PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, June 14-20: Tupac Shakur is Hollering on Broadway and James Franco Directs Downtown

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20 Jun 2014

Saul Williams, Dyllon Burnside and Joshua Boone
Saul Williams, Dyllon Burnside and Joshua Boone
Photo by Joan Marcus

Hip hop has hit the Great White Way in the new musical Holler If Ya Hear Me by Todd Kreidler with music by the late Tupac Shakur.

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Holler is directed by Tony winner Kenny Leon and features a cast that includes Saycon Sengbloh, Saul Williams and Tonya Pinkins among many others.

The question begs: Are Broadway audiences ready to welcome a new genre of music to the Palace Theatre?

Previews began June 2, prior to an official opening June 19. Williams, who is making his Broadway debut, told Playbill, "Tupac is the Rambo of, I wouldn't just say hip-hop, but of American poetry." 

Check out Playbill.com's feature with Kenny Leon about his Tony win for A Raisin in the Sun and how it works in conjunction with Holler If Ya Hear Me.

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Two of the entertainment industry's longtime legends passed this week.

Gerry Goffin, the award-winning songwriter and former husband of Carole King, played by Jake Epstein in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical currently running on Broadway, passed June 19. A Brooklyn native, Goffin was the writer behind many of today's most popular hits, including "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" and "Natural Woman."

Barry Moss, a legendary casting director with 88 Broadway credits to his name, passed on June 18. Moss, who played an integral part in the launch of the Casting Society of America (CSA), was a talent manager and fostered some of the most influential names in the industry today who began as interns in his office. 

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James Franco
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Theatrical multi-tasking, much? James Franco, currently playing George in the Broadway production of Of Mice and Men, has also been making his New York directorial debut at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, a Off-Broadway hotbed of new work. Franco is currently in rehearsals  for The Long Shrift by Robert Boswell starring Ally Sheedy. 

The play is billed as follows: "The Long Shrift tells the story of Richard Singer, who, as a dorky teenage boy, was accused of rape and thrown in jail, tearing his parents apart. Richard is released nine years later, and The Long Shrift follows what happens when his accuser reappears in his life."

It's heavy fare for Franco, who can now say he is an actor, director and producer for film and theatre. Previews for The Long Shrift begin July 7 with an opening night set for July 13.

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Gary Griffin will direct the upcoming Broadway production of Honeymoon in Vegas, a new musical based on the film of the same name, in the Atkinson Theatre where After Midnight is currently running. Previews are scheduled to begin November 18. 

The score is by Tony winner Jason Robert Brown, with a book by Andrew Bergman. Emmy nominee and television celebrity Tony Danza is playing the lead, along with his co-stars from the Paper Mill Playhouse production, Tony nominee Rob McClure and Brynn O'Malley (Annie, Sunday in the Park with George).

Honeymoon in Vegas "tells the story of Jack Singer (McClure), a regular guy with an extraordinary fear of marriage, who finally gets up the nerve to ask his girlfriend Betsy (O'Malley) to marry him. But when they head to Las Vegas to get hitched, smooth talking gambler Tommy Korman (Danza), looking for a second chance at love, falls head over heels for Betsy."

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Nina Arianda
Photo by Joan Marcus

Last minute re-casts aren't always the stuff that dreams are made of — except when your replacements are Sam Rockwell and Tony winner Nina Arianda taking over for Chris Pine ("Star Trek") and Lauren Ambrose ("Six Feet Under"). Pine and Ambrose left Williamstown Theatre Festival's production of Fool for Love by Sam Shepard due to scheduling conflicts.

Arianda and Rockwell join "Girls" star Christopher Abbott and Tony nominee Gordon Joseph Weiss (Sly Fox, The Life) in the gritty tale from Shepard where, "holed up in a seedy motel on the edge of the Mojave Desert, two former lovers unpack the deep secrets and dark desires of their tangled relationship."

Daniel Aukin directs the starry cast just in time for the Williamstown season.

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Summer is officially here! The Delacorte's first production of the 2014 season, Much Ado About Nothing, opened this week in the outdoor venue in Central Park with Hamish Linklater and Lily Rabe starring as the sparring lovers Benedick and Beatrice. 

Tony winner Jack O'Brien directs the show which will run through July 6.  Tickets to Shakespeare in the Park are free and are distributed, two per person, at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park the day of the show. 

Read Playbill.com's interview with Rabe, about returning to Shakespeare in the Park, here

Ben Brantley described the production as "pleasure-filled" and New Yorkers are already lining up in droves — willing to watch the Bard at his best come rain, shine or otherwise. Get in line now, folks.