PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 20-26: Elling and Break of Noon Open; John Simon Is Out; Cathy Rigby Will Fly
By Robert Simonson
Only one Broadway opening this Thanksgiving week, and it wasn't quite a turkey, though it was characterized by most critics as an odd bird indeed.
Simon Bent's Elling — the odd-couple comedy seen in London (and in markets around Europe) and based on Norwegian novels and a film — officially opened on Broadway Nov. 21 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The production marked the Broadway debut of film actor Brendan Fraser, who co-starred with Denis O'Hare, and was directed by Doug Hughes. The actors played two men — one a mother-obsessed agoraphobe, the other a sex-obsessed galoot — who become roommates after recently being discharged from an mental institution.
While some critics found the work charming, most didn't know what to think of it, finding it mainly curious. Others thought the potentially gentle character study was overwhelmed and coarsened by strained sitcom humor.
Off-Broadway, MCC Theater unveiled its world premiere of Neil LaBute's The Break of Noon, starring David Duchovny, in his stage debut, as a man who becomes a modern-day prophet following a shooting massacre at his office, of which he is the only survivor.
Critics applauded LaBute for tackling a subject beyond his usual limited palate of misanthropy — the possibility of a divine force in the universe. But otherwise, they viewed Duchovny's character as yet another in a long line of LaBute's male nogoodniks, and found the story uneventful, subdued and underwritten.
The national tour of Next to Normal, the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical about an American family in crisis, launched its limited 36-week, multi-city North American tour Nov. 23 in Los Angeles. Tony Award-winning actress Alice Ripley reprises her career-defining role.
Next to Normal arrived on Broadway in March 2009 and will end its Broadway run Jan. 16, 2011.
Cathy Rigby won't grow up.
The former gymnast is back doing what she's become best known for (at least in theatre circles) — playing Peter Pan. She will return to her signature role for a new 2011-12 national tour of the musical Peter Pan. It will launch in fall 2011.
In 2005, Rigby said she was going to give up the green tights at the end of a tour in 2006. But, no. She did perform the role again in 2008 for Pittsburgh CLO. She was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 1991. The show itself was nominated as Best Revival in 1999. Her Peter Pan played four engagements on Broadway: 1990-91, 1991-92, 1998-99 and spring-summer 1999.
Old Peter Pans are not unheard of. Mary Martin was 41 when she played the part in 1954. Jean Arthur was 49 when she starred in the play version of the J.M. Barrie story, in 1950. But Rigby will beat them all. She'll be 60 in 2012.
The York Theatre Company will present the Off-Broadway premiere of the new musical comedy, The Road to Qatar, in 2011.
The new musical features book and lyrics by Stephen Cole and music by David Krane. It's based on an actual adventure about two American musical theatre writers commissioned to write a larger-than-life Broadway-style musical for the Emir of Qatar.
John Simon, arguably the last American theatre critic who is a personality in his own right, has been kicked to the curb once again.
He was dismissed from his long-time perch at New York magazine in 2005, but surprisingly found a new berth in quick time at Bloomberg News. That gig, however, lasted only five years. Bloomberg graciously said Simon had retired, but anyone who knows the critic at all spotted that as a lie. John Simon won't ever retire, if he can help it. Sure enough, he confessed to the New York Post that, at 85, he had been fired, but was "available for work." Must be that that man likes theatre more than he lets on.
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