usual score from Frank Wildhorn combine to make this an arresting if problematic new musical."

And the AP's resident Pollyanna, Mark Kennedy, said, "Jordan, who was in Rock of Ages, is charisma in person, a ball of swaggering arrogance with a sad boy underneath that's catnip to Bonnie (and many of the women in the audience). Bonnie, we are told, was a ravishing redhead, and Osnes is just that… This is a killer combination: They will slay you, literally."

Of course, there were negative comments, as well. Critics thought the musical too safe, that the central relationship did not gel, and the second act wandered. But the overall reactions was, a Time Out put it, "not great, but not that bad." If I were Wildhorn, I'd be buying a round of drinks at Sardi's.

Stephen Adly Guirgis
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Playwrights and composers seem to have anointed themselves the truth-tellers of this dark, deceitful chapter in American history. First Stephen Sondheim let it be known what he thought of the new Broadway revival of Porgy and Bess, rocking the development of the production. Now Tony Award-nominated playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis has shown himself willing to firebomb a displeasing production of his own work. On Nov. 30, Guirgis took to his Facebook page to voice his concern that Hartford TheaterWorks had cast Ben Cole and Clea Alsip, two white actors, to portray the Puerto Rican characters of Jackie and Veronica in the regional premiere of his play Motherf**ker with the Hat, which began previews Oct. 14.

Guirgis posted: "In Hartford Connecticut, the Mayor is Puerto Rican. But in TheaterWorks production of my play in Hartford — the 2 lead Puerto Rican characters are played by white actors. The play was cast in NYC, and Conn, and if you look at the breakdown here, you will see that not only did they not cast Latinos, they didn't even seek Latinos for the 2 Latino leads!!! If this disturbs you, please repost. Nothing against the actors cast, but this is indefensible bull****. Please share my headshaking anger. Thanks! Stephen."

Guirgis told the New York Times that he had not been invited to see the production, but had been in conversation with director Tazewell Thompson and executives at the theatre in recent weeks over their casting choice.

TheaterWorks artistic director Steve Campos said that while the casting choice could be debated, both Cole and Alsip were the best actors for the role. (He did not mention whether he had asked Hartford's mayor to play one of the roles.) It was noted that only the role of Cousin Julio was specified as being Puerto Rican in the casting breakdown. Actor Varin Ayala was cast in the role.

"I want the play to get done, and I'm not going to micro-manage casting, and I know there are parts of the country where it's harder to find a lot of Latino actors. But this play was cast in New York City and in Hartford, and you can't tell me that there weren't qualified Latino actors to play characters who are Puerto Rican," Guirgis told the Times. ***

Mark Rylance
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Two-time Tony winner Mark Rylance (Jerusalem and Boeing-Boeing), who has in recent years become the darling of Broadway, will return to the London theatre that made his name, Shakespeare's Globe, for a couple shows in 2012.

Rylance will reprise his performance as Olivia in Twelfth Night (the Globe often casts plays according to original Elizabethan practices, in which only men played the roles) and play the title role in Richard III in the coming theatre season there. The actor was previously Globe's artistic director from 1995 to 2005.

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London usually only stages American plays if they have received copious critical praise, or won the Tony or Pulitzer. But Zach Braff's All New People seems to possess a special quality outside those recommendations.

Braff's comedy premiered earlier this year at Second Stage to less than triumphal reviews. Yet, it will play a ten-week West End run at the Duke of York's Theatre, beginning Feb. 22, 2012. Prior to the West End, it will tour to Manchester's Opera House (Feb. 8-11) and Glasgow's King's Theatre (Feb. 14-18). Bolstering the attraction of the play, no doubt, is the fact that Braff himself will be playing the central role of Charlie, who is a bit down on the occasion of his 35th birthday.

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Alan Cumming
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Scotland has theatre, too. And one example of it will be coming to New York in 2012.

As if the titular role weren't challenging enough, Alan Cumming, channeling his inner Patrick Stewart, will take on all the roles in an upcoming production of Macbeth, the most famous play about Scotland ever written by an Englishman. It will debut at the National Theatre of Scotland prior to a New York engagement in summer 2012.

"I have been obsessed with Macbeth for as long as I can remember," Cumming said in a statement. "It was the first Shakespeare I ever read, the first I was ever in and it continues to haunt and inspire me. The only thing I can think of more exciting, challenging and terrifying than this play is to do a one-man version of it."

I look forward to seeing Cumming kill himself several times over the course of the show.

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Mike Daisey's Off-Broadway hit The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, which played an extended run Off-Broadway at the Public Theater earlier this fall, will return for a five-week New York run in 2012.

The monologue, which examines the human cost of must-have technology, has been announced to play a Jan. 31-March 4, 2012, encore engagement at the Public.

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You knew it would. And now it has.

The Tony Award-winning hit musical The Book of Mormon, which has been fetching up to $477 a ticket, has recouped its Broadway capitalization, producers announced Nov. 29. It's all gravy from here.

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