PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Sept. 23-29: Cat Tales

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29 Sep 2000

<I>Seussical</I> Gets Help; the legendary Chita Rivera; Celeste Holm, the original <I>Bloomer Girl</I>.
Seussical Gets Help; the legendary Chita Rivera; Celeste Holm, the original Bloomer Girl.
Photo by Holm photo by Aubrey Reuben

The new musical, Seussical, apparently exists so that theatre folk might avidly discuss its ups and downs. No fall show has been placed under a stronger microscope or has generated more gossip, debate, speculation. Talk of the Broadway-bound project has even eclipsed the previously deafening din surrounding the upcoming New York City revival of Follies, and that's saying something.

The new musical, Seussical, apparently exists so that theatre folk might avidly discuss its ups and downs. No fall show has been placed under a stronger microscope or has generated more gossip, debate, speculation. Talk of the Broadway-bound project has even eclipsed the previously deafening din surrounding the upcoming New York City revival of Follies, and that's saying something.

It was a week full of Seussical developments, beginning with the scrapping of the Sept. 26-30 performances at the Colonial Theatre in Boston, where the show tried out. Cast, crew and Cat in the Hat then decamped for an NYC rehearsal hall to work on the piece, with librettists Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (who respectively are also writing the lyrics and music) taking a hard look at Act Two. There was also a cast change. Anthony Blair Hall, the "JoJo" alternate in Boston, will play the role six times a week in New York and Andrew Keenan-Bolger will play the show twice a week. Why? Keenan-Bolger's voice is changing.

Soon after, there was an expected bump in the first New York preview;the producers bought three extra days by moving the first show at the Richard Rodgers from Oct. 15 to Oct. 18. The week ended with the rumor -- soon confirmed -- of the arrival of a play doctor in the figure of Rob Marshall. Marshall will not be replacing director Frank Galati or anyone else, but, since his sister Kathleen Marshall is the show's choreographer, his involvement may introduce another volatile element into the Seussical mix: sibling rivalry.

You lose a show, you gain a show. Early this past week, the producers of the expected Broadway revival of Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs revealed that the play would not happen this season. It was not long after, however, that Fox Theatricals firmed up their long-standing intention of bringing the Steppenwolf Theatre Company staging of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to Broadway in the spring. The stage adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel has played Chicago and London. If the Gotham mounting mirrors the original production, Gary Sinise and Amy Morton will star under Terry Kinney's guidance. (In Steppenwolf's last Broadway bid, Buried Child, Sinise directed Kinney, while, back in 1990's The Grapes of Wrath, the two shared the stage.)



Chita Rivera is a very busy little stage veteran, and the Garden State is the chief beneficiary. Soon after she ends her star turn in the Paper Mill Playhouse's current mounting of Cole Porter's Anything Goes, she will play an aging lady of the evening in Venecia, Argentine playwright Jorge Accame's gentle comedy, adapted and directed by Arthur Laurents, at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, NJ. After that, Rivera is planning to revive her own show, Chita and All That Jazz for a modest tour: London, Australia and New York City.

Encores! has announced which neglected musicals will get the concert treatment at City Center in 2001. They are Hair, the landmark 1968 rock musical which no one has by any means forgotten, but few young theatregoers have ever seen; A Connecticut Yankee, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's 1927 work about a modern-day man who finds himself in King Arthur's Court; and a 1944 Harold Arlen-E.Y. Harburg creation called Bloomer Girl.

This is indeed the season for this little known musical. A rare revival of Bloomer Girl only just closed. It was staged by Cotton Blossom Musicals, a Manhattan troupe devoted to socially-aware musical works. The tuner, set during the Civil War and concerning women's rights, starred Celeste Holm way back when. She played Evelina, the fictitious niece of Dolly Bloomer, the publisher of The Lily, an early feminist and abolitionist publication, and daughter of a prominent hoopskirts manufacturer. What with Bloomer Girl, the recent musicalization of High Society, ongoing talks of the Oklahoma! revival and the upcoming 50th anniversary screening of "All About Eve" at NYC's Film Forum, Holm must feel as if her life's constantly flashing before her eyes.