PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Sept. 20-26: Neil LaBute Not on the Money and The Lion King Rules Stage and Screen

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Sept. 20-26: Neil LaBute Not on the Money and The Lion King Rules Stage and Screen The British can be depended upon to lend Broadway an old-fashioned double-bill every now and then. Last year, Mark Rylance came over with his hit alternating productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III. This season, our British brothers are sending us Wolf Hall, Parts 1 and 2, due to begin previews at the Winter Garden Theatre March 20.

Ben Miles
Ben Miles Photo by Keith Pattison

The London productions of Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies are based on the history novels by Hilary Mantel about Henry VIII. Mike Poulton adapted the works, which are directed by Jeremy Herrin. The plays premiered at Stratford-upon-Avon's Swan Theatre in January and transferred to the West End's Aldwych in May. The Royal Shakespeare Company productions recently extended their acclaimed London repertory run through Oct. 4.

The original cast is expected to make the trip to New York. They include Ben Miles as Thomas Cromwell, Lydia Leonard as Anne Boleyn and Nathaniel Parker as King Henry VIII.

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Don't like British historical dramas? Well, how about a Russian historical drama?

Also aimed at Broadway this coming spring (but not officially announced) is a stage musical adaptation of Dr. Zhivago, based on the 1958 Nobel Prize-winning novel by Russian author Boris Pasternak. According to an Equity casting notice, the show is aiming for an April 2015 Broadway opening. Des McAnuff will direct the piece, which began at La Jolla Playhouse. ***

The MCC Theater presented its latest world premiere by playwright Neil LaBute this week. The show, called The Money Shot, stars Elizabeth Reaser and Frederick Weller as two desperate actors faced with a taboo decision that could revive their dwindling careers. Terry Kinney directed.

Critics found the work slim on story and impact, and too fish-in-a-barrel regarding its targets, but also found it a surprisingly fun piece from the usual dour LaBute. The Times called it a "raunchy new sitcom of a play," said LaBute "and the director, Terry Kinney, manage to stretch what is essentially a single dumb movie star joke into 100 minutes of arduous, repetitive and occasionally hilarious stage time."

Elizabeth Reaser
Elizabeth Reaser Photo by Joan Marcus

The Hollywood Reporter was grateful for the lighter, funnier vein, saying, "While it's thin, formulaic and adds little that's new to the playwright's customarily dyspeptic commentary on sexual politics, this satirical comedy is at the very least LaBute's funniest work in years." Variety generally agreed, calling it "an acid-tongued showbiz satire that makes up in belly laughs and inspired performances what it lacks in nuance or novelty."

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The Westport County Playhouse and the Signature Theatre are teaming up to co-present the world premiere of Love and Money, a new work by prolific playwright A.R. Gurney about family and inheritance.

Gurney is featured in the Signature Theatre's Residency One program. The Signature production of Gurney's The Wayside Motor Inn has been extended twice, through Oct. 5, and a new production of Gurney's What I Did Last Summer, directed by Jim Simpson, will be presented in May 2015.

The play will be presented at Westport July 21–Aug. 8, 2015, before moving to the Signature Theatre later in August 2015.

The play will concern wealthy widow Cornelia Cunningham, who "has led a life of grace and privilege — and she's making up for it as fast as she can. Determined to donate almost everything she owns before the end, Cornelia's plans are questioned when an ambitious and ingratiating young man, who may be the grandson she never knew she had, arrives to claim his inheritance."

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Disney's The Lion King, which has been playing on Broadway since 1998, is king of the street in more ways than one.

Alton Fitzgerald White in <i>The Lion King</i>
Alton Fitzgerald White in The Lion King Photo by Joan Marcus

It was revealed this week that the musical, which played its 7,000th Broadway performance Sept. 3, is now the top-earning title in box-office history for both stage productions and films, according to the Associated Press. The Lion King boasts a worldwide gross of over $6.2 billion, more than any other stage work or film in history.

There are ten concurrent worldwide productions of the musical. Five of those productions have been running for ten years or longer.

The Phantom of the Opera previously held the record, with a worldwide gross of $6 billion. In film the title was held by "Avatar," which grossed $2.8 billion worldwide.

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