PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 4-10: Mitchell Meets Robbins Redux

ICYMI   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 4-10: Mitchell Meets Robbins Redux
It's difficult to gauge the damage that resulted from the tempest that surrounded Gypsy last spring, but apparently Jerry Mitchell, the man who choreographed that revival, emerged unscathed. Mitchell has been selected by Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents and the Jerome Robbins people—the same folks who created and control Gypsy—to direct and choreograph a 2005 Broadway production of West Side Story. The assignment will launch Mitchell's new status as one of Broadway's few director-choreographers. Until then, he's choreographing the upcoming musical Never Gonna Dance and will choreograph the musical, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Apparently, there will be no scuffle with the Robbins estate, as there was, briefly, with Gypsy. " I want to use his choreography!" Mitchell said. "I am his fan and I am also his cheerleader. I think that choreography should be seen by many, many generations to come. If there's anything else I can do to help make that happen, I'm there." (Perhaps Jerrys think alike.)

But Broadway had enough on its mind this week without worrying about what might by on stage in 2004-05. Wicked, the new musical by Stephen Schwartz, starring Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, began previews Oct. 8, after a delay of one day. The show—a tale about the back story behind Oz's witches—had a tryout in San Francisco, and stands as director Joe Mantello's first stab at a musical. It is also arguably the fall season's biggest coin toss, with the usual prognosticators split on whether it will hit or miss.

Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, a comedy about a Florida retiree (Polly Bergen) and a salty dance instructor (Mark Hamill) who find common ground, started its Broadway run Oct. 7. Two days later, Ashley Judd, Jason Patric and Ned Beatty made for one unhappy Southern family in the new revival of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Yet to open is the spring revival of Larry Gelbart's comedy Sly Fox and its newly announced supporting cast of Elizabeth Berkley, Bob Dishy, René Auberjonois, Bronson Pinchot and Irwin Corey.

Off-Broadway playwrights Samuel Beckett and Edward Albee joined forces in New York once again as Beckett/Albee—an evening of three selections by Sam and one by Ed—officially opened at the Century Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 9. Meanwhile, the Public Theater season kicked off the 2003-04 season Oct. 7 with Two Noble Kinsmen, the seldom-seen maybe Shakespeare and possibly Fletcher drama that was once scheduled for the 2002-03 season. Also at the Public, meanwhile, the current LAByrinth Theatre Company production of Robert Glaudini's Dutch Heart of Man extended one week to Oct. 19.

It was a week of good news for LAByrinth. Stephen Adly Guirgis' high-voltage prison drama, Jesus Hopped the A Train, which was in 2000 the first major success for the Off-Broadway company, will make its next stop on Broadway in fall 2004, it was revealed. Finally, two major regional nonprofits are preparing for a major leadership change. Williamstown Theatre Festival producer Michael Ritchie will become the new artistic director of Los Angeles' Center Theatre Group, overseeing the Mark Taper Forum, the Ahmanson Theatre and the new Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. He officially replaces Gordon Davidson Jan. 1, 2005. Ritchie has run Williamstown since 1996—no time at all when you consider Davidson, who in 1965 became the managing director of The Theatre Group, University of California at Los Angeles, the precursor at the Center Theatre Group. He became artistic director in 1967, when Ritchie was nine years old.

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