PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Sept. 1-7: Hal David, Willy Wonka, Flashdance on Broadway

By Robert Simonson
September 7, 2012

The film "Flashdance," about the aspirations of a sexy, dancing, female welder who can't afford a decent sweatshirt, came out in 1983 and proceeded to stun the world by grossing over $150 million and yielding a Grammy Award-winning soundtrack album full of hits, thanks to exposure on the then-fledging MTV network. Since then it's been the subject of endless parody and derision, with about a million satiric buckets of water poured over a million unlikely figures, in movies, television shows, commercials and cartoons. Few hit films have been so mercilessly skewered over so many decades. And the property dances on.



Now comes confirmation that "Maniac" and all the rest will be heard from a Broadway stage. Flashdance—The Musical, a stage adaptation, will arrive on Broadway in August 2013, producers announced this week. The show had previously hit the Theater Royal in Plymouth, England, in 2008 and then the West End in early 2011. Since then, the musical has been substantially rewritten and restaged.

Flashdance will launch a separate national touring company in January 2013 at the Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, the steel town that serves as the musical's setting. That production will play over 25 markets in North America. The show features a book by Tom Hedley (co-writer of the original screenplay with the notorious Hollywood screenwriter Joe "Basic Instinct" Eszterhas) and Robert Cary, music by Robbie Roth, lyrics by Cary and Roth and direction and choreography by Sergio Trujillo. There will be 16 new songs in the score.

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Another new musical based on a film, Big Fish, will have its pre-Broadway world premiere at Chicago's Oriental Theatre in spring 2013. It will be directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and a book by John August, who wrote the 2003 film.

The production will star two-time Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz as Edward Bloom, whose impossible stories of his epic adventures frustrate his son Will, causing him to try to unravel the mystery of who his father really is. It will begin performances April 2, 2013, and play through May 5. Broadway dates have not been revealed, but expect a 2013-14 season launch if critics and audiences take the bait.

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In London, the busy Douglas Hodge — who won a Tony Award for Leading Actor in a Musical for his starring role in La Cage aux Folles and will star in Cyrano de Bergerac this fall on Broadway — has been cast as fantastical and slightly sociopathic candy maker Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The new musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's book will begin performances at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, as previously reported, May 18, 2013, prior to an official opening in June. It will be directed by Sam Mendes, with a book by David Greig and new songs from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

According to a story in the U.K.'s Daily Mail, Hodge had been toying with the possibility of portraying showman P.T. Barnum in a projected U.K. revival of the musical Barnum, but opted instead to play Wonka. Same kind guys, really, Barnum and Wonka. Except Wonka's scarier.

Also opening along the Thames will be the first full London revival of A Chorus Line since the original Broadway production transferred to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1976, where it ran for three years (a far shorter stay than the Broadway incarnation).

It will now begin performances at the London Palladium Feb. 2, 2013, prior to an official opening Feb. 19, for a limited season that is booking through June 29. The production will be directed by Bob Avian, Michael Bennett's long-term collaborator and his co-choreographer on the original production. He was also responsible for directing the 2006 Broadway revival of A Chorus Line. Since composer Marvin Hamlisch died in August, Avian is the only major creative figure connected to the original staging who is still living.

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Finding talented tots is hard, apparently.

Producers of A Christmas Story, The Musical! are still searching for a young actor to star as Ralphie in the Broadway production of the beloved holiday film that will begin previews Nov. 5 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.

"This is a bona fide national search. We are in the final two weeks of auditions for the right Ralphie who could be Broadway's next sensation," said Peter Billingsly, none other than the original Ralphie from the movie. Billingsly has a doubly-vested interest, since is also among the musical's producers.

Billingsly better hurry up and find the right boy. Rehearsals begin Oct. 1. Submissions for the role will be accepted through Sept. 12 at noon. The casting notice says the show is "looking for a boy who is a regular kid, with enormous talent." (Good luck with that.)

Meanwhile, producers of Matilda The Musical have announced that they are seeking just the right young girl to star in the title role of the production, which will arrive on Broadway this spring.

An open casting call for the title role will be held Sept. 30 at Pearl Studios beginning at 10 AM in midtown Manhattan. Producers are seeking girls ages 8-10 years old, who are 4'4" or under. No previous experience is required. Like the Broadway production of Billy Elliot, several young actors will rotate in the leading role at various performances. The London production of Matilda employed four young actresses.

Perhaps when A Christmas Story finds its Ralphie, the little actor might give the Matilda producers a few tips on where to find a good Matilda or two.

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Finally, Hal David, the pop, movie and musical theatre lyricist who wrote words to composer Burt Bacharach's music in the Broadway musical Promises, Promises, as well as dozens of hit songs, died Sept. 1. He was 91.

You have to have lived under a rock for the past 50 years not to have been familiar with at least a dozen or so of David's compositions. They included such undying, infectious and curiously timeless ditties as "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," "The Look of Love," "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," "Don't Make Me Over," "Walk on By," "What the World Needs Now is Love," "One Less Bell to Answer" and "Close to You." Many were first recorded by Dionne Warwick. David and Bacharach's syncopated compositions were sophisticated, mixing adult sentiments with artful melodies. The were complex both in melody and message, and represented a 1960s bridge between the Tin Pan Alley and rock music eras. That the two men wrote a hit Broadway musical came as no surprise. That they never wrote another did. They did, however, write songs for a 1973 flop film musical called "Lost Horizon." It led to their breakup. The two men wrote so many songs, however — and so many enduring songs — that their partnership seemed to go on decades longer than it actually did.