PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 29, 2012-Jan. 4, 2013: Pippin Back on Broadway, Starcatcher Back to Off-Broadway

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04 Jan 2013

Matthew James Thomas in <i>Pippin</i>.
Matthew James Thomas in Pippin.
Photo by Michael J. Lutch

It was a Stephen Schwartz kind of week on Broadway.

First we learned that Wicked, the composer's mammoth 2003 comeback hit, just won't stop being gol' dang popular.

For the ninth consecutive year, the musical at the Gershwin Theatre has out-grossed every other Broadway production, according to a statement released by the show. Wicked is the only musical in Broadway history to achieve that status for nine consecutive years. The Phantom of the Opera was Broadway's highest-grossing production for eight years, albeit not consecutively: 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1997. So witches beat phantoms, I guess.

The musical also set a new Broadway record for the highest one-week gross with a box-office take of $2,947,172, for the week ending Dec. 30. (Premium seats at a higher price is one reason for the huge take.) In the same week, Wicked set a new national touring record with a one-week gross of $2,755,070 in St. Louis.

That's a lot of records.

Meanwhile, producers keep raiding Schwartz's catalogue from the 1970s, when he was King of the Street, with three hit productions in a row. The revival of Godspell didn't go so well last season. It closed in a matter of months. But hope springs eternal in the breast of the American producer. So, the American Repertory Theater production of Pippin, the medieval pop musical fable by Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson, will transfer to Broadway's Music Box Theatre in March, Barry and Fran Weissler and Howard and Janet Kagan announced Jan. 3. Surely, many producer double-dates led to this enterprise. ("Fran! The Kagans are coming over again. What's for dinner?")

Pippin is still best remembered as the baby of director-choreographer Bob Fosse, who lent his trademark razzle-dazzle to the show. So the pilot of this first-ever Broadway revival is a matter of importance. The talent in question is Diane Paulus, who did well by Hair, another hippie-era musical that many thought beyond modern reclamation.

Paulus is turning A.R.T. into a Broadway-transfer powerhouse. The production marks the second A.R.T. revival to bow on Broadway, following last season's controversial, but money-making staging of Porgy and Bess, which took the 2012 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.

Pippin will begin Broadway previews March 23 at the Music Box toward an April 25 opening night. The musical first premiered 40 years ago at Broadway's Imperial Theatre Oct. 18, 1972, and ran for 1,944 performances.

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The once and future Broadway producers of Rebecca, The Musical have been granted an extension of the rights to stage the show in New York City, lead producer Ben Sprecher told Playbill.com on Jan. 2. A Broadway launch before the end of 2013 is the goal, he said, adding that the earlier cast of the staging that was scrapped after a financing scandal will be offered their roles. The previous co-directors and designers also remain attached.

VBW, under the direction of Thomas Drozda, licenses all international productions of the pop musical based on the gothic mystery romance by Daphne Du Maurier. Sprecher and his partners — who suddenly lost a third of their $12 million capitalization shortly before Broadway rehearsals were to begin late last summer — were again granted the rights "to continue to move forward" for an American premiere on Broadway. The rights period continues to Dec. 31, 2013.

Victoria Hamilton-Barritt

Over in London, the full cast was announced for the new production of A Chorus Line that begins performances at the London Palladium Feb. 5 prior to an official opening Feb. 19.

Joining the previously announced Victoria Hamilton-Barritt (Diana), John Partridge (Zach), Scarlett Strallen (Cassie) and Leigh Zimmerman (Sheila) are Lucy Adcock (Judy), Georgie Ashford (Trisha), Ed Currie (Bobby), Frances Dee (Kristine), Segun Fawole (Butch), Harry Francis (Mark), Simon Hardwick (Al), Rebecca Herszenhon (Val), James T Lane (Richie), Marc Leslie (Roy), Vicki Lee Taylor (Maggie), Daisy Maywood (Bebe), Alice Jane Murray (Lois), Alastair Postlethwaite (Larry), Andy Rees (Greg), Adam Salter (Mike), Alexzandra Sarmiento (Connie), Michael Steedon (Tom), Gary Watson (Don) and Gary Wood (Paul).

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Catch a falling star, put in your pocket, and walk it over to Off-Broadway.

The producers of the acclaimed Broadway show Peter and the Starcatcher will follow the example of many Broadway producers before them by taking their about-to-close production and transferring it to Off-Broadway's New World Stages.

Off-Broadway performances will begin this spring, although casting and official dates have not yet been announced. Broadway performances continue through Jan. 20.

The entire Tony Award-winning design team will design the New World Stages production.

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A couple of highly praised, quality productions have received further extensions.

Off-Broadway's Signature Theatre Company is extending the run of August Wilson's The Piano Lesson one final time, now to Jan. 20. It had previously been extended three times, to Jan. 13.

And the 50th-anniversary production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which opened to critical raves Oct. 13, 2012, will get an additional month of performances, now playing to March 24.

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Carrie Coon, Tracy Letts, Amy Morton and Madison Dirks
Photo by Michael Brosilow