PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, June 16-22: Central Park's As You Like It, Broadway's Rebecca, Mike Tyson On Stage
By Robert Simonson
The Public Theater inaugurated its 50th summer at Central Park's Delacorte Theater by transforming the venue and its surroundings into Shakespeare's Forest of Arden for a new production of As You Like It.
Two of the good-luck charms from the recent hit Delacorte mounting of The Merchant of Venice were carried over for this outing: director Dan Sullivan and actress Lily Rabe. Also in the cast were David Furr, Stephen Spinella, Andre Braugher, Oliver Platt and Renee Elise Goldsberry. (So rich in talent is the cast, in fact, that tiny parts were filled by veterans like Jon DeVries and Robert Joy.)
The critics thought the production a fitting tribute to the commemorative event. "In grateful response the Public has given the city its own celebratory gift by mounting an absolutely smashing production of As You Like It," wrote the New York Times' Charles Isherwood, "that exemplifies the virtues of Shakespeare in the Park at its best — warmth, vigor, accessibility and lucidity — and also proves to be the funniest and most rewarding production of this rich, complicated comedy that I have yet seen."
The Daily News called the show "uniformly well-acted (a rarity) and always accessible," and the Post said, "The parts may not all be great, but the sum is simply wonderful." Rabe, who will probably soon assume the title of America's leading Shakespearean actress, was praised by all. "From the minute that Lily Rabe stepped onto the stage of the Delacorte as Portia…we all had visions of her as Rosalind in As You Like It," wrote Variety. "How sweet it is, then, to watch this captivating actress take command of a role she was born to play."
Some casting news this week. Jill Paice will be the first-person lead known as "I" and Ryan Silverman will play her husband, Maxim de Winter, in Rebecca, the new Broadway musical once announced for last season, but now arriving Oct. 30 at the Broadhurst Theatre. Opening night is Nov. 18.
Michael Blakemore and Francesca Zambello co-direct the tuner with the European pedigree.
What can you do? Actors win Tony Awards for their performances, and then suddenly you can't see them anymore!
Borle will be replaced by Matthew Saldivar, who is currently appearing in the Broadway revival of A Streetcar Named Desire.
Meanwhile, Audra McDonald, won won a Tony for playing Bess in the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, is also out of her show, but for different reasons. She has been put on "complete vocal rest" under doctor's orders and will be out through the end of June.
McDonald is scheduled to return to the production July 3. Her understudy, actress Alicia Hall Moran, will perform the role of Bess. Moran has experience: she plays the role during the 8 PM Wednesday evening performances.
Finally, the Tony Award-winning performance of Judith Light is no longer on view simply because the play she gave it in, Other Desert Cities, closed June 19.
The summer Broadway season is often a time of peculiar one-offs. This summer is no different.
Former heavyweight champion — and enduring tabloid figure — Mike Tyson will bring his one-man show, Undisputed Truth, to Broadway for a limited, six-night (!) engagement at the Longacre Theatre.
The autobiographical work is written by the boxer's wife, Kiki Tyson, and Randy Johnson. It premiered at the MGM Grand's Hollywood Theater in Las Vegas under Johnson's direction last March.
Spike Lee will make his Broadway directorial debut with the July 31-Aug. 5 engagement. And even with a run that short, Truth will have an official opening night: Aug. 2. Headline writers: get your boxing metaphors ready!
Finally, composer-lyricist Richard Adler died June 21 at the age of 90. Adler and his writing partner, Jerry Ross, had a heady, but sadly short, heyday, writing back-to-back smashes — The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees — in the 1950s. Both shows ran more than 1,000 performances, won Tony Awards, were made into movies, and contributed classic tunes into the American Songbook. But their day in the sun ended abruptly when Ross died at the tragically young age of 29. Among Adler & Ross songs you may know: "Steam Heat," "Hernando's Hideaway," "Heart," "Hey There" and "Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)."
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