PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Sept. 24-30: Newsies on Broadway?

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30 Sep 2011

Kara Lindsay and Jeremy Jordan
Kara Lindsay and Jeremy Jordan
Photo by T. Charles Erickson

The New York Post reported that the new Disney stage musical Newsies, which officially opened Sept. 25 to critical acclaim at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey — certainly more acclaim than the movie the show is based on ever received — may be headed to Broadway.

This is surprising news, and, if true, would constitute a very welcome reversal of fortune for Disney. Over the past half-decade, the theatrical arm of the entertainment Goliath has seen its reputation as a hit-maker — fostered by the tremendous successes of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King — unravel under the weight of critical and commercial failures like The Little Mermaid and Tarzan. A new hit would do much to revive the company's image.

The New York Times reports that executives from both Jujamcyn Theaters and the Nederlander Organization have approached Disney about bringing the new musical to one of their Broadway houses.

Although Disney still plans to "release the title for licensing," executives are open to the idea of a Broadway engagement. Although no official announcement has been made, the New York Post speculates that the production may open in April 2012 at the Nederlander Theatre.

Who will star in the show, should it come to New York, may be a tricky point. Jeremy Jordan tops the bill at the Paper Mill, but the busy actor is also contracted to star in the new Broadway musical Bonnie & Clyde, which, funnily enough, is also directed by Newsies director Jeff Calhoun. (I guess if Calhoun stole away Jordan from Calhoun, then Calhoun wouldn't be too sore about it.)



Bonnie & Clyde is scheduled to begin previews in November. Of course, this could all work out organically. Jordan may very well be available by the spring if B&C doesn't hit its target with critics and audiences.

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Eddie Kaye Thomas and Jonathan Groff in The Submission.
photo by Joan Marcus

The Submission, the world premiere comedy by Jeff Talbott, the first winner of the Laurents-Hatcher Award (endowed by the late Arthur Laurents), opened on Sept. 27 in an MCC Theater production at the Lucille Lortel Off-Broadway. The satiric, biting tale of contemporary mores in today's theatre world concerns a playwright who misrepresents his identity (he's white, male and gay, and pretends to be black and female) in order to get a juicy production oppportunity for his play about black folks living in the projects.

AP gave the work a rave, saying, "It is both uncomfortable and impossible to not watch. Discussions are certain to be sparked after the curtain has fallen, on the way out of the theatre." Beyond that, the reception was mixed. Not in the way that some reviewers liked it and some didn't it; rather, it seemed every critic found things both to praise and criticize in the piece. Most agreed the production was slick and professional, and the cast (including Jonathan Groff and Rutina Wesley) attractive and engaging. The word "enjoyable" and "watchable" came up a lot. But reviews found problems with the credibility of the story and depth of the characters. The Times called it "too theatrical for its own good. An artificial sheen gleams from its craftsmanship and its sometimes strained cleverness."

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Elsewhere Off-Broadway, Silence! The Musical, which was the surprise hit of the summer, will play an open-ended run at the 9th Space Theater at P.S. 122.

The production, which played its final performance at Off-Broadway's Theater 80 Sept. 24, will begin performances at its new venue Oct. 25. Directed and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, the cast will be headed by Jenn Harris, who starred in the recent Off-Broadway run. Broadway favorite Brent Barrett, the biggest name in the premiere outing, will not continue with Silence!; his role is being recast. (He's playing Ben in Follies for Chicago Shakespeare Theater at the moment.)

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Julie Taymor
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

From the legal world, we learn that an arbitration hearing between fired Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark director Julie Taymor and the Broadway show's producers will begin the week of Oct. 3. Taymor, who had been working on the spectacle for almost a decade, claims she is owed $500,000 in unpaid royalties for her work. The claim was filed by Taymor's union, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), in June. The union says Taymor has not been paid royalties for the run of the show; performances began in November 2010 at Foxwoods Theatre. She received a $125,000 fee five years ago, it was reported.

The New York Times reported that the producers will claim that Taymor was in breach of contract. The arbitration process is expected to last into the fall.

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I knew this was why actors had started writing plays! Geoffrey Nauffts, the author of Broadway's Tony Award-nominated Next Fall, will star in the leading role of his acclaimed work when it makes its West Coast premiere, opening Nov. 2 at Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. Sheryl Kaller, who was Tony-nominated for her direction of the dramatic comedy in 2010, again directs.