PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 30-June 5: Barack Obama's Come and Gone

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05 Jun 2009

President Barack Obama at <I>Joe Turner's Come and Gone</I>
President Barack Obama at Joe Turner's Come and Gone
Noel Calingasan
All it took were two theatregoers visiting from Washington, DC, to upstage the hubbub of the days leading up to the Tony Awards.

OK, it was President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. According to the White House, Barack, like any hard-working husband might have, promised Michelle he'd take her to a Broadway show after the campaign was over. It took six months for him to make good on his promise, but he finally did. The show in question was the revival of August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone — a choice which must have had the folks up at Lincoln Center Theater jumping up and down for a few days and dreaming of the invites to State dinners that were sure to come in the future.

A huge crowd gathered outside the Belasco Theatre to catch a glimpse of the First Couple, and all the ruckus caused the curtain to rise an hour late. Which made for a late evening, since brevity was never August Wilson's strong suit.

The GOP did their best to tar the event as frivolous, saying it was inappropriate for taxpayers to foot the bill for such a trip, and it was in bad form against the backdrop of General Motors' bankruptcy filing. But it was a losing battle. Presidents go on trips, and most of them go to Broadway at some point during their tenure; Americans are used to such events. (Maybe Republicans were just bitter that the overwhelmingly liberal theatre community was so overjoyed that Obama was visiting, whereas President Bush might have had to add on extra security if he had chosen to enter Times Square.) Mayor Michael Bloomberg, meanwhile, lauded the visit, perhaps as a way to remind the voting public that, though he's running for a third term as a Republican, he used to be a Democrat back in the 1990s.

The Obama visit, of course, helped box-office sales. The number of advance tickets sold May 31 was triple the number purchased the previous Sunday.



Whether the trip will help Joe Turner win the Tony is another matter. Most Broadway prognosticators have made their predictions by now, and the consensus seems to go like this: Best Play, God of Carnage; Best Musical, Billy Elliot; Best Revival of a Play, The Norman Conquests; Best Revival of a Musical, Hair. For those out there who think art has borders, that's one win for France, two for Britain and one for the U.S.

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Did you think the open-and-shut case of Desire Under the Elms was going to get star Brian Dennehy down?

No, sir! He's back on that horse. The Tony-winning actor will return to Broadway next season in the Goodman Theatre's production of Eugene O'Neill's Hughie (playing a deluded, lonely, small-time gambler who won't stop talking) and Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape (playing a deluded, lonely, small-time writer who never talks at all, except on tape).

The double-bill, according to The New York Times, will arrive on Broadway at a theatre to be announced April 12, 2010. Goodman Theatre artistic director Robert Falls will direct Hughie. Canadian director Jennifer Tarver will direct Beckett's one-man Krapp's Last Tape, as she did in Stratford, Ontario. The double bill will first play Chicago's Goodman in January 2010.

God of Carnage's Harden, Gandolfini, Davis and Daniels
photo by Brigitte Lacombe
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There's more money in store for the producers and actors in Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage. Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden, the cast members of the show — the biggest hit play of the season — have agreed to extend.

God of Carnage will begin a hiatus July 27 to allow the actors to fulfill previous commitments. Performances will resume Sept. 8.

They should call it God of Coinage.

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Previews for the San Diego world premiere of The First Wives Club — A New Musical are now set to begin on July 17, two days later than previously announced, according to The Old Globe Theatre. The musical features a book by Tony Award winner Rupert Holmes and a score by Motown hit-makers and Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductees Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, the threesome who created hits for Martha and The Vandellas, The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops and The Supremes.

The show — much like the current 9 to 5 — is based on hit film comedy about three women who empower themselves against a male-dominated society. The cast features Adriane Lenox, Barbara Walsh and Karen Ziemba.

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Brooklyn Academy of Music has unveiled programming for its fall 2009 Next Wave Festival, which will feature the BAM Regulars For Life, directors Robert Lepage and Robert Wilson.

Lepage is having nothing of the current 90-minutes-no-intermission trend currently gripping New York theatre. He's arriving with his eight-hour epic Lipsynch, a production of Ex Machina and Théâtre sans Frontières, billed as "an epic drama exploring manifestations of modern vocal expression." Wilson, meanwhile, will deliver Quartett, a production of Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe, based on Heiner Müller's play, featuring acclaimed French actress Isabelle Huppert.

Think Obama might be interested in either of those?