PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 20-26: Pump Boys Back on Broadway, Nathan Lane as The Nance, TKTS

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26 Oct 2012

Cover art for "Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History
Cover art for "Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History"

During the unending hubbub and hullabaloo that swirled around Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark during its first, turbulent year of Broadway existence, it was easy to forget the playwright Glen Berger had anything to do with the complicated project. Berger's the man who co-authored the book. Prior to his involvement with the monolithic show, he was just a nice little Off-Broadway playwright with a tiny, but respectable reputation. When Spider-Man was daily fodder for the gossip columns and nightly news, Julie Taymor, Bono, The Edge and whatever actor had been injured that week were the starring players. Berger was rarely, if ever, mentioned. And he probably liked it that way.

Well, we're going to be hearing a lot more from Berger in the future on the subject of Spider-Man. And it's his own fault. In the tradition of William Gibson's "The Seesaw Log" and James Kirkwood's "Diary of a Mad Playwright," Berger has penned an showbiz memoir. Simon & Schuster will publish "Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History," chronicling his journey with the production. The publication date is to be determined.

The announcement can't be happy news for Taymor, who specially selected the obscure Berger to work with her on Spider-Man. The two had a nasty split in 2011, and Taylor named Berger in the suit she filed against the producers after she was dismissed from the project. The suit is still pending.

Jonathan Karp of Simon & Schuster is unperturbed. He told the New York Times, "I just think it's a good story. From the pages I've seen, I think it will be an insightful and entertaining account of the making of this musical."


Nathan Lane
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Nathan Lane has been mentioned in the past as the probable star in the Lincoln Center Theater production of The Nance, a new play from Douglas Carter Beane, which will debut on Broadway March 21, 2013, at the Lyceum Theatre. This week, the casting was confirmed. The production will mark Beane's LCT debut, and a rare appearance of Broadway star Lane at the nonprofit (he did The Frogs there)

Jack O'Brien, who will direct, has been developing the 1930s-set piece with Beane and Lane over the past few years. It takes its title from a staple vaudeville character, an effeminate homosexual male, who was featured in burlesque sketches and films of the era. The Nance is set during New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia's campaign to ban burlesque in the '30s. Hey, if LaGuardia's also a character, Lane could double in that part. In terms of stage ebullience, heft and height, the two men couldn't be a closer match.


Pump Boys and Dinettes, a musical about filling-station pump jockeys and waitresses, was a pretty sizable Off-Broadway hit in the early '80s, enough for it to transfer to Broadway, where it ran for a year and a half. It then toured the U.S., and also played London's West End. The musician-actor show was nominated for Tonys, including Best Musical, and gave the wonderful Debra Monk her Broadway debut. Still, for all that, it's rarely recalled today.

That will change when the show returns to Broadway in spring 2013 in a new production by Tony-winning director John Doyle, who is best known for having actors play musical instruments in Company and Sweeney Todd, on Broadway. Mary-Mitchell Campbell will provide new arrangements and orchestrations (and is music supervisor) for the loose-knit revue, which is set below the Mason Dixon Line. Doyle's version — "a fully interactive and immersive experience" — will include on-stage seating and a working bar, a la Once. Which begs the question: what kind of roadside diner has a liquor bar? 


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