PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 29-Nov. 4: Goodbye, Gorgeous; Julie Taymor and the Tony; Other Desert Cities Wows

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 29-Nov. 4: Goodbye, Gorgeous; Julie Taymor and the Tony; Other Desert Cities Wows
 
The Best Man is a curious case. This Gore Vidal drama had a decent run when premiered in 1960. It was nominated for a number of Tonys and made into a movie. But then it promptly fell off the map for the rest of the century.

Angela Lansbury
Angela Lansbury

In this century, however, The Best Man is regularly revived and gets A-list casts every time. In 2000, a Broadway production starred Elizabeth Ashley, Charles Durning, Christine Ebersole, Spalding Gray, Michael Learned and Chris Noth. The work will be back this spring. (The Best Man, a political drama, has never run in any other year but an election year.) The cast this time is arguably more impressive, headed by James Earl Jones, Candice Bergen, Angela Lansbury, John Larroquette and Michael McKean.

As previously reported, the director is Michael Wilson. Rehearsals begin on Jan. 30, 2012, in anticipation of a first preview on March 6, 2012.

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The Best Man wasn't the only show in town to boast some stellar casting this week. Signature Theatre Company announced that Edward Albee's 1977 play The Lady From Dubuque will be produced in 2012 in a new production featuring Jane Alexander and directed by David Esbjornson. It replaces the world premiere of Albee's in-the-works Laying an Egg, which will be produced in a future season. The original production of Dubuque lasted 12 performances on Broadway in 1980 and starred Irene Worth.

Esteemed veterans Richard Easton and Kathleen Chalfant will head the cast of a new production of Tina Howe's tale of two endearingly eccentric oldsters, Painting Churches, a Keen Company production which begins performances Feb. 14, 2012, at the Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row. The two may constitute the most starry cast Keen has ever assembled.

Patti LuPone
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Back on Broadway, Patti LuPone and Laurie Metcalf will spar in the new David Mamet play The Anarchist, which will arrive on Broadway in fall 2012. Both are Mamet vets. LuPone starred on Broadway in The Old Neighborhood and Metcalf, more recently, in November.

You never know what Mamet's going to come up with these days. Outrageous political satire? Check. Ornate comedy of manners? Yes. Slapstick courtroom farce. Uh-huh. (For those keeping score at home, those works were November, Boston Marriage and Romance, respectively.) This time, he's actually turned in a women's prison drama, a genre as old as the hills, but one that seemed to have died in the exploitation-heavy '70s. Set in a female penitentiary, the two-woman drama casts LuPone as Cathy, a longtime inmate with ties to a violent political organization, who pleads for parole from the warden, Ann, to be played by Metcalf. I, personally, could see the casting go the other way as well. Mamet will direct.

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Opening on Broadway this week was the Broadway rebirth of Jon Robin Baitz's Off-Broadway hit Other Desert Cities. It's been months since the Lincoln Center Theater premiere, and sometimes a production can lose steam during such a lag. But that wasn't the case here.

The Times review (which actually used the hoary old phrase "there was much rejoicing") said "All family reunions should be this satisfying….Cities, directed with a masterly combination of shadow and shimmer by Joe Mantello, emerges as stronger, more sincere and more credible in its Broadway reincarnation." Reviewers that had quibbles with the script last season seemed to have lost during the transfer. AP said "the script crackles with life and so do the performances." One reviewer reported, "When it premiered in January… [the play] was smart and entertaining. But in its move to Broadway, this domestic dustup has ripened significantly...The cast could not be better." "That this is a major work won't surprise anyone who loved it at Lincoln Center Theater's Off-Broadway space last winter," wrote another critic. "Recast for Broadway with two new actors [namely, Judith Light and Rachel Griffiths], the five-character family drama feels even more powerful."

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Tyne Daly in Master Class.
photo by Joan Marcus

Tyne Daly will reprise her recent Broadway performance as Maria Callas in Terrence McNally's Master Class at the West End's Vaudeville Theatre, beginning performances Jan. 21, 2012, for a 14-week run only through April 28.

Directed by Stephen Wadsworth, the show was a success for Manhattan Theatre Club. Perhaps the play will have better luck overseas this time around. Master Class was previously seen in the West End in a short-lived run at the Queen's Theatre in 1997, when the original Broadway production transferred with Patti LuPone, who had taken over the role of Callas from Zoe Caldwell.

 

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The Los Angeles and Broadway engagements of Funny Girl, which were scheduled to star Lauren Ambrose in the role of Fanny Brice, the part originated on Broadway by Barbra Streisand, were postponed this week.

Speaking on behalf of the producing team, Bob Boyett blamed the economy, saying, "We have made the extremely difficult decision today to postpone our production of Funny Girl. Given the current economic climate, many Broadway producing investors have found it impossible to maintain their standard level of financial commitment. Our desire to produce Funny Girl on the scale it deserves required a capitalization of $12 million making it one of the most expensive revivals in Broadway history."

This setback leaves the show still without its first Broadway revival since it debuted back in 1964. But, it frees the Imperial for another circling show to be named.

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Finally, the Tony Awards Administration Committee assembled for the first time during the 2011-2012 season the afternoon of Nov. 3.

The productions discussed included Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark. And guess what? Julie Taymor, who was famously forced out of the production—but whose name remained on the credits—will be considered eligible in the Best Direction of a Musical category. Now, there's an acceptance speech I'd like to hear.

Rachel Griffiths, Stockard Channing, Stacy Keach and Thomas Sadoski in <i>Other Desert Cities</i>.
Rachel Griffiths, Stockard Channing, Stacy Keach and Thomas Sadoski in Other Desert Cities. Photo by Joan Marcus
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