If this column is a little shorter than usual it's because I've been on the road. I'm actually writing this from an Internet cafe in Vienna, after banging out a rough draft in Geneva, Switzerland. That said, New York and London remain the focus of the column this week...
Stars from both upcoming New York productions of The Wild Party can currently be seen in movie theatres. "The Boys," which Toni Collette filmed in Australia a few years ago, finally opened in Manhattan on Oct. 15. Collette's in the Public Theater/Broadway Wild Party, and Taye Diggs, of the Manhattan Theater Club Party, seems to have a penchant for paired projects. In addition to the MTC stint he stars in "The House on Haunted Hill," which is scheduled to open Oct. 29, although that date has been in question for a few weeks. Earlier this year, "The Haunting of Hill House" trimmed the last three words from its title to avoid confusion. (And his last film, "The Wood," came out on the same day as "The Blair Witch Project," which takes place in the woods. These analogies can arguably be taken too far...) Diggs' "The Best Man" opened Oct. 22; as best as I can tell, it doesn't have much in common with anything else out right now.
Don't shed too many tears for Hugh Jackman, whose acclaimed turn as Curley in the London production of Oklahoma! hit a snag on the way to Broadway in the form of Equity skirmishes. He was just snatched up as the new Wolverine in Bryan Singer's long-awaited "X-Men" film. Wolverine, the most popular of the superhero team, was the source of casting speculation for years, with Russell Crowe and Ed Norton among the named possibilities. Jackman was an eleventh-hour replacement for up-and comer Dougray Scott, whose work on "Mission Impossible II" went overtime and prevented him from making it to the "X-Men" set in time. Odds are good that filming will be over before Oklahoma! makes its way to New York.
* Madonna is apparently going highbrow. Her bustier will be hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art this winter. She's been invited to speak at Cambridge University next year. And now she's jumping on the Noel Coward bandwagon, albeit a year late: She plans to film his seldom-performed "Quadrille" next year in London and France. The plot involves two couples, one older and one younger, who change partners after the older man and younger woman run off together. Madonna plays the older woman. Gavin Millar, best known for his 1985 Lewis Carroll flick "Dreamchild," directs; his male leads in that film, Peter Gallagher and Ian Holm, wouldn't be bad for this one either.
Cutting-Room Floor: It sounds like "The Women" may finally happen - someday. Oliver Parker, who talked in an earlier column about adapting An Ideal Husband for the screen, has apparently been lined up. Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts own the rights to the all-woman piece, but it's unclear whether they'd star as well. The script has reportedly been through as many as 30 drafts. ... Another Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright has gone Hollywood. According to Variety, Robert Schenkkan (The Kentucky Cycle) is currently working on a draft of "Beach Music" by the oft-adapted Pat Conroy. ... Stage notables appearing in upcoming movies include Jay O. Sanders in "Ms. Streep's Opus"-- I mean, "Music of My Heart" (Oct. 29); Al Pacino, Diane Venora, Michael Gambon and Christopher Plummer in "The Insider" (Nov. 5); the voice of Billy Crudup in "Princess Mononoke" (Oct. 29); and Harold Pinter in an adaptation of Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park" (Nov. 5). And Jelly Roll Morton is a major character in "The Legend of 1900" (Oct. 29). Never mind that Morton was either 10 or 15 in 1900, depending on which reference book you use.
Your Thoughts: I'm adding this section from now on. A lot of you already write in with your thoughts and responses, and I promise I read them all (even if I don't respond to as many as I'd like to). But I've noticed that my mail skyrockets whenever I ask specific questions. So I'm concluding each column with at least one direct question. Here we go:
Does a marquee name make you more inclined to see a show?
Does it matter if it's a "Hollywood" name or a stage name (say, Tommy Lee Jones vs. Cherry Jones)?
Do you prefer to see a name performer stay within his typical confines (think Matthew Broderick in How to Succeed ... ) or in a completely new role (Broderick in Night Must Fall)?
By all means write in and let me know Your Thoughts.
-- Eric Grode is New York bureau chief of Show Music magazine, assistant editor of The Sondheim Review and a theatre critic for Back Stage.