PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 14-20: Celeste Holm, Katie Holmes, Matilda's Broadway Home
By Robert Simonson
Playwright Theresa Rebeck may not have yet found the formula for putting together a hit Broadway production, but one thing has become increasingly clear: Her plays have become star magnets.
Her first Broadway play, Mauritius, had Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham in its cast. Not too shabby. Her second, last season's Seminar, featured movie star Alan Rickman. Hot stuff. And now, for her third Broadway outing, Dead Accounts, she's hauled in none other that Katie Holmes! Bango!! Take that, box office! No, Holmes is not the Greatest Living Actor of the Age, but she is sincere and well-liked — and she is just fresh off her headline-grabbing split from hubby Tom Cruise. There are few more noteworthy thespians on the planet at this moment.
Dead Accounts will arrive at the Music Box Theatre in October. The play, about a prodigal son who returns home to Cincinnati, had its world premiere last winter at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Jack O'Brien will direct the production of the five-actor play. Holmes will portray Lorna, who has a few questions regarding her brother's sudden return home.
Matilda The Musical, the Olivier Award-winning production based on the beloved Roald Dahl children's book, will begin Broadway previews March 4, 2013, at the Shubert Theatre, it was announced.
Matilda premiered at the Royal Shakespeare Company's Courtyard Theatre in November 2010 and has known nothing but success since then. It later transferred to the West End's Cambridge Theatre, where it continues to run. Matilda earned seven 2012 Olivier Awards including Best Musical and Best Director. The RSC and The Dodgers produce the Broadway run of Matilda, which will officially open April 11, 2013. The Shubert Theatre is currently the home of the Tony-winning musical Memphis, which will end its run Aug. 5.
Matilda The Musical has a book by Dennis Kelly and a score by Tim Minchin, and direction by Matthew Warchus, whose reputation as a Broadway hitmaker and tastemaker was dented a bit this past season when he piloted the much-maligned musical Ghost. Matilda may restore his musical bonafides.
John Cullum, Darren Pettie and Sarah Sokolovic will join the already announced Amy Ryan and David Schwimmer in what has turned into a very starry New York City premiere of Lisa D'Amour's acclaimed suburban-set play Detroit, Playwrights Horizons announced.
The play, a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, is directed by Anne Kauffman (currently represented Off-Broadway by the hit Slowgirl). Performances begin Aug. 24 at Playwrights Horizons' Mainstage Theater, launching the theatre's 2012-13 season.
The owners of the lowbrow 1970s sitcom "Three's Company" care about the integrity of the title? Who knew?
Playwright David Adjmi's comedy 3C, which darkly riffs on "Three's Company," opened Off-Broadway in recent weeks. The reviews were not uniformly good, but the show and its concept got a lot of attention in the press. Maybe too much attention. The writer has now heard from lawyers representing DLT Entertainment, the company that owns the popular television series.
According to a report in the New York Times, Adjmi was contacted by Kenyon & Kenyon, the lawyers representing DLT Entertainment, who sent a cease-and-desist letter citing copyright infringement, listing 17 points of similarity between the play and the sitcom. The now-closed production ran June 6-July 14 at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.
Apparently, there is in the works another stage adaptation of "Three's Company" — a sincere adaptation, one fears — and DLT felt Adjmi's play was damaging to the property. The correspondence from the lawyers also stated that the Rattlestick production could not be extended past its July 14 closing date, that no future productions could be performed and the script could not be published.
Folks in the theatre community sided with Adjmi, saying that the play fell under the umbrella of parody, which is protected under law. In fact, the legal action may end up being the best thing that ever happened to Adjmi. Previously a little-known writer, he can now count among his advocates the likes of Jon Robin Baitz, Stephen Sondheim, Tony Kushner, Andre Bishop, Joe Mantello, Terrence McNally, Kenneth Lonergan, John Guare, Terry Kinney, Stephen Adly Guirgis and John Patrick Shanley, all of whom pledged their support.
Finally, Celeste Holm died this week. She wasn't the most prolific of stage or film actresses, but what projects she picked helped her achieve the legendary status in show business circles. She was Ado Annie, the gal who cain't say no in Oklahoma!, and Karen Richards, the knowing narrator of the ultimate theatre film "All About Eve." Through those two roles alone, she earned a lasting place in American theatre history.
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