PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 9-15: The Public's Summer Plans, Tony Eligibility, Bruce Norris in London

By Robert Simonson
February 15, 2013

A Shakespearean musical? Who's ever heard of such a thing.



Well, the Public Theater has. It had a huge hit with just such a creature when, back in 1971, Galt MacDermot, John Guare and Mel Shapiro put together Two Gentleman of Verona at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The show transferred to Broadway and won the Tony Award.

It's taken them 40 years, but the Public's going to give the idea another try.

This summer, the company will present a new musical adaptation of Love's Labour's Lost, penned by Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson collaborators Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman — a team that would seem to insure that this Shakespearean musical will be as irreverent and loopy a take on the Bard as Gentleman was. Timbers will direct. Dates are July 23-Aug. 18.

Also to occupy the Delacorte this summer will be a new production of Comedy of Errors, helmed by Daniel Sullivan, who's becoming such a Central Park regular he should rent out a room in Belvedere Castle. Starring in the production, which runs May 28-June 30, are Hamish Linklater and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, two stage veterans who now enjoy TV sitcom visibility. They will portray twins Dromio and Antipholus, respectively.

The double bill promises to ensure a relatively light-hearted summer at the Delacorte. Probably just as well. Problem plays do not picnic fare make.

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Everyone liked All in the Timing when it premiered at Primary Stages 20 years ago. It was playwright David Ives' first big hit, and remains one of the theatre company's largest successes as well.

This week, Primary Stages opened the 20th-anniversary revival of All in the Timing, a collection of short comic plays, starring Carson Elrod, Jenn Harris, Matthew Saldivar, Liv Rooth and Eric Clem. And, well, people liked it all over again!

"There's nutrition in these airy, meringuelike delicacies, and surprising substance in their silliness," wrote the New York Times. "Give it up to director John Rando and his cast of five for not missing a beat and for making the minutes in this 20th-anniversary production that opened Tuesday at Primary Stages pure pleasure," said the Daily News. "It's one of the funniest shows I've seen in my entire playgoing life," the Wall Street Journal simply stated.

In the 20 years since the play first debuted, Ives has found success as the regular libretto adaptor of old musicals at Encores!, and on Broadway with Venus in Fur. Nice to know, via this revival, that everyone was right about him all along.

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The full cast for the world premiere of Bruce Norris' new play The Low Road — which will premiere in London — was announced.

Dominic Cooke, the Royal Court's departing artistic director, will direct a whopping company of 19 for his final production at the helm. (Chances of a play with this Robert-E.-Sherwood-size cast eventually landing on Broadway: minimal. But, we shall see what the reviews bring.) The full cast is Jared Ashe, Jack Benjamin, Kit Benjamin, Elizabeth Berrington, Helen Cripps, Johnny Flynn, Ian Gelder, Raj Ghatak, Natasha Gordon, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Ellie Kendrick, Edward Killingback, Fredrick Neilson, Simon Paisley Day, Bill Paterson, Harry Peacock, Leigh Quinn, John Ramm and Will Thompson.

The play is described as a fable of free-market economics and cut-throat capitalism, in which a young entrepreneur (Flynn) sets out on a quest for wealth with priceless ambition and a purse of gold. Sounds like David Hare, except that Hare doesn't do fables.

And here's a curious aspect to the production: The Low Road features an original live music score by Gary Yershon, played by different members of the company.

Performances will begin at Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs March 22, prior to an official opening March 27, for a run through May 11.

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The Tony Awards Administration Committee met Feb. 14, for the second time this season, to decide the eligibility of 14 Broadway productions for the 2013 Tony Awards, presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

The 14 productions discussed include Grace; Cyrano de Bergerac; Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; The Heiress; Annie; The Mystery of Edwin Drood; Scandalous; A Christmas Story, The Musical; Dead Accounts; The Anarchist; Golden Boy; Glengarry Glen Ross; The Other Place; and Picnic.

The short-lived comedy The Performers, which co-starred Cheyenne Jackson and Henry Winkler, did not run long enough to be eligible for nomination; however, both the new musical Scandalous and the two-person David Mamet drama The Anarchist, which are also both closed, are eligible for nomination. (Good luck to both of them on that!)

None of three solo shows — Running on Empty, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and Manilow on Broadway — sought eligibility. The limited holiday engagement of A Christmas Story The Musical is eligible for a Best New Musical nomination.

Also interesting: Al Pacino, the above-the-title star of Glengarry Glen Ross, will be considered eligible in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play category for his performance.