PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 9-15: Broadway Gets Bloody, a "Beast" and a New Life

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 9-15: Broadway Gets Bloody, a "Beast" and a New Life
 
With three Broadway openings in one week, the Fabulous Invalid seems more fabulous than ever.

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson star Benjamin Walker
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson star Benjamin Walker Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, the new Broadway emo-rock musical (I feel silly every time I type that term), opened this week and was blessed by nearly the entire Ministry of Criticism. It was called rowdy, boisterous, wild, a shot of adrenaline, and relevant, relevant, relevant. As in, there's are midterm elections coming up, and there's this rabble-rousing political group called the Tea Party, and Andrew Jackson (the rock star protagonist of Bloody) was, well, you know, a rabble-rousing politician, too. Critics are suckers when a show comes along and actually speaks to the times.

Reviewers were divided on whether the show had gained or lost power since its move from the Public Theater. Some thought the company was putting in more effort and had achieved greater focus. Others thought the show, which is written and directed by Alex Timbers of the downtown ensemble Les Freres Corbusier, with music and lyrics by Michael Friedman, wasn't grown-up enough for Broadway. All found the show had a lot of attitude and charisma and irony to spare, much of it emanating from star Benjamin Walker. The general feeling: Broadway, we have a hit.

La Bete, David Hirson's 1991 modern verse play, now in revival with a cast headed by David Hyde Pierce and Mark Rylance, was the hard sell of the week. But it did surprisingly well with critics, who, in particular, couldn't find enough good things to say about Rylance's performance as a boorish, gassy, clueless and garrulous 17th-century theatre artist. As good as his work in Boeing-Boeing, said many. Some, however, also thought Rylance was part of the production's problems — his excellence casting everything else in shadow, and the show's light dimming a bit after he completed his 30-minute opening monologue. Still, there was applause for the remaining cast and Matthew Warchus' direction, and a number of the critics found the production surprisingly accessible.

A Life in the Theatre, the first Broadway run for the 1970s David Mamet comedy, found a fairly well-populated welcoming party. Critics fell over themselves to point out that this two-hander about two actors, one older, one younger (played by Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight), was a rare example of a kinder, gentler Mamet, and thus worth a look. They found is touching and entertaining. But even they admitted the play was a trifle — something detractors emphasized as a reason for it not being of Broadway heft.

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James Lapine
photo by Aubrey Reuben

James Lapine has been tapped as the interesting choice to direct the new Broadway production of the Tony Award-winning musical Annie, to open in fall 2012 at a Nederlander theatre to be announced.

Lapine is most closely associated with the work of Stephen Sondheim, whose musicals are roughly the aesthetic opposite of Charles Strouse-Martin Charnin-Thomas Meehan feel-good tale about the plucky red-headed orphan. (In Sondheim's world, Annie would get beaten up by Little Red Riding Hood and fed to the giant in Into the Woods.) But Lapine is also responsible for such diverse work as Falsettos, Dirty Blonde and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

 

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The trend toward getting a celebrity producer for your Broadway show is becoming something of an addiction. Following in the footsteps of "producers" Jay-Z (Fela!) and Elton John (Next Fall), Bette Midler has joined the producing team of the new musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which began its pre-Broadway Toronto engagement Oct. 12 at The Princess of Wales Theatre. The New York Post reports that Midler has invested more than her name in the show, however. She's put in money, which will arrive at the Palace Theatre on Broadway Feb. 28, 2011, with an official opening scheduled for March 20. This apparently grants her the right to give the director lots of notes.

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Life Off-Broadway these days is tough. So a few troupes have decided to weather the bad times together.

In an unusual arrangement, The Civilians, The Talking Band, The Rude Mechs and The Exchange (sounds like a Friday-night line-up at Irving Plaza) have aligned to allow theatregoers to purchase a season subscription package highlighting their respective seasons.

Subscribers are provided with four show credits that can be used to attend works by each of the participating companies. The credits can be used toward four tickets to one performance of a particular show, or for one ticket to each of the four productions. The Xpass also allows for other flexible combinations that permit users to share credits with one another. Each four-credit pass is $85.

Hey, choice is good. Just remember, the Xpass does not work on the Triborough.

Joanna Lumley, Mark Rylance, David Hyde Pierce and Stephen Ouimette take a bow
Joanna Lumley, Mark Rylance, David Hyde Pierce and Stephen Ouimette take a bow
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