PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 30-Nov. 5: Women on the Verge & Scottsboro Boys Open; Fiddler Loses Its Tunesmith

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 30-Nov. 5: Women on the Verge & Scottsboro Boys Open; Fiddler Loses Its Tunesmith
 
Spidey is hoping 2011 will be a happier year for him than 2010 was.

Spider-Man stars Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano
Spider-Man stars Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano Photo by Krissie Fullerton

The long-awaited Julie Taymor musical Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark has been delayed again. The production, which had been scheduled to begin previews Nov. 14, will now commence performances Nov. 28 at Broadway's Foxwoods Theatre. Opening night has been moved from Dec. 21 to Jan. 11, 2011.

According to the Times, the music, marking the Broadway debut of the U2 frontmen, still isn't synchronized with special effects, plot and dialogue, and scene-to-scene transitions — essential for rhythm and safety — aren't complete. Which aren't the usual kind of problems one hears about in connection to a Broadway musical. But Spider-Man isn't a typical Broadway musical.

Producer Michael Cohl said in a statement, "Shows like ours, that embrace the challenge of opening on Broadway without an out-of-town tryout, often need to adjust their schedules along the way. Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark has an unprecedented level of technical artistry, and getting it right takes time."

Spider-Man faced other challenges last week when cast member Kevin Aubin broke both his wrists during a flying sequence presented for ticket brokers and group sales agents. As a result, the New York State Department of Labor visited the Foxwoods Theatre the week of Nov. 1 to address safety issues. Actors' Equity has launched its own investigation. 

*** Whenever two-time Tony Award winner Donna Murphy signs on to do a Broadway musical, it's news, at least in theatre circles. It was announced, rather unexpectedly, that she will star in the new Broadway musical The People in the Picture, about three generations of women and their conflicting responses to the past, in spring 2011. She'll play a Jewish grandmother who conjures stories of her theatrical life in the old country.

The show features an odd assortment of creators. The book and lyrics are by "Beaches" novelist Iris Rainer Dart and the music is by Mike Stoller — whose name is usually seen along side that of a guy name Lieber — and Artie Butler. Leonard Foglia, a man not associated with musicals, will direct. Previews begin April 1, 2011, with the official opening set for April 28, at the American Airlines Theatre. The limited engagement is scheduled to run through June 19, 2011.

 

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Kiefer Sutherland
photo courtesy of FOX

The new Broadway revival of Jason Miller's 1972 drama That Championship Season has a cast. Portraying the five aging members of a high school basketball team are Brian Cox, Jim Gaffigan, Chris Noth, Jason Patric and Kiefer Sutherland.

Gregory Mosher, who received a 2010 Tony nomination for his direction of the revival of A View From the Bridge (and who knows how to tempt film and TV stars like Sutherland onto the stage), will direct the play, which will arrive in March 2011 at a Shubert theatre to be announced.

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Taken together, the people involved in the new musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown have so many Tony Awards they could play chess with them. But their skill notwithstanding, the word that kept coming up in most of the reviews for the David Yazbek-Jeffrey Lane show, which opening Nov. 4, was "mess." Other words brought into service were "addled," "misconceived," "flavorless," "giant pile-up" and "overdesigned." Of the many stage stars in the piece— Patti LuPone, Sherie Rene Scott, Brian Stokes Mitchell — only Laura Benanti, as a frenzied model, won across-the-board praise. And the show amounted to the first set-back in a long time for director Bartlett Sher, whose blessed career has been on a roll since The Light in the Piazza

The other big Broadway opening of the week, The Scottsboro Boys fared better, but not by much. As during its Off-Broadway debut last season, critics found the John Kander-Fred Ebb work — which uses the racially insensitive minstrel show format of yore to tell the true story of a case of racial injustice indicated by the title — admirably daring and edgy, but beset by a split personality. Satiric and mordant on one hand, sincere and earnest on the other, simultaneously cynical and sentimental, it never quite found its tone. "Cynicism and compassion are not easily — perhaps not possibly — summoned at the same time," wrote the Times. Other reviewers, however, found that jarring dichotomy a sign of the show's success. All had good words for the hard-working, committed cast and inventive director-choreographer Susan Stroman.

Off-Broadway, a couple of politically charged dramas opened at the Public Theater: Lisa Kron's In the Wake and Richard Nelson's That Hopey Changey Thing. Both left critics divided and frustrated, some finding the works thought-provoking and refreshingly engaged in contemporary issues, others finding them wordy and insufficiently stocked with new views about the current political landscape.

At the Vineyard Theatre, Wil Eno's Middletown opened in a production some found aimless, pretentious and underdeveloped, while others spied lyricism in what one review called the play's depiction of "the bruised underbelly of the sort of hamlet life in Thorton Wilder's Our Town." Its run was extended by two weeks.

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Two thirds of the legendary team that created Fiddler on the Roof are now gone. Following hard on the heels of October's passing of bookwriter Joseph Stein, composer Jerry Bock died on Nov. 3. He was 81.

Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick blazed through the 1960s, creating classics like Fiddler, She Loves Me, The Rothschilds and Fiorello! And then it was over. The two men had a fight over the replacement of the director of The Rothschilds and never worked together again — or worked much at anything at all. Unlike Stein, who plugged away at projects to the end, barely a peep was heard from Bock during the last 40 years of his life. But in the 15 that preceded it, he and Harnick produced enough choice material to land them a permanent place in the Broadway musical pantheon.

The cast of <i>The Scottsboro Boys</i>
The cast of The Scottsboro Boys
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