Red carpets and cordons framed the sidewalk outside the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, causing plenty of gawkers to line up, perhaps under the misapprehension that they were witnessing a Hollywood film premiere. As for the crowd, a call for formal attire must have gone out, for half the men in the audience had donned tuxedos, a sight no longer seen at New York premieres outside the gala opening at the Metropolitan Opera. (Now, if only producers could control the attire of the largely slobbish critics corp, who typically arrive at the theatre in clothes better suited for the gym or trash day.) The crowd clapped heartily inside for a series of stage images and melodies that were etched into their minds some 30 years ago. This collective euphoria was dampened a bit some hours later when the critical reception proved mixed, with reviewers welcoming back the fine music and choreography, while remarking that the old magic was not there in full.
A Chorus Line was the only big Broadway opening of the week, but a number of other future hopefuls got underway. Grey Gardens, the cautionary/celebratory musical tale of two women with too much time, money and cats on their hands, began its Broadway run Oct. 3. Two days later, Nathan Lane began boozing and smoking his way through the title role in the new revival of Simon Gray's Butley.
Another Broadway show, Twyla Tharp's The Times They Are A-Chanin', decided the cast needed a-changin'. Standby Lisa Brescia was brought in to replace Caren Lyn Manuel in the role of “Cleo” in the Bob Dylan-scored musical. Brescia is the third person to play the role. Opening night for the show is Oct. 26.
*** If the current Signature Theatre Company season devoted to August Wilson isn't enough for you, The Kennedy Center has more from where that came from. Following its presentations of the works of Stephen Sondheim and Tennessee Williams, it will offer a month-long festival of August Wilson works in spring 2008. Wilson's ten-play cycle, which chronicles the African-American experience in the 20th century, will be offered in total. Each week a few of the plays will be presented as staged readings, while on the weekends all of the previous week's plays will be offered together. Kenny Leon, who is currently directing the Broadway-bound Radio Golf, will be the artistic director of the Kennedy Center series.
The Bushies and their followers, who still haven't wrapped their minds around that whole Darwin thing, will get another chance to grasp the concept in March 2007, when Boyett Ostar Productions and the Shubert Organization reenact the Scopes "Monkey" trial once more. Tony Award winners Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy will co-star in the limited engagement of Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's 1955 courtroom. Doug Hughes will direct at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre. Plummer will play the role of Henry Drummond (based on Clarence Darrow) with Dennehy as Matthew Harrison Brady (based on William Jennings Bryan). Santo Loquasto will do costumes and set—no doubt the only "intelligent design" to be found in the play. Sorry Middle America!