The oddest of the two was the Broadway bow of The Pee-wee Herman Show, starring Paul Reubens as Pee-wee, officially opening Nov. 11 at the newly rechristened Stephen Sondheim. This was deliciously ironic. As one critic aptly noted, "Broadway's silliest, most immature character is starring at a theatre named for its ultimate sophisticate."
How can anyone possibly be cruel to lovable Pee-wee? Or, for that matter, poor Reubens, who's been through so much career agony? No one. The reviews were remarkably kind. But most noted that the show was for the already converted. "The Pee-wee-ignorant or the Pee-wee-averse are definitely not invited to the party," said the Times. And many acknowledge that the show's main appeal, despite some naughty double-entredres and a "gleeful dash of sunny but slightly subversive fun," was the nostalgia ride it offered those who are familiar with the old CBS Saturday morning TV series "Pee-wee's Playhouse."
The piece will likely mark the second Broadway hit for director Alex Timbers (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), who should quickly become a fairly hot commodity in commercial theatre circles, where producers are constantly grasping about for the next big director to save their aborning shows.
The other Broadway opening was Long Story Short, former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Colin Quinn's one-man, 75-minute comedy about the decline of the world's great empires, directed by Jerry Seinfeld. Long story short — critics loved it.
*** The life of A Life in the Theatre has been cut short. The Broadway premiere of David Mamet's 1977 comedic drama, which explores the lives of two acting colleagues, will end its run at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre at the end of the November, a month earlier than expected.
Also closing is the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Next to Normal, which will end its Broadway run Jan. 16, 2011. When it closes, it will have played 21 previews and 733 performances. The musical long ago recouped its investment.
The casting director of the the 2010 Tony Award-winning revival of La Cage aux Folles knows how to keep the people excited. First there was the recruitment of television star Kelsey Grammer as George opposite British actor Douglas Hodge, who had a success playing Albin in London. Then there was the announcement that Grammer would switch to the role of Albin after six months of playing Georges.
That latter plan doesn't seem to be happening anymore. But the show's come up with something almost as interesting. The show's librettist Harvey Fierstein, a Broadway star in his own right, will star as Albin, starting Feb. 15, 2011, for 12 weeks. The current stars of La Cage will depart the production on Feb. 13.
Pretty soon we'll have to start referring to him not as playwright David Auburn, but director David Auburn.
Auburn, of course, wrote Proof, one of the most-awarded and commercial successful plays of the past decade. But new works from him have been scarce since that triumph. Instead, when his name does appear in connection to a new production, it's as director. Auburn staged Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance at the Berkshire Theatre Festival, and he staged the premiere of Zayd Dohrn's Sick there as well.
Now he's been tapped for some New York work. He will helm the world premiere of Michael Weller's Side Effects Off-Broadway for MCC Theater in spring 2011. Side Effects picks up where Weller's play Fifty Words left off.
Anyone who has lived in Brooklyn for the past five years has an opinion on Atlantic Yards, the monstrously sized development in downtown Brooklyn that is either: A) a development boon to the borough which will help resurrect and gentrify a long-blighted area, and bring a major league sports team back to Brooklyn; or B) a City and State-subsidized, back-room handout to real estate baron Bruce Ratner which bulldozed over public opinion and abused Eminent Domain.
The Civilians will tackle this prickly topic in their latest theatrical endeavor In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, which begins performances Nov. 12 at the Irondale Center in Brooklyn. In the Footprint was born from the Civilians' 2008 project, Brooklyn at Eye Level, in which the troupe conducted interviews with residents, business owners, politicians and civic organizations in Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Fort Greene, Boreum Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Crown Heights, Park Slope and Prospect Heights. Workshops were then held in 2008 at the Brooklyn Lyceum.
Civilians founding artistic director Steve Cosson directs and co-authored the work with Jocelyn Clarke. In the Footprint features music by Civilians associate artist and composer Michael Friedman (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson). The cast includes Matthew Dellapina, Greg McFadden, Colleen Werthmann, Billy Eugene Jones, Donnetta Lavinia Grays and Simone Moore.