By Kenneth Jones
04 Mar 2003
The titles of the respective works by Richard Greenberg, composer Matt Sklar and librettist-lyricist Chad Beguelin, Regina Taylor and Daniel Goldfarb were previously reported by Playbill On-Line as being explored by the respected not-for-profit known recently for Proof and The Tale of the Allergist's Wife.
Off-Broadway's MTC becomes Broadway's MTC in the fall, when the troupe relights the old Biltmore Theatre with the New York premiere of Greenberg's The Violet Hour. Previews begin Oct. 16 followed by a Nov. 6 opening. Evan Yionoulis directs.
MTC will continue to maintain its two Off-Broadway spaces, Stage I and Stage II at City Center on 55th Street. The Biltmore is expected to be renamed. The theatre company has been seeking "naming opportunities" — a common practice these days, allowing a patron to have part of a venue named after the donor — as part of its $35 million capital campaign, executive producer Barry Grove previously told Playbill On-Line.
Perhaps the most surprising news of the 2003-04 season announcement is the resurfacing of The Rhythm Club, a musical about young people in Nazi Germany who are energized and inspired by the free spiritedness of American swing music. It had a regional tryout at Signature Theatre in Virginia in 2000 and was slated for a further Chicago tryout before a Broadway start in spring 2001. A major investor pulled out and spoiled that plan. Allan and Beth Williams were the commercial producers shepherding the show.
Eric Schaeffer, artistic director of the Signature and of the 2002 Sondheim Celebration at the Kennedy Center, will again direct The Rhythm Club, which has gone through rewrites in its down time.
In 2003-04 Manhattan Theatre Club will present three plays at the Biltmore, two shows at Stage I and two shows at Stage II, artistic director Lynne Meadow and executive producer Barry Grove announced March 4.
The other two Biltmore works are Regina Taylor's Drowning Crow, a modern reconsideration of Chekhov's The Seagull, re-set in the Gullah islands of South Carolina and directed by Marion McClinton (previews start Jan. 29, 2004, with a Feb. 19 opening) and the Broadway premiere of a previous MTC play, Donald Margulies' Sight Unseen, directed by Tony Award-winning Proof director Daniel Sullivan (previews start May 6, 2004, with a May 25 opening).
Greenberg's play, which had its world premiere in 2002 at South Coast Repertory Theatre (also directed by Evan Yionoulis), is set in 1919 and concerns a driven young publisher at the start of his career — "and the mysterious machine that could radically change his future," according to MTC.
Taylor's play focuses on a family of African-American artists coming together "for a very momentous few days." The world premiere was at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in 2002. Taylor is the actress-playwright who adapted Crowns for the stage.
Margulies' once-Off-Broadway play, Sight Unseen, is "the story of a world-famous artist and his battle with an ex-lover (and her current husband) over ownership of the portrait he painted of her years earlier."
At City Center, expect The Rhythm Club, with choreography by Jodi Moccia, at Stage I (dates to be announced) and Goldfarb's Sarah, Sarah on Stage II (dates to be announced). The latter is a world premiere comedy "about the ties that bind a family together — through thick and thin, for better or for worse."
Two additional productions will be announced for the season. If tradition indicates anything, MTC is likely fishing in London in order to bring its loyal subscribers an American premiere. Seasons are always subject to change.
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According to MTC notes, "the Biltmore Theatre (261 West 47th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue) has been vacant since 1987, when it suffered extensive structural and cosmetic damage from arson and vandals. The devastation put the theatre's return to legitimate theatrical use in serious jeopardy. The theatre originally opened in 1925 with the play, Easy Come, Easy Go and in the 1930s, was the favorite house of director George Abbott, housing his productions of Brother Rat and All That Glitters, among others. The theatre has been the home for many other distinguished plays and musicals, including My Sister Eileen (1940), The Heiress (1947), Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park (1963) and the landmark musical, Hair (1968)."