PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 11-19: Dance of Death

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17 Jan 2003

The producers of the camp gothic musical, Dance of the Vampires, reached for their hammer and wooden stake this week, announcing a closing date of Jan. 25, and not a moment too soon. The showmen behind today's Broadway flops are a stubborn breed. Unlike the backers of yesterday, who would pull the plug on a show an hour after getting across-the-board pans, it's now de rigueur to fight the powers that be, soldier on, get the word out, build an audience, triumph over the reviews, blah, blah, blah. My hat is off to Bob Boyett and company for knowing how and when to make an exit.



Vampires will have run 61 previews and 56 regular performances when it closes. The musical, which opened to critical disapproval Dec. 9, was capitalized at $12 million. The show will always have a place in theatre history since it was Michael Crawford's first new Broadway role since Phantom of the Opera. It also might be remembered as the first assignment director John Rando took after winning a Tony for triumphing with Urinetown—a questionable career move in the tradition of Walter Bobbie going from Chicago to Footloose and Robert Falls moving from Death of a Salesman to Aida.

Matthew Bourne, the man behind the innovative Swan Lake seen on Broadway in 1999, has bowed out of Disney's The Little Mermaid, which he was set to stage. Variety reported that Bourne told friends the Disney project was "too time consuming." The show had looked likely to be the next Disney project to hit the boards. According to librettist David Ives, the musical was to get a "round-table reading" in February and have an out-of-town tryout in spring 2004. The last Disney stage musical to bow in New York was Aida in early 2000.

Sam Mendes' Donmar Warehouse production of Twelfth Night has now been running at the Brooklyn Academy of Music for more than a week. It has quickly become a sought-after ticket and a word of mouth dream, with people speaking of it and its stars, Emily Watson and Simon Russell Beale, in heraldic terms. The show's repertory twin, Uncle Vanya, began performance on Jan. 16. At present there are no plans to bring either show across the East River, but there has been a precedent set this very season: Fiona Shaw's Medea, which stared at BAM and is now at the Brooks Atkinson.

Off-Broadway, the New York premiere of David Lindsay-Abaire's Kimberly Akimbo began previews at Manhattan Theatre Club. The young playwright got off to a fast start with his Fuddy Meers, which had a brief commercial transfer, but fared less well with the follow-up, Wonder of the World, despite the presence of publicity-fetching Sarah Jessica Parker. Kimberly suffered a setback when it lost its announced star Marisa Tomei to the upcoming Broadway revival of Sweet Charity. However, the play had a good showing at South Coast Rep and picked up the prestigious Kesselring Prize since then. Lindsay-Abaire regular Marylouise Burke stars.

The latest Jerry Herman revue, Showtune, will transfer from the Helen Hayes Theatre in Nyack, NY, to Off Broadway's Theater at St. Peter's for a six-week run starting Feb. 18. Karen Murphy and Martin Vidnovic will star.

Also Off-Broadway, the Signature Theatre Company has begun its revival of Lanford Wilson's Fifth of July. The play was a big hit on Broadway in 1980, and is part of Wilson's Talley Trilogy (which also includes Talley's Folly and Tally and Son). Tony Award-winner Robert Sean Leonard stars with Parker Posey and Pamela Payton-Wright.

Regionally, Houston's Alley Theatre, which has stuck by playwright Edward Albee through times lean and fat, is currently reveling in the dramatist's late-career heyday. It is offering an Albee double feature — Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, starring two-time Tony winner Judith Ivey as Martha, and the regional premiere of The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?. At the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, Long Island, Julie Andrews (artistic director Emma Walton's mom, dontcha know) will return to The Boy Friend, the 1954 musical that marked her Broadway debut. No, she won't star. Andrews will direct a production of the Sandy Wilson musical. The venture is scheduled to begin performances Aug. 5, and there are hopes that the musical will find its way to Broadway.

Victoria Clark, who is about to go into Urinetown as Miss Pennywise, will star in the Intiman Theatre's production of Adam Guettel's The Light in the Piazza this spring. She will play the lead role of Margaret, the mother, in the new musical, which is based on the Elizabeth Spencer novella of the same name.

The Tony Awards Administration Committee got together Jan. 16 and came up with a few of their always-interesting decisions. Billy Joel and Twyla Tharp's modern ballet Movin' Out will be eligible for the Best Musical category, and La Bohème, Baz Luhrmann's staging of the classic Puccini opera, will be eligible in the Best Revival of a Musical category.

In another puzzling edict, Republican New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the bill banning cell phone use in theatres, which was introduced Aug. 15, 2002, by New York's City Council. Bloomberg reasoned that the law did "not directly affecting public health or safety," and would be too difficult to enforce. Of course, many of our country's law are nearly unenforceable; the ones outlawing prostitution and drugs come immediately to mind. Republicans usually like those kind of laws. And then there was the recent ruling banning smoking in restaurants. Who was behind that one again?