Starting June 20, the Williamstown Theatre Festival will provide New England with quality stage entertainment one more time, as it begins its Main Stage season with, yes, One Mo' Time, the Vernel Bagneris musical. The show plays through July 1 and is directed by Bagneris, who also stars.
One Mo' Time takes the audience back to New Orleans' Lyric Theatre on a steamy night in 1926. A cast of five — which also includes Rosalind Brown, B.J. Crosby, Wally Dunn and Roz Ryan — sing Charlestons, rags, cakewalks and other characteristic numbers of the time. Theatregoers should also expect a sampling of Bagneris' signature limber-limbed dancing.
One Mo' Time opened Off-Broadway at the Village Gate in 1979 and ran for three and a half years. The show eventually had runs in London, Australia and across the U.S. It also inspired a sequel, titled Further Mo'. Bagneris' other credits include Jelly Roll, The Life, Staggerlee and the film "Pennies from Heaven."
Next up on the mainstage is A Winter's Tale, running July 4-15.
* Mariette Hartley plays the title role in A.R. Gurney's new comedy, Buffalo Gal, which opened at the Williamstown Theatre Festival on June 13 and runs through June 24. The play officially opened the 2001 season of the Nikos Stage, the smaller of WTF's two theatres.
Hartley plays a famous actress who returns to her hometown of Buffalo to star in a production of The Cherry Orchard, but is unexpectedly confronted with the sale of her grandmother's house (shades of Chekhov) and the reborn affections of her high school sweetheart.
Becky Ann Baker, Michi Barall, Michael Mastro and Peter Francis James are also in the cast. John Tillinger directs.
As reported earlier, film star and heartthrob Chris O'Donnell will star in the Williamstown Theatre Festival production of Arthur Miller's seldom seen, early play The Man Who Had All the Luck. The famous 1944 Broadway flop that preceded All My Sons and Death of a Salesman is directed by Scott Ellis. The show will run on the Main Stage July 18-29.
O'Donnell spent the '90s starring in such films as "Scent of a Woman" with Al Pacino, "Men Don't Leave" with Jessica Lange and "Circle of Friends" with Minnie Driver. His most widely-seen performance, however, was probably as Robin in "Batman Forever," the 1995 addition to the "Batman" movie franchise.
Mason Adams, who has recently graced the New York stage in such Signature Theatre Company productions as Horton Foote's The Last of the Thorntons and John Guare's Lake Hollywood, will co-star.
The second selection on the Main Stage, Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale, will feature a large and seasoned cast. Joining the already announced Kate Burton and Kristine Nielson will be Dylan Baker (That Championship Season, Tartuffe), Chris Fitzgerald (Fully Committed), Stephen DeRosa (Newyorkers) and Laura Benanti (Swing!, Time and Again). Burton played her now Broadway-bound Hedda Gabler at Williamstown last summer.
In another recent change in the WTF schedule, a planned revival of the obscure Paddy Chayefsky comedy The Latent Heterosexual has been replaced by Willy Russell's Educating Rita. Bruce Paltrow remains the director for this, the second selection on the Nikos stage.
Earlier this spring, comic film actor Mike Myers ("Austin Powers") had been announced as the star of the Chayefsky. Edward Herrmann will star in Rita.
Eric Bogosian will make his WTF debut on the Nikos Stage, starring in Diva, a Howard M. Gould comedy about a spoiled film actress trying to break into television. Bebe Neuwirth, John Michael Higgins and C.J. Wilson will also star.
Finally, "Dawson's Creek" star Michelle Williams will head the cast of a new mounting of Elmer Rice's naturalistic classic, Street Scene, presumedly taking the role of Rose Maurrant, the doomed tenement dwelling daughter of an adulterous mother and murderous father. The production, directed by Michael Grief, is in the tradition of such sprawling, large cast Williamstown productions as the revival of Dead End of several seasons ago.
The season will run as follows:
• One Mo' Time, written and directed by Vernel Bagneris, June 20 July 1. A revival of the blues-flavored revue that played Off-Broadway in the early '90s.
• The Winter's Tale, by William Shakespeare, directed by Darko Tresnjak, July 4-15. The late tragedy of jealousy and redemption by the Bard. Tresnjak has directed a couple productions at the Blue Light Theatre Off-Broadway over the last couple years.
• The Man Who Had All the Luck, by Arthur Miller, directed by Scott Ellis, July 18-29.
• Street Scene, by Elmer Rice, directed by Michael Grief, Aug. 1-12. Rice's gritty tale of a hot June day and its impact on the inhabitants of a cramped tenement. A cast of 50 is advertised.
• Philadelphia, Here I Come!, by Brian Friel, directed by Kyle Donnelly, Aug. 15-26. Friel's tale of an young Irish man (and his alter ego) trying to make peace with his homeland and his father before setting off for America.
• Buffalo Girl, by A.R. Gurney, director John Tillinger, June 13-24. A new play by the author of Far East, about a Buffalo born actress who returns to her hometown to play in The Cherry Orchard and encounters an old beau and the sale of her grandma's house.
• Educating Rita, by Willy Russell, directed by Bruce Paltrow, June 27-July 8.
• Diva, by Howard M. Gould, directed by Neel Keller, July 11-22. A workshop production of a comedy about a spoiled film actress trying to break into television.
• The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter and The Zoo Story by Edward Albee, directed by Joe Mantello, July 25-Aug. 5. Two classic one-acts from two authors, one British and one American, deeply influenced by Samuel Beckett.
• Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Toward the Somme, by Frank McGuinness, directed by Nicholas Martin, Aug. 9-19. A drama about eight Irish nationalists serving in World War I.
In addition to the above production, a workshop of Beth Blatt and Jenny Giering's new musical The Mistress Cycle is planned. The show takes a look at the life of mistresses around the world and down through the years. Audra McDonald is rumored to star. McDonald recorded Giering's "I Follow" on her album "Way Back to Paradise." Also to be workshopped is Donald Margulies' latest, God of Vengeance. The adaptation of the Yiddish classic premiered at Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre in spring 2000. As in Seattle, Gordon Edelstein directs.
The festival will also feature a weekly reading series, with new plays being given an airing every Friday at 3 PM, starting on June 29.