After an 8-month run and a Pulitzer-Prize nomination, Old Wicked Songs will close at off-Broadway's Promenade Theatre March 9. At that point, the show will have played 24 previews and 210 regular performances.
There had been speculation that the quieting of Songs might open the door to the previously announced, entirely different Jackie -- a campy, comic look at the life of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. (Initially titled "Jackie - An American Life, the show will now likely be titled Jackie - The Last Word On The First Lady.) According to lighting designer John Malinowski, however, that show has postponed, until the fall, with dates and venue to be announced in the summer.
Jackie playwright Gip Hoppe told Playbill On Line he hadn't yet heard about the closing of Songs and wasn't sure what plans are for his play. "I've been away and kind of out of the loop. We all knew Songs would close at some point in March, and I've been hearing rumors, but nothing further than that."
Only two months ago, Wicked Songs' producers were still anticipating a long run, though the New York Post announced that Jackie would be at the Promenade by February. "There's a real traffic jam on and Off Broadway," playwright Hoppe told Playbill On-Line in December. "And there are only four or five theatres big enough, which means over 350 seats."
Produced by Louise Westergaard, Bob Meyrowitz, Mark Schwartz and "Jackie International," Jackie stars Lane Burgess as the First Lady best known for her hats and husbands. Jackie ran for four months at Boston's Wilbur Theatre, closing only to make way for the tour of Master Class -- the irony being that Class' Maria Callas was Ari Onassis' main squeeze before he set his sights on the world's most glamorous widow. Jackie O died in 1994.
"Jackie is treated pristinely," producer Schwartz told Playbill On-Line, "and very straight. It's the people around her who are all zany. We've got eight actors playing 100 roles, with 180 costumes and 86 wigs. Oh, and 12 foot puppets -- it's hysterical." (According to Hoppe, some puppets actually reach 16 feet.)
Schwartz, who is also producing Dream on Broadway this season, told Ward Morehouse III of the Post, "All I can say [about Jackie] is that anyone who's anybody in her life, from her father, `Black Jack' Bouvier, to Jack Kennedy to JFK Jr. is in it. There's even a Nixon-Kennedy debate scene."
Hoppe said the the first version of Jackie was staged at the Academy Playhouse in Orleans, MA (near his Cape Cod home) back in 1992. The piece then transferred to Harvard's Hasty Pudding club . "I was looking to do a biography," Hoppe said, "but I wanted it to be large, expansive. So many of these things are one-person shows. It's not a spoof but it is non-realistic and broad, with a lot of comic elements."
Hoppe said he's doing some rewriting and adding new scenes. And the puppets? "Sometimes puppets can portray an attitude better than a live actor."
Meanwhile, Daryl Roth and Jeffrey Ash, the producers of Old Wicked Songs, are readying regional productions of Jon Marans' drama, as well as a national tour. (Bob Hoskins starred in the West End production, which closed in January.) Until the March 9 closing in NY, Hal Robinson and Justin Kirk will continue starring in the play, about a voice teacher helping a snotty piano prodigy make one last stab at renewing his belief in music.
For tickets ($42.50) and information on Old Wicked Songs at the Promenade Theatre, call (212) 580-1313.
--By David Lefkowitz