PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 18-24: Jay-Z and Annie, the Bare Kids, the Lunts in NYC

By Robert Simonson
24 Aug 2012

How do you turn down the opportunity to play Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne?

The answer is: you don't. And so The Peccadillo Theatre Company has landed a couple big acting fish for it's New York City premiere of Jeffrey Hatcher="">'s new comedy Ten Chimneys, set at the theatrical couple's legendary Wisconsin home. It will begin performances Sept. 21 at Theatre at St. Clement's.

The cast will be led by two stage veterans. Byron Jennings is Alfred Lunt and Carolyn McCormick is Lynn Fontanne. Also in the cast are Mariette Hartley as Lunt's imperious mother Hattie and Michael McCarty as Sydney Greenstreet, who was a member of Lunt and Fontanne's acting ensemble before becoming a film heavy. A young Uta Hagen is also a character.



Ten Chimneys is set in 1938, during the rehearsal process for an upcoming production of Chekhov's The Seagull.

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Actors seem determined to put playwrights out of business.

The latest performer to pen a script is Chazz Palminteri, who made his Broadway debut in his one-man show A Bronx Tale. He has now written a new play entitled Human, a morality tale set on Wall Street which is aiming for a Broadway bow in fall 2013. Palminteri will also star in the production, which will be directed by Jerry Zaks.

Meanwhile, Bullet for Adolf, a new comedy by "Cheers" actor Woody Harrelson and Frankie Hyman that officially opened in its American premiere Aug. 8 at Off-Broadway's New World Stages, has extended its run through October. Performances were originally scheduled to continue through Sept. 9. The production will now end its run Oct. 21.

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Up at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA, meanwhile, a drama critic has taken away a production sport from playwrights.

Satchmo at the Waldorf, a one-man play about jazz musician Louis Armstrong, written by longtime Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout, will play Aug. 22-Sept. 16, prior to a run in New Haven, CT. John Douglas Thompson plays dual roles—the famed trumpeter and Joe Glaser, Armstrong's mob-connected manager. The play is set in 1971, before Armstrong's final performance. It is Teachout's first play. Gordon Edelstein directs, and will do the same at Long Wharf Theatre, where he is artistic director, later in the fall.

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Finally, Colony Music, the Times Square-area institution where show-tune lovers, theatre performers and a range of singers and musicians sought sheet music, piano-vocal scores, Broadway cast albums and pop records for 64 years, will close its doors around Oct. 1. Business partner Richard Turk said the closure of the store, located in the famous Brill Building at 49th Street and Broadway, is due to "increased expenses, decreased sales." Turk cited the explosion of online purveyors of sheet music and recordings.

Colony is a one of the last vestiges of a bygone Times Square, one that was not only a theatre center, but a music mecca, with song pluggers toiling in the Brill Building to write hit songs for the singing stars of the day, who might debut the new tunes in one of the many cabarets and jazz clubs that littered midtown Manhattan. Today, nobody write songs in the Brill Building, and there are no clubs where such songs would be heard. People now download their music. They don't visit a physical store to buy albums and singles.

Still, for a Broadway composer, seeing your sheet music in the window of Colony was still one indication that you had made it. Turk said that he thinks he will be work on a book about the Colony's place in the American music scene. He told an anecdote about James Brown, who walked in one day perhaps 30 years ago. Brown sniffed the air and said, "Yeah, baby, this smells like a music store."