PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 20-26: Pump Boys Back on Broadway, Nathan Lane as The Nance, TKTS

By Robert Simonson
October 26, 2012

During the unending hubbub and hullabaloo that swirled around Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark during its first, turbulent year of Broadway existence, it was easy to forget the playwright Glen Berger had anything to do with the complicated project. Berger's the man who co-authored the book. Prior to his involvement with the monolithic show, he was just a nice little Off-Broadway playwright with a tiny, but respectable reputation. When Spider-Man was daily fodder for the gossip columns and nightly news, Julie Taymor, Bono, The Edge and whatever actor had been injured that week were the starring players. Berger was rarely, if ever, mentioned. And he probably liked it that way.



Well, we're going to be hearing a lot more from Berger in the future on the subject of Spider-Man. And it's his own fault. In the tradition of William Gibson's "The Seesaw Log" and James Kirkwood's "Diary of a Mad Playwright," Berger has penned an showbiz memoir. Simon & Schuster will publish "Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History," chronicling his journey with the production. The publication date is to be determined.

The announcement can't be happy news for Taymor, who specially selected the obscure Berger to work with her on Spider-Man. The two had a nasty split in 2011, and Taylor named Berger in the suit she filed against the producers after she was dismissed from the project. The suit is still pending.

Jonathan Karp of Simon & Schuster is unperturbed. He told the New York Times, "I just think it's a good story. From the pages I've seen, I think it will be an insightful and entertaining account of the making of this musical."

*** 

Nathan Lane
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Nathan Lane has been mentioned in the past as the probable star in the Lincoln Center Theater production of The Nance, a new play from Douglas Carter Beane, which will debut on Broadway March 21, 2013, at the Lyceum Theatre. This week, the casting was confirmed. The production will mark Beane's LCT debut, and a rare appearance of Broadway star Lane at the nonprofit (he did The Frogs there)

Jack O'Brien, who will direct, has been developing the 1930s-set piece with Beane and Lane over the past few years. It takes its title from a staple vaudeville character, an effeminate homosexual male, who was featured in burlesque sketches and films of the era. The Nance is set during New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia's campaign to ban burlesque in the '30s. Hey, if LaGuardia's also a character, Lane could double in that part. In terms of stage ebullience, heft and height, the two men couldn't be a closer match.

***

Pump Boys and Dinettes, a musical about filling-station pump jockeys and waitresses, was a pretty sizable Off-Broadway hit in the early '80s, enough for it to transfer to Broadway, where it ran for a year and a half. It then toured the U.S., and also played London's West End. The musician-actor show was nominated for Tonys, including Best Musical, and gave the wonderful Debra Monk her Broadway debut. Still, for all that, it's rarely recalled today.

That will change when the show returns to Broadway in spring 2013 in a new production by Tony-winning director John Doyle, who is best known for having actors play musical instruments in Company and Sweeney Todd, on Broadway. Mary-Mitchell Campbell will provide new arrangements and orchestrations (and is music supervisor) for the loose-knit revue, which is set below the Mason Dixon Line. Doyle's version — "a fully interactive and immersive experience" — will include on-stage seating and a working bar, a la Once. Which begs the question: what kind of roadside diner has a liquor bar? 

Jeremy Shamos

The parties are almost assembled.

Jeremy Shamos, Mark Blum and Sam Robards will join the previously announced Jessica Hecht and Judith Light in the world-premiere production of The Assembled Parties, Richard Greenberg's new play about a New York City family.

Manhattan Theatre Club artistic director Lynne Meadow directs the production, which will begin previews March 19, 2013, at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.

***

First a book, then a movie, now a play.

Misery, a new stage version of the Stephen King story about a novelist who, following a car accident, is rescued — and then held captive and hobbled (literally) — by his nutty greatest fan, will get its world-premiere staging at Bucks County Playhouse. The script is by famed screenwriter William Goldman, who hasn't ventured near the stage since he famously skewered the Broadway universe in his classic book "The Season" more than 40 years ago. Cast in the leading roles are two stage stalwarts that New York does not use nearly enough: Johanna Day and Daniel Gerroll. Will Frears directs. Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, Castle Rock Entertainment and Playhouse Productions are behind the Pennsylvania developmental engagement.

***

Garth Drabinsky
photo by Michael Cooper

The recent shenanigans surrounding the phantom financing of the Broadway musical Rebecca had a lot of people thinking about another producer-rascal of Times Square's past: Garth Drabinksy. The flamboyant Canadian showman infamously sunk he producing empire, Livent, when it was discovered that two sets of books were being kept. He's been spending the past year in prison. The producer was convicted of fraud and forgery in 2009. Due to his earlier appeal request, Drabinsky's incarceration didn't begin in September 2011.

This week, however, Drabinksy was granted "day parole" and will serve the rest of his five-year fraud conviction sentence in a more open halfway house in Toronto. According to published reports, the 62-year-old producer testified via videolink before a panel, weeping about his experience. True to past behavior, he did not, however, admit criminality. He did say that he felt he pushed his employees (!) into wrongdoing, but was not aware of crime.

"I drove people tremendously hard in the company," he said in the hearing, according to a report in the Globe and Mail. "I drove them to succeed through my flawed ambition and creative hunger, which was not grounded in greed. I pushed the envelope too far." He said that he "walked away from the details" of the accounting, and admitted, "I should never have been CEO of the company. That was a mistake."

***

Patrons of the Theatre Development Fund's main TKTS discount booth in Times Square will soon have to figure out what to do with all their new free time.

The booth began testing a new service on Oct. 22, by which matinee and evening tickets can be sold simultaneously. For decades now, on two-performance days, there have been two lines at TKTS: one that forms in the morning for matinees tickets and one that forms in the afternoon for evening shows. If you were in town and wanted to see two shows on Wednesday or Saturday, you have to cool your heels in windswept Times Square twice.

Amazing how great obvious innovations can be.