PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, April 13-19: Motown, The Nance, Big Knife, Assembled Parties, Orphans, Jekyll & Hyde Open

By Robert Simonson
19 Apr 2013

Alec Baldwin
Photo by Joan Marcus
Lyle Kessler's three-person drama Orphans finally opened after being gossip fodder for weeks, its original star, Shia LaBeouf, having left the production early in rehearsals (while never having actually left the production alone, discussing it on talk shows and ostentatiously attending the first preview).

That pre-history fed into some of the notices. The Times called it "timid" and wondered, "Perhaps the participants in this revival felt that they had had enough of fireworks for a while, so they decided to make nice, tread gently and, in the case of Alec Baldwin, keep a respectful distance from the proceedings."

Some thought the production bang-up entertainment. "It's a shame that it took 30 years to bring this briskly entertaining, deeply affecting play to Broadway; but at least Orphans has arrived in good hands," wrote Entertainment Weekly, while the Daily News said, "Baldwin, never shy about speaking his own mind offstage, is fully in his comfort zone. He delivers a wily magnetic star turn." Hollywood Reporter said, "This dynamite production of Lyle Kessler's play needs no assist from offstage friction to galvanize attention."


Others, however, took a hammer to the play, saying it was never much more than "cut-rate Pinter" (Bloomberg) and "mock-Shepard crossed with sub-sub-Pinter, leached of poetry, menace and mystery" (Time Out).



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Quite frankly, it would be a lot more fun—and more honest—to weigh the critics' appraisal of the return of Frank Wildhorn's Jekyll & Hyde by quoting their tweets instead of their actual reviews. "Once again, ladies and gents, my one-star review of JEKYLL & HYDE," tweeted Adam Feldman of Time Out, to which Terry Teachout replied, "Why so generous?"

That was about the gist of it.

But an appraisal of the revival can't be concluded without quoting the Times review, which, in what is sure to become a timeless piece of coinage, called Wildhorn musicals "the crab grass of Broadway."

As for the rest of the reviews, they were negative, and they were fair.

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In a season not crowded with contenders, Ayad Akhtar's Disgraced, which played a fall 2012 engagement at the Claire Tow Theater, part of Lincoln Center Theater's new works initiative, LCT3, was named the winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Finalists included Rapture, Blister, Burn by Gina Gionfriddo and 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog, another LCT production from the LCT3 program. So Lincoln Center's feeling pretty good this week, I imagine.

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Woody Allen
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The Susan Stroman-helmed musical adaptation of Woody Allen's film Bullets Over Broadway will open on Broadway at the St. James Theatre in spring 2014, producers announced April 18.

As previously reported, Stroman will direct and choreograph the musical that has been adapted by Allen from his 1994 film, which he co-wrote with Douglas McGrath. The musical will incorporate pre-existing songs from the period.

In other show-shuffling news, the long-running, international hit musical Mamma Mia!, which is currently celebrating 12 years on Broadway, will transfer from the Winter Garden Theatre to the Broadhurst Theatre, presently the home of the limited engagement of the late Nora Ephron's Lucky Guy, in late 2013.

Scuttlebut has it the new musical version of Rocky will take up residence at the Winter Garden. If it does move in, it will be only the third occupant of that theatre since 1982. Cats gobbled up 18 years, and Mamma Mia! the last 12. Imagine how many years would have been consumed if someone had written a musical in which cats sang ABBA songs.

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In a notable cultural mash-up of two titanic New York music icons, theatre composer Stephen Sondheim and jazz musician Wynton Marsalis will collaborate on A Bed And a Chair: A New York Love Story, a new musical event for New York City Center. John Doyle will direct.

The show features Sondheim's music arranged and performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Marsalis. The program will feature more than two-dozen Sondheim compositions, each piece newly re-imagined by Marsalis. Singers will be drawn from both the jazz and Broadway worlds.

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Finally, it was announced that playwright John Guare will star in the Off-Broadway world premiere of his new play 3 Kinds of Exile, staged by Neil Pepe, at the Atlantic Theater Company later this spring.

Guare is not know as an actor, of course. But perhaps he thought, what will all the actors around these days writing plays, why not? The street runs both ways, after all.