PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 19-25: Annie at the Palace, Encores! Announces Season
By Robert Simonson
Annie's gonna play the Palace.
The producers of the new Broadway production of the sunny musical announced the Palace Theatre as the show's home, starting this fall. Previews begin Oct. 3 prior to a Nov. 8 opening night.
Eleven-year-old Lilla Crawford (seen in Billy Elliot, about another bedraggled moppet who rises above their station) will star in the title role in the revival directed by James Lapine and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler. Crawford will be joined by a lot of other talented ragamuffins—among which may be this generation's Sarah Jessica Parker, an original Annie cast member—including Emily Rosenfeld, Tyrah Skye Odoms, Junah Jang, Georgi James, Madi Rae DiPietro and Taylor Richardson.
Additional casting—like all the adults—will be announced later. (The rumor about Katie Finneran as Miss Hannigan was confirmed by producers at 6 PM May 25.)
New York City Center's Encores! concert series will return to its roots in its 20th season with a presentation of Fiorello! The mayoral musical launched the popular organization in 1994. (Is somebody running out of neglected musicals?) The season will also feature revivals of It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman and Rodgers and Hart's On Your Toes.
It's a Bird is a 1966 satiric musical comedy about, yes, Superman. It has a score by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams. On Your Toes is a 1936 show that included the famous jazz ballet called "Slaughter On Tenth Avenue." It is expected to be one of the most dance-heavy shows in the history of Encores!, a series that's never shy about dance (but there are two ballets in this one!).
The week past was marked by a series of fairly significant Off-Broadway openings. Will Eno, who is now one of the Signature Theatre Company's protected playwrights, saw his latest, Title and Deed—a new solo play about a mysterious traveler—open in its American premiere May 20. Conor Lovett starred, repeating his turn seen in Ireland.
The play was billed as being about "A nameless traveler from a far off place searches for connection and solace in an unknown country in this funny and sad meditation on mortality, loneliness, innocence, home, family, love, funerals, words, and the world."
Sounds very Beckettian! And so the critics agreed. They also concurred that if you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you might like. The Times, which has been a regular champion of Eno, admitted that, while they liked it plenty, it might not be your cup of esoteric tea leaves. Others were more damning, saying the piece lacked drama and structure.
Also opening at the Signature was a new production of Athol Fugard's My Children! My Africa!, the tale of race and achievement, teachers and students, freedom and apartheid, under the direction of Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Critics were happy with the return of the play, finding the revival "passionate," "stirring" and "vivid." The Daily News cleverly stated that the drama deserved both its exclamation points.
Finally, the Roundabout Theatre Company opened the first major New York revival of Simon Gray's comedy-drama of collegiate aspiration and disappointments, The Common Pursuit, at the Laura Pels Theatre. Moises Kaufman directed. Reviews were on the tepid side, consigning the play to Gray's second drawer. Those who liked it found it soundly competent. Those who didn't felt it didn't quite embrace one's attention.
The New Group announced its 2012-13 season.
Gretchen Mol will star in the world premiere of Francine Volpe's The Good Mother, a psychological thriller about a single mother who can barely meet the mortgage on her house in Mount Vernon, NY.
The season will also include Jonathan Marc Sherman's Clive, directed by and starring Ethan Hawke. The play is inspired by Brecht's Baal, so expect some bad behavior on the part of the title character.
Finally, Times Square will on June 4 see a one-night-only attraction called Barack on Broadway. It will be a fundraiser for the President. Former POTUS will also be in attendance. George C. Wolfe will direct the likes of Patti LuPone, Megan Hilty, Kerry Butler, Bobby Cannavale, Stockard Channing (who played a President's wife on "The West Wing"), James Earl Jones (who is currently playing a former President in The Best Man on Broadway), Tony Kushner, Angela Lansbury (who played the mother of a Presidential candidate in "The Manchurian Candidate"), Audra McDonald, Mandy Patinkin and Jeffrey Wright.
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