Who says news from the theatre world dies off after the Tony Awards? This past week brought with it an avalanche of bulletins and ballyhoo, from the announcement of theatre season line-ups to major new casting coups to administrative and ensemble shake-ups.
At times, it seemed like all of the scuttlebutt was coming out of the Roundabout Theatre Company, the season of which has fallen into place in fits and starts. The upcoming Roundabout revival of The Women, which boasts a plethora of fizzy female roles, has — no surprise — attracted a lot of top-notch distaff talent. Kristen Johnson, newly cut loose from television's "Third Rock From the Sun," will star as the ultra bitchy Sylvia Fowler. Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Tilly, Rue McClanahan, Amy Ryan and Mary Louise Wilson will exchange insults with her. Scott Elliott directs, and, at this rate, the mounting is guaranteed to have as many marquee names as his 1997 Roundabout production of Three Sisters.
Already announced for the Roundabout's 2000-01 season are Sondheim's Assassins, directed by Joe Mantello, at the Booth Theatre; the musical The Boys from Syracuse, directed by Scott Ellis, at the American Airlines Theatre; and An Almost Holy Picture by Heather McDonald, directed by Michael Mayer, at the Gramercy. Additions to the Gramercy schedule are: Speaking in Tongues by Andrew Bovell, directed by Mark Clements; and Richard Greenberg's The Dazzle, directed by David Warren. Oh, and the first offering of this crowded new line-up, Major Barbara, starring Cherry Jones and directed by Daniel Sullivan, began previews June 15. And that should be enough out of the Roundabout for now.
Other companies were waving their season brochures as well. Second Stage will bravely remount Wallace Shawn's Marie and Bruce (once advertised for last season), and will hope to duplicate the improbable success it had last winter with Edward Albee's Tiny Alice with another, shall we say, "difficult" Albee play, Seascape. (Actors, start working on your best lizard monologues.) Mary Zimmerman's take on Ovid's Metamorphoses and Athol Fugard's Sorrows and Rejoicings complete the roster.
The Vineyard Theatre will feature new works by Doug Wright (Unwrap Your Candy) and the Running Man team of Diedre Murray and Cornelius Eady (Brutal Imagination). The Classic Stage Company — which recently opened the bleak Kafka opera In the Penal Colony — is considering something lighter next season. Steve Martin, absent from the theatre since Picasso at the Lapin Agile proved a national hit, has adapted Carl Sternheim's edgy, door-slamming farce The Underpants. The play tells of a man who's mortally embarrassed when his wife's knickers fall down during the procession of the King. CSC artistic director Barry Edelstein would direct. Other possibilities: Neal Bell's adaptation of Mary Shelley's horror classic, "Frankenstein," called Monster; director Anne Bogart's adaptation of the writings of Virginia Woolf, Room (paging Eileen Atkins); and Charles Mee's Humana hit of last year, Big Love, a reinterpretation of Aeschylus' The Suppliant Women. I'm already tired. But if the future season isn't overwhelming enough, there were also a flurry of cast changes to current Broadway production. Jon Lovitz and Larry Miller joined the cast of The Dinner Party on June 12, the same day Patrick Tovatt took over for Larry Bryggman in Proof. Sitcom goddess Valerie Harper will replace sitcom goddess Linda Lavin as Marjorie Taub, the title character of Broadway's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife. Harper begins July 31. And Janine LaManna, whose Gertrude McFuzz recently flew to the unemployment line when Seussical closed, has been cast as Lois Lane in Kiss Me, Kate. She starts on June 19.
Mike Nichols' production of The Seagull, which is to grace Central Park this season, experienced a cast change before the first rehearsal was even held. Allison Janney, who was to have played Masha, dropped out due to "other commitments," and recent Oscar winner (for "Pollock") Marcia Gay Harden has taken her place. Another change occurred behind the scenes. When the production was first announced, Nichols planned on using a translation by playwright Richard Nelson. Since then, Nelson's adaptation has been set aside in favor of one by Tom Stoppard.
Other odds and ends: neither love nor Tony could save The Invention of Love, as the show announced it would close on June 30; and the revival of Jerry Herman's Mack & Mabel, which had once hoped to open on Broadway last spring, will open Jan. 10, 2002, at a Broadway theatre to be announced.
Things seem to be falling apart in a major way at the Long Wharf Theatre. On June 5, artistic director Doug Hughes abruptly resigned from his post. The split was apparently not amicable (Daily Variety quoted Hughes' blaming the company's board for his resignation, saying "I needed the board's help to solve [the problem with board leadership], but I received none, so I had no alternative but to resign."). Since then, director of artistic programming Greg Leaming has stepped up as a temporary replacement. But, it looks like Long Wharf is poised for some drastic changes. Kathleen Chalfant, who was to have starred in a staging of The Cherry Orchard, has exited out of loyalty to Hughes, as has Hughes' father Barnard Hughes, who would have played Firs. The play will still go on, however. Additionally, Hughes was poised to direct three productions in the 2000-01 season: Harry Kondoleon's Play Yourself; Hugh Leonard's Da in a co-production with the Guthrie Theater; and The Miser, which Hughes would have also translated. Now, Da will not transfer from the Guthrie, nor will Hughes direct the other two works. In the meantime, Hughes is busy with Hedda Gabler at Steppenwolf Theatre Company (ironically, a production which originated at the Long Wharf).
Finally, the steady migration of pop singer-songwriters from the concert hall to the theatre has claimed another convert. Billy Joel has entered into a new, as-yet unnamed project directed and choreographed by Twyla Tharp. The show will have a workshop production Aug. 2 Sept. 26. James Nederlander, Jr., is the producer. A suggested title: 52nd Street.
—By Robert Simonson