PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 4-10: French Provincial

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 4-10: French Provincial
 
It was a busy week for the theatre composers Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, which is not to say it was a good week. The duo saw their biggest success, Les Misérables, reopen on Broadway Nov. 9, while they were frantically trying to fashion a new success out of the troubled The Pirate Queen in Chicago.
Aaron Lazar as Enjolras in Les Mis
Aaron Lazar as Enjolras in Les Mis Photo by Michael LePoer Trench

Critics fired their cannons across the latter show's bow when it opened on Oct. 29 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, and the composers have been feverishly reworking the script ever since, with, according to the New York Post, help from Yankee pal Richard Maltby, Jr., who co-wrote their other big international success, Miss Saigon. Variety also reported that two new songs are being looked at. The show will run until Nov. 26, so, if all goes well, the creators will have something to be thankful for by Thanksgiving. The Pirate Queen is planning to sail to Broadway's Hilton Theatre next March.

(The Hilton, for the record, is where the stage version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas opened this week. OK, that's done with.)

A no-doubt happier time was had by Messrs. Boublil and Schönberg at the unveiling of the return engagement of Les Miz. No script doctoring needed on this one, which is back on Broadway after only a three-and-a-half-year absence. That didn't mean, however, that critics didn't think something was needed. Many thought the flame needed to be turned up a bit on new mounting, calling it tame and meek. Others, however, were pleased with the new cast of name Broadway talents, including Celia Keenan-Bolger (Eponine), Gary Beach (Thenardier), Alexander Gemignani (Valjean), Norm Lewis (Javert) and Daphne Rubin-Vega (Fantine). As one critic notes, the musical could have never commanded such a cast if it hadn’t taken a breather from Broadway, so that it might return—a la Streisand—for a final goodbye.

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Also having a bad week was Twyla Tharp, whose new Bob Dylan-scored, Big Top-themed show The Times They Are A-Changin' gave in to the impact of the barrage of bad reviews received upon opening on Oct. 26, and announced a closing date of Nov. 19. Ah, well. The circus never does come to town for that long anyway. ***

English playwright Caryl Churchill is renewing her relationship with the Public Theater, which gave American life to such Churchill works as Top Girls, Fen and The Skriker. In a co-production with London’s Royal Court, the Public will present the amusingly titled Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?. The show will have a good cast, in London at least, with Ty Burrell and Stephen Dillane. The plot description—"Jack would do anything for Sam. Sam would do anything"—is just about as elucidative as the apocalyptic-minded, crypto-absurdist playwright gets these days.

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In other London news, producer David Babani said that his London revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Sunday in the Park With George is eyeing Studio 54 for a New York transfer in the autumn of 2007. “Nothing is signed, sealed and delivered yet, but we are very much in advanced discussions to make that happen,” said Babani, who is the artistic director at Southwark’s Menier Chocolate Factory, where the acclaimed revival of Sondheim and Lapine's 1984 musical opened in November 2005.

Meanwhile, Trevor Nunn's reworking of Porgy and Bess opened at London's Savoy Theatre Nov. 9. Clark Peters and Nicola Hughes take on the title roles.

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Elsewhere in the English-speaking world, stage and screen actress Cate Blanchett and her writer-husband Andrew Upton must really like spending time with each other. Not only do they share a private life, they will now go to work together. The two will become the new artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company, after current head Robyn Nevin steps down from the post at the end of 2007. New York audiences saw their teamwork when Hedda Gabler came to New York's Brooklyn Academy of Music. Upton directed that one alone, but with the upcoming STC double-bill of Harold Pinter's A Kind of Alaska and David Mamet's Reunion, they'll co-direct. They also plan to eat off the same plate during lunch break.

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From the overkill department comes the news that documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, who has already made two films about those crazy Beale dames from East Hampton, is planning to make a third. (Does that make it a trilogy?) The untitled new film will be about the making of the new Broadway musical Grey Gardens, which, of course, was based on the original 1975 documentary of the same name. A second movie, “The Beales of Grey Gardens,” using unseen footage from the first, was released in 2006.

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Finally, maybe Andrew Lloyd Webber should have programmed a reality TV show to cast his Captain Von Trapp, too. The composer—who earlier this year created a sensation in Britain by employing a television talent show to find the new Maria (Connie Fisher) for his West End revival of The Sound of Music—gave the heave-ho to his Captain, Simon Shepard, this week. Shepard left the production at the London Palladium after just two preview performances. According to a statement following the first two public performances on Nov. 3 and 4, "Simon Shepherd, director Jeremy Sams, and producers Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Ian agreed that his (Shepherd’s) performance as Captain Von Trapp was not working within the production and therefore he has withdrawn form the show.” Alexander Hanson will take over the role.

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