PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 8-14: "Duck Dynasty" Musical Taking Flight and Will Sting Keep The Last Ship from Sinking?

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 8-14: "Duck Dynasty" Musical Taking Flight and Will Sting Keep The Last Ship from Sinking? Actors, start growing your beards.

Phil Robertson
Phil Robertson

The Duck Commander Family Musical is coming to the stage. That's not the name of special episode of a Cartoon Network series. It's a stage production based on the A&E reality program "Duck Dynasty." And whatever such a thing might be will be seen in Las Vegas in February 2015. The 90-minute production (how they already know it will be 90 minutes, I don't know) will cast actors to portray the members of the hirsute Louisiana Robertson clan famous for killing ducks, loving God, making millions and stirring up controversy.

Tony Award nominee Jeff Calhoun is attached to direct, and the producer is Broadway's Michael David, who has a beard as impressive as any of the Robertsons. Steven Morris, Robert Morris and Joe Shane, who last collaborated on the once Broadway-aimed musical White Noise (a cautionary musical about White supremacists), are writing the 14-song score. Asa Somers is the musical's book writer.

Not everyone in the theatre community was thrilled with this news. Generally, show folk don't openly criticize one another's projects. "Produce and Let Produce" is the unspoken motto, and if you make a buck doing it, more power to you. But this is different. The Robertsons are infamous for their controversial remarks about LGBT individuals. In a 2013 interview with GQ Magazine, Phil Robertson called the gay lifestyle sinful and illogical and compared homosexuality with bestiality.

The New York Times, which broke the story, reports that many individuals within the theatre community, many of whom are gay and pro-gay, are shocked that their contemporaries would want to work with the family.

To this, David said, "The show will end up challenging the views and assumptions of people across the political spectrum, more than most theater does."

***

Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren Photo by Johan Persson

Whoever is doing the marketing for the upcoming Broadway staging of The Audience, Peter Morgan's play about Queen Elizabeth II, with Helen Mirren starring as the monarch, is doing a bang-up job. For they are generating news stories out of what seem, of the surface, to be bits of insider minutae.

First we learned that the play on Broadway would have a different ending than the original London production. Director Stephen Daldry told the L.A. Times that Morgan had rewritten the ending of the play. "Peter will always be re-writing! For Broadway, it will be essential. The end will have to change quite radically to reflect the exact moment in current events," he said. (This just in: Playwright does rewrites!)

Quite soon after the gripping news came down the pipe, it was reported that the Broadway producers of The Audience turned down a $400,000 enticement from the producers of It's Only a Play to relinquish their spring claim on the theatre, the Schoenfeld. The Terrence McNally play is already at the Schoenfeld, and it would like to stay there, since the once limited run has turned into an extended hit. But The Audience said, "No dice," arguing that the newly restored Schoenfeld has a more palace-like feel, better in keeping with the play's subject matter.

(Private note to the producers of It's Only a Play: If you offer me $400,000, I will move wherever you like.)

*** To aid his flagging new Broadway musical, The Last Ship, rock star Sting may be considering a return to acting. The show played to just under 60 percent capacity the week after it opened to encouraging, if mixed, critical notices. The Daily News reports that in an effort to keep the production afloat, Sting has waived his royalties for the production, a move that is not entirely uncommon, and may consider joining the cast in January.

***

Definitely returning to Broadway will be "Glee" star Matthew Morrison, who has been announced to portray "Peter Pan" author J.M. Barrie in the new musical Finding Neverland, which arrives on Broadway in March 2015 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. He succeeds Jeremy Jordan, who created the role in the musical's American Repertory Theater premiere last summer.

***

In these times of rising start-up costs and expensive New York rents, you don't hear much about new Manhattan theatre companies springing to life — certainly not with the frequency such births occurred in the '80s and '90s.

So, the news that longtime Off-Broadway producer Eric Krebs and artistic director Christopher Scott had founded a new Equity theatre company was, well, news.

The Glass Menagerie and A Midsummer Night's Dream are slated for the first season of the newly formed Masterworks Theater Company, which will focus on the classics. The plays will be staged at the 47th Street Theater.

The company's mission is to present "accessible, professional productions of theatrical and literary heavyweights that are widely produced and studied in educational settings at affordable ticket prices to help ignite the audience for live theater for the next generation."

***

One new company comes to life. Another old one breathes its last.

The Next Theatre Company in Evanston, IL, which was facing eviction from its home at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center after owing $76,000 in back rent, announced Nov. 10 that it would cease operations.

Next Theatre was one of a handful of companies that helped to forge the Chicago nonprofit theatre revolution that began in the late '70s and early '80s. It had been in residence at the Noyes Center for more than 30 years.

Last July, Rob Andalman, chairman of Next Theatre's board of directors, cited the economic downturn as well as Chicago's brutal winter as a factor in the theatre's financial state. Despite the large sum owed in back rent, city officials allowed the theatre to remain in residence at the Noyes Center through the duration of its 2014-15 season. Officials at Next were hopeful that the theatre would be able to move forward with the season that was scheduled through May 2015. The company's financial straits, however, proved too difficult.

Notable Next productions over the years included the Chicago premiere of The Normal Heart, The Incident, Among the Thugs, a revival of Are You or Have You Ever Been?, Everything Is Illuminated, the premiere of Tracy Letts' first play Killer Joe, and the musical version of The Adding Machine, which traveled to New York. Actors who have worked there include Deanna Dunagan, Kate Buckley, Michael Shannon and Ann Dowd.

Today’s Most Popular News: