PLAYBILL.COM'S WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 24-30: Hedda, Hair and Thriller — the Musical

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 24-30: Hedda, Hair and Thriller — the Musical Roundabout Theatre Company's Hedda Gabler, which opened Jan. 25 at the American Airlines Theatre, is, according to Internet Broadway Database, the 19th time Henrik Ibsen's play has been produced on the Great White Way.
Hedda Gabler star Mary-Louise Parker
Hedda Gabler star Mary-Louise Parker Photo by Nigel Parry

This new run starring Mary-Louise Parker and directed by Ian Rickson is a "new adaptation" by Christopher Shinn, the respected writer of such plays as Dying City, Four and What Didn't Happen.

The production's style has a contemporary feel to it (particularly in the title role) that critics were not expecting (and did not embrace). From the start, though, Roundabout called the approach a "new interpretation" of the classic.

The domestic tragedy of an 1880s Norwegian wife trapped in married life that she hates also features Swedish-born actor Peter Stormare, making his Broadway debut, as venal Judge Brack; Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris (Assassins) as Hedda's dry professor-husband Jorgen Tesman; Paul Sparks (of Broadway's Take Me Out) as Ejlert Lovborg; Lois Markle (Broadway's True West) as maid Berte; Ana Reeder (Broadway's Top Girls) as Mrs. Thea Elvsted; and Helen Carey (a Tony nominee for Roundabout's London Assurance) as Tesman's aunt.

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Roundabout revealed Jan. 25 that in the 2009-10 season it will revive the Tony Award-winning musical comedy Bye Bye Birdie, directed and choreographed by Robert Longbottom, and Noël Coward's showbiz comedy, Present Laughter, directed by Nicholas Martin and starring Victor Garber. A revival of Miss Julie, starring Sienna Miller, will also be part of the upcoming season. *

Casting is now complete for the Broadway revival of the era-defining rock musical Hair, which arrives at the Hirschfeld March 6 following an extended Central Park engagement last summer. Will Swenson, who created the role of Berger in the 40th anniversary concert and subsequent 2008 Delacorte production of Hair, will again star as the free-spirited tribe member. Also returning for the Broadway production are original Delacorte cast members Megan Lawrence as Mother and Bryce Ryness as Woof. The role of Sheila, originally announced to be played by Eden Espinosa, will be portrayed by Caissie Levy (Broadway's Hairspray and, as Elphaba, in the Broadway and Los Angeles companies of Wicked). Dionne ("Aquarius") will be played by Sasha Allen, who appeared in the film "Camp." She replaces Patina Renea Miller, who will make her London debut in the musical adaptation of Sister Act.

Hair also stars Tony nominee Gavin Creel as Claude as well as Allison Case (Crissy), Kacie Sheik (Jeanie), Steel Burkhardt (Electric Blues Quartet), Andrew Kober (Margaret Mead, Dad) and Darius Nichols (Hud), with Lauren Elder, Allison Guinn, Anthony Hollock, John Moauro, Ato Blankson-Wood, Brandon Pearson, Paris Remillard, Maya Sharpe, Theo Stockman, Tommar Wilson, Jackie Burns, Kaitlin Kiyan, Nicole Lewis, Megan Reinking and Saycon Sengbloh.

Diane Paulus directs, toward an official opening March 31.

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Roy A. Somlyo, 83, a producer and general manager of more than 100 shows on Broadway, London and on tour, and an architect of the Tony Awards as we know it today, died Jan. 29. Born Sept. 2, 1925, in Detroit, the New Yorker had battled cancer in recent years, friends said. Somlyo was the first managing producer for Tony Award Productions, and, according to the American Theatre Wing, which co-presents the awards with The Broadway League, "was the architect of the current Tony Awards structure and presentation."

Somlyo was president of the American Theatre Wing for five years, serving through the 2003 Tony Awards.

His career in Broadway theatre began in the late 1940s as a production assistant on Goodbye, My Fancy (1949).

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When you lose one of your marquee stars during a limited engagement, can you recoup? The answer this week, from the producers of Broadway's Speed-the-Plow, is "yes." David Mamet's Hollywood-set play (continuing to Feb. 22) lost Jeremy Piven to what he said were health issues, but replacements Norbert Leo Butz and the current William H. Macy (and all the press about the cast change) helped push the show into the black. It helps that well-reviewed Raúl Esparza and Elisabeth Moss, and director Neil Pepe, were also part of the package.

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It became public this week that the national tour of the Tony Award-winning revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific will launch at San Francisco's Golden Gate Theatre in September 2009. Casting and other cities have not been announced.

The Broadway gods giveth and taketh away: While SHN (Shorenstein Hays Nederlander) announced that the classic wartime musical has been added to its Best of Broadway season in the City by the Bay, the pre-Broadway premiere of the new musical Ever After, which was to play the Curran Theatre there, has been indefinitely postponed. Based on the 1998 film, the new musical Ever After features a score by Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler, with a book by playwright Theresa Rebeck and Heisler.

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It also surfaced this week that the Nederlander Organization has acquired the rights to produce a new musical based on the 14-minute "Thriller" video spawned from Michael Jackson's top-selling album of the same name. The 1982 "Thriller" video was a "horror film spoof in which a young couple are out on a date on a beautiful full moon evening, when suddenly the young man, played by Jackson, turns into a werewolf." The production will feature songs from both "Thriller" and Jackson's "Off the Wall" albums.

Grammy winner Jackson is expected to be part of the creation of the new musical. James L. Nederlander, President of the Nederlander Organization, said in a statement, "I love the idea of making 'Thriller' a musical. Girl meets boy, they fall in love, boy has big secret, now what…"

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The Phantom is old enough to legally drink alcohol in the state of New York. The Harold Prince-directed Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera celebrated its 21st anniversary Jan. 26 at the Majestic Theatre. It played its 8,732nd performance at the house where the original South Pacific (and other legends) played, and is the longest-running show in Broadway history.

(Kenneth Jones is managing editor of Playbill.com.)

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