PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Sept. 22-28: Can I Get a Hand?

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Sept. 22-28: Can I Get a Hand? "Lockout" and "Strike" were the words on everyone's lips on Broadway this week, and neither sounded too good on the ear.
The musician's strike of 2003 was the last work-stoppage on Broadway.
The musician's strike of 2003 was the last work-stoppage on Broadway.

Local One, the Broadway stagehands union and arguably the most powerful organized workforce in the theatre, and the League of American Theatres and Producers have been trying to hammer out a new working contract since last summer, but, as September draws to a close, there is no pact in sight. And so both sides and outside observers began to wonder if Broadway would be open for business come next week.

The League has been making noise that it's through talking and, if its final offer isn't accepted by Local One, it may lock out of the stagehands. A lockout, the thinking goes, would allow the League, and not the union, to control the timing of a work stoppage. (No producer wants a strike for Christmas.) At press time, things seemed to have softened a bit, with the possibility of extended talks being mentioned as a "third way" of dealing with the deadlock.

Past reports have identified the "load-in" as the main sticking point in the talks. The load-in refers to the period when the sets, costumes and equipment for a new show are loaded into a Broadway theatre. The expensive process takes a few days, and requires by contract a large number of stagehands working for a set number of hours, regardless of the producers' specific workforce needs. There's nothing producers hate more than paying for workers that they don't need. The union argues that the load-in rules safeguard the livelihoods of their members in what is an unpredictable and ever-fluctuating business. They've also pointed out that Broadway isn't exactly unprofitable lately.

Some producers have not had to worry about all this mishegoss. The nonprofit giants (MTC, LCT, Roundabout) are regulated by a different contract, as is Disney's New Amsterdam. And Young Frankenstein is playing in the non-League Hilton Theater, and would probably open whatever happens, according to the New York Times. Mel Brooks' selection of the Hilton for his musical was questioned by some parties. Maybe Mel knew what he was doing all along.

*** Talk of a lockout hasn't stopped producers from planning new shows, of course. A new revival of Clifford Odets' The Country Girl, mentioned as a possibility in the past, now looks to be a reality. Mike Nichols — who could probably get somebody to back him on a new production of Good Vibrations — will direct. A casting notice reveals that rehearsals for the 1950 drama will begin in January 2008 with an opening later this season. No cast was mentioned, but The New York Post previously reported that Morgan Freeman will likely play the alcoholic actor Frank Elgin and Frances McDormand will be Elgin's wife Georgie.

Not quite in the same category, but still technically a "Broadway show," will be an upcoming Nov. 1-12 engagement at the Barrymore Theatre by the British New Wave pop group Duran Duran. Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor and Roger Taylor will all be there to celebrate the debut of the group's upcoming CD, "Red Carpet Massacre." Let's just hope this doesn't get somebody thinking about a jukebox musical based on the Duran Duran catalog. The lyrics of "The Reflex" barely makes sense on their own, let alone as part of a story.

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Complete casting was announced this week for the upcoming La Jolla Playhouse stage debut of the new musical Cry-Baby. Newcomer James Snyder will star in the title role and Harriet Harris will be Mrs. Vernon-Williams, joined by Elizabeth Stanley as Allison, Carly Jibson as Pepper, Chester Gregory II as Dupree and Christopher Hanke as Baldwin.

The California run is slated for Nov. 6-Dec. 16 at the La Jolla company's Mandell Weiss Theatre. A March 2008 bow on Broadway is targeted with an official opening in April. Mark Brokaw stages and Rob Ashford choreographs.

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Finally, people apparently want to know how Peter and Jerry, the two characters in Edward Albee's The Zoo Story, got that way. Albee's Peter and Jerry, which pairs Zoo Story with a new sort of "prequel" play called Homelife, has extended its Off-Broadway run before performances have even begun. Previews begin Oct. 19 with an opening scheduled for Nov. 11. Previously announced for a run through Dec. 9, the show now adds three weeks of performances through Dec. 30.

James Snyder and Harriet Harris head the cast of <i>Cry-Baby</i>.
James Snyder and Harriet Harris head the cast of Cry-Baby.