PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 14-20: Personnel Shifts

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 14-20: Personnel Shifts Color her gone. LaChanze, who won a Tony Award for her portrayal of the triumphant-in-adversity Celie in the popular hit The Color Purple, will leave the show on Nov. 7.

LaChanze as Celie in The Color Purple.
LaChanze as Celie in The Color Purple. Photo by Paul Kolnik

The Tony was a crowing achievement for the performer, who has been a steady stage presence on Broadway and off since starring in Once on This Island back in 1987. From the sound of her press statement accompanying the departure announcement, it sounds like she might be a bit harder to find in the future: "As an actress who has performed in theatre for over 17 years, my experience performing in The Color Purple has been a truly life-changing journey. While my first love will always be the theatre, I'm looking forward to spending some time with my family and pursue opportunities in the TV, film and publishing worlds."

Jeannette I. Bayardelle — who currently understudies the role of Celie — will assume the lead. Two other actors, Kingsley Leggs and Lou Myers, will also leave the show. Alton Fitzgerald White will assume the role of Mister (originally played by Leggs) and Larry Marshall takes over as Ol Mister (for Myers).

Elsewhere on Broadway, The Coast of Utopia experienced a different sort of castus interuptus. The Oct. 18 performance of Tom Stoppard's play at Lincoln Center Theater was abruptly cancelled mid-show when actor Richard Easton—the hard-working and widely respected New York actor—collapsed on stage. According to an LCT spokesperson, Easton is currently stable and alert and undergoing a series of tests. The Coast of Utopia will continue with Easton's understudy David Manis stepping in.

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Manhattan Theatre Club has a nice, little cast for its fall world premiere of Paul Rudnick's Regrets Only at City Stage I. Tony Award winner and sitcom queen Christine Baranski would be enough to garner attention. Add Tony Award winner George Grizzard, Hairspray madcap Jackie Hoffman and Tony Award nominee Siân Phillips, and you've got a sizable cause for excitement. Rudnick has said, with this play, he tried to work within the old comedy of manners template, a la Philip Barry. The setting? A Park Avenue penthouse, of course. (Poor people have manners, but they're not as funny, and would provide costume designer William Ivey Long with less of a good time.) Previews began Oct. 19. ***

A couple upcoming workshops have casts as interesting as any in New York. Brian D'Arcy James and Kristin Chenoweth—who are co-stars in the upcoming Roundabout Theatre Company revival of The Apple Tree—have also been cast opposite each other in a November workshop of Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan's long-awaited musicalization of the 1974 film Young Frankenstein. James will play the title role of Dr. Frankenstein, the unwittingly mad scientist who creates a monster out of a reanimated corpse. Chenoweth will play Elizabeth, the good doctor's chilly fiancé. Sutton Foster will play Inga; Shuler Hensley will be the Monster; Marc Kudisch is the police inspector who suspects Dr. Frankenstein; Cloris Leachman will re-create the role of horse-frightening Frau Blucher; and Roger Bart as the hunchback Igor.

Meanwhile, Hunter Foster, Jenny Powers, Christian Hoff, and Gregg Edelman signed on for an Oct. 20 New York City industry reading of The Man In The White Suit, a new Broadway-bound musical with lyrics by the Urinetown team of Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann—music by Hollmann, and book by Kotis and David Petrarca, who also directs.