PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 20-25: Killer Joe Finds A Time to Kill, Betrayal Shows Box-Office Potential and Hugh Jackman May Dazzle as Houdini

By Robert Simonson
July 26, 2013

Now that Tracy Letts is a multiple Tony Award winner — for both playwriting and acting — perhaps we've entered a time where his early works are being dusted off and brought back in high fashion.



Director Pam MacKinnon (who directed Letts to a Tony in the recent Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) will pilot the Broadway premiere of Lett's breakout play, the creepy 1993 thriller Killer Joe, which will arrive on Broadway in 2014, producers Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel announced July 25.

Killer Joe had its premiere at the Chicago-area NEXT Theatre in 1993 where it played an eight-month run and later transferred to a healthy star-strewn run Off-Broadway. It was later adapted by Letts into a 2012 film. The sordid story, not one for the weak of heart, concerns a collection of trailer trash who concoct a plot to get out of drug-dealer debt by rubbing out a close relation and hire the eponymous contract killer to get the job done. Anyone who saw the Off-Broadway production has never thought about fried chicken the same way again.

Given that the Off-Broadway staging attracted the likes of Amanda Plummer and Scott Glenn, it can be assumed that the Broadway bow will attract ever bigger guns, star-wise.

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Producers announced additional casting for Broadway's first-ever John Grisham play, the Rupert Holmes stage adaptation of A Time to Kill,, which will begin previews Sept. 28 at the John Golden Theatre.

It's a nice group. The ensemble includes Patrick Page, Tonya Pinkins, Chike Johnson, Ashley Williams, Dashiell Eaves, J.R. Horne, John Procaccino, Tijuana Ricks and Lee Sellars. They join the previously announced Sebastian Arcelus, Fred Dalton Thompson and John Douglas Thompson.

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Here's a nice problem for a producer to have. The upcoming Broadway revival of Harold Pinter's Betrayal is selling too many tickets — too fast!! What's a showman to do?

Online and telephone ticket sales for Betrayal — which stars box office bait, the big screen's James Bond Daniel Craig and his real-life wife, Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz — have been open since July 12. Traffic has been so strong that the limited 14-week engagement could be sold out before the originally scheduled box office opening date of Sept. 3.

Hugh Jackman
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
Producer Scott Rudin came up with a novel idea to head off this dilemma. He announced that the Ethel Barrymore Theatre box office will open July 29 for a limited time — six days, exactly — so that normal folks who don't like to pay those online and telephone ticket fees can purchase their seats.

The play's plot is backward; why shouldn't the box office set-up follow suit?

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Craig's A Steady Rain co-star Hugh Jackman may soon be back on the boards as well.

Jackman, who is busy now publicizing his "Wolverine" film, said that Houdini, the new Stephen Schwartz-scored musical that would star Jackman as the famous illusionist, could arrive on Broadway as soon as spring 2014.

Jackman revealed that the musical will receive a fall workshop. A representative for the production could not confirm immediate Broadway plans, but stated that the workshop will allow the creative team to determine the potential for a 2014 Broadway arrival.

Tony winners Scott Sanders and David Rockwell are producing the musical about the life of the turn-of-the-century illusionist.

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The Public Theater, which seems to dearly love its commercial transfers, may have another on its hands soon.

Here Lies Love, the new immersive musical (everybody dance!) about that lovable former First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, concludes its Off-Broadway run July 28 but may be headed to a new stage.

Ruthie Ann Miles in Here Lies Love
Photo by Joan Marcus
According to the New York Times, Public artistic director Oskar Eustis said in an interview that he hoped to announce new plans in the next month for the show, which is the work of the alternative-cool trio of former Talking Head David Byrne, DJ-producer-rapper Fatboy Slim and director Alex Timbers.

The show's set designer, David Korins, and New York architect Mitchell Kurtz, who has worked on previous Public projects, have developed designs for four — count 'em — different space configurations that might fit the musical. Broadway is one possibility. However, the musical requires a non-conventional playing space capable of housing multiple moving platforms, which swirl about the audience. So who knows? Is the Hayden Planetarium available?

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How about a little art imitating art?

Bombshell, the fake Marilyn Monroe musical that was at the heart of the now-canceled NBC musical series "Smash," may soon become a flesh-and-blood reality.

Marc Shaiman, who co-wrote the score for the fictitious musical with Scott Wittman, told The Hollywood Reporter that a charitable organization is interested in mounting a concert featuring songs from Bombshell.

"A concert could feature the cast and additional performers from Broadway. That would be a wonderful way for the show to live on," Shaiman told the industry paper.

It's early, but, what with its rabid fan base, "Smash" may end up having an afterlife along the lines of "The Fugitive" and "Twin Peaks," similar small-screen bombs that continued to fascinate the public decades after their cancellations.

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For those out there who narrow-mindedly think of Benedick and Beatrice, the sparring, down-with-love protagonists of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, as two robust young lovers in the prime of life, director Mark Rylance is here to tell you how wrong you are.

Rylance, a contrarian by nature, has cast the long-in-the-tooth James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave as the leads in his new staging of the comedy, which will begin performances at London's Old Vic Sept. 7. This means this particular Benedick and Beatrice have been ignoring Cupid's call much longer than previous incarnations of the characters.

The two actors were previously paired in the recent Broadway production of Driving Miss Daisy.

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In more London theatre news, the new production of King Lear, which will star Simon Russell Beale in the title role under the direction of Sam Mendes, has confirmed further casting. It will begin performances at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre in London in January 2014.

Also now cast are Kate Fleetwood as Goneril, Anna Maxwell Martin as Regan, Adrian Scarborough as the Fool, Stanley Townsend as Kent and Olivia Vinall as Cordelia.

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Rebecca has refused to completely die.

The scandal-beset, much-delayed Broadway musical based on the Daphne du Maurier literary romantic thriller, is now looking toward a 2014 Broadway arrival, producer Ben Sprecher told Playbill.com.

Sprecher previously stated that funding for the $15-16 million musical had to be completed by the end of June, at which point rights to the project were to revert back to VBW, the Austrian company that holds live stage rights to the property. In April, Sprecher said that he had $8 million in place and was optimistic about identifying parties capable of providing the remaining capital. The late-June deadline passed without an announcement of Rebecca's capitalization or dates of a Broadway run.