PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 2-8: Gatz Entertainment!; Linney Again; Carrie Will Sing

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 2-8: Gatz Entertainment!; Linney Again; Carrie Will Sing
 
The biggest hit in town is six-and-a-half hours long and literary in the most literal sense.

Jim Fletcher, Victoria Vazquez and Scott Shepherd
Jim Fletcher, Victoria Vazquez and Scott Shepherd Photo by Joan Marcus

Gatz, the downtown troupe Elevator Repair Service's adaptation of Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," opened at the Public Theater Oct. 6 to mainly rave reviews, including a big one from the New York Times (though a few critics pointed out that having the entire 1925 novel read to you word-for-word can lead to a boring stretch or two). The next day it was revealed that the entire Public run, which had been extended to Nov. 28, had sold out.

The result is surely the biggest hit in the history of the nearly 20-year-old Elevator Repair Service, which has put such works as "The Sound and The Fury" on the stage in the past, as well as other, more curious enterprises. It's also a singular shot in the arm for New York's experimental theatre scene, which — as Off-Broadway spaces have closed and the economics of producing on a small scale have grown untenable — has seen major groups like ERS dwindle down to a precious few in the past decade or so. (It's not a stretch to predict an extension of <i>Gatz</i>.)

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It was a good week for the commercial theatre as well, with Broadway openings of Mrs. Warren's Profession and a return of Donald Margulies' new Time Stands Still getting sound receptions.

Critics were fairly pleased by Doug Hughes's revival of the Shaw play, but mainly because it starred Cherry Jones in the title role. Jones is back on stage after a break of a few years, during which she raised her television profile. She glowed, she commanded, the reviewers said. As for the rest of the production, they had their reservations; some found it fresh, others muddled, with uneven performances. Similarly, the star of Time Stands Still, Laura Linney — like Jones, one of the stage's most redoubtable actresses — received the lion's share of the praise from the critical corps, though reviews still found Margulies' drama to be a solid and cutting work, and a rare new play of note on the Broadway scene. New cast addition Christine Ricci was deemed a welcome presence.

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Original Carrie star Linzi Hately

Off-Broadway's MCC Theatre has nailed a surefire way to garner publicity for its 2011-12 season: It will produce the 1988 cult musical Carrie.

Stafford Arima will direct the musical, one of the great Broadway bombs of all time. It will play the Lucille Lortel Theatre.

How great a disaster was Carrie? When one of the creators of the musical, lyricist Dean Pitchford, returned to Broadway in 1998 with Footloose, he didn't mention the show in his Playbill bio, and avoided the subject in interviews. Apparently, he and composer Michael Gore and book writer Lawrence D. Cohen, have come around to recognizing ownership again. They are currently in the process of reworking the book and score. About half of the latter is expected to be different from the original Broadway mounting. In fact, many of the songs, including the second-act opening, "Out for Blood," have been discarded.

In a statement, librettist Cohen said, "From our perspective, we had no interest in seeing a new production of the exact same show that closed on Broadway."

No casting has been announced for the Off-Broadway production, but you can bet the musical theatre geeks will be salivating for the information, and offering all sorts of unsolicited suggestions.

The show has gotten a lot of quality attention lately. Producers Kevin McCollum and Jeffrey Seller recently mounted a workshop of the musical, which featured Sutton Foster, Marin Mazzie and Molly Ranson, but decided not to go forward with a production.

 

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Rachel Weisz

Film star Rachel Weisz is carving out a nice stage profile for herself in London. Last seen in her award-winning performance as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar Warehouse, she is now is lining up a theatrical return in a new production of David Hare's Plenty.

According to reports in London's Daily Mail, she has agreed to star in a production that will be directed by David Leveaux. Producer Robert Fox told the Mail, "We're not quite certain where it will start yet — it could be New York or it could be the West End. It's down to theatre availability, and where Rachel wants to be."

Plenty is plum project for actresses in London circles. It revolves around Susan Traherne, a former secret agent who worked behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied France during the Second World War, and the contrast with her present-day life as the depressed wife of a diplomat. It wasn't revived in London until 1999, when Cate Blanchett got the part.

 

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What do you know? An Off-Broadway play made money.

Scott Morfee, Jean Doumanian and Tom Wirtshafter, who produced David Cromer's recent record-breaking production of Thornton Wilder's Our Town at the Barrow Street Theatre, announced Oct. 8 the production recouped its entire investment.

File under "Hen's Teeth."

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How big a draw is Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong? Exactly as big as you think.

Producers of Broadway's American Idiot announced that the show grossed $1,092,334 for the week that Armstrong stepped into the role of St. Jimmy. The week before that, the gross was a mere $480,566 and 52.6 percent of capacity.

Mary Faber, Billie Joe Armstrong, Michael Esper, John Gallagher Jr., Stark Sands and Rebecca Naomi Jones
Mary Faber, Billie Joe Armstrong, Michael Esper, John Gallagher Jr., Stark Sands and Rebecca Naomi Jones
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