PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 12-18: Newsies Forever!, "Downton Abbey" Star on Broadway

News   PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 12-18: Newsies Forever!, "Downton Abbey" Star on Broadway
Newsies, the Broadway musical now contending for Best Musical in the 2012 Tony Awards race is now playing an open-ended run, Disney Theatrical Productions announced on May 16.

Amy Morton and Tracy Letts
Amy Morton and Tracy Letts Photo by Michael Brosilow

The production, based on a 1992 film that was a box-office flop, was initially announced as a limited run — the Disney brass playing it safe just in case the reviews were tame. They were not. Critics largely loved it, and the audience has loved it even more. The week ending May 13, the show grossed $931,370 and played to 100.8 percent capacity.


The previously announced fall Broadway return of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? now has a first preview date of Sept. 27, according to an Equity casting notice. The incoming production was seen in 2010-11 at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago and Arena Stage in Washington, DC. It will play a Shubert theatre to be announced. Opening night will be Oct. 13, exactly 50 years to the date after the play's original Broadway opening.

Playwright-actor Tracy Letts and actor-actor Amy Morton will play George and Martha. Morton was last seen on Broadway as Barbara, the cranky daughter who's "running things now," in August: Osage Country. Letts is the writer of that little family drama.

The staging celebrates the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking 1962 play, which rocked the New York theatre world with its caustic humor, raw language and behavior and searing performances. Pam MacKinnon (Clybourne Park) again directs. Carrie Coon and Madison Dirks will reprise their work as Honey and Nick, respectively. ***

Taylor Louderman in Bring It On: The Musical.
photo by Craig Schwartz

The producers of Bring It On: The Musical evidently studied the Newsies business model and liked what they saw. Following its current tour, the new stage production set in the world of competitive cheerleading will begin a limited engagement at Broadway's St. James Theatre July 12.

Mark my word, should Bring It On — which will officially open Aug. 1, and is set to continue through Oct. 7 — get nice notices and box office, that "limited" status will get pretty limited itself, pretty quick.

Bring It On has music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, music by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Kitt's High Fidelity collaborator Amanda Green (that's two composers and lyricists, if you're keeping score at home). Jeff Whitty, the Tony-winning book writer of Avenue Q, authored the original book for the musical. (The show didn't need a second librettist, apparently.) Andy Blankenbuehler directs and choreographs the musical.


How hot is PBS' aristocratic soap opera "Downton Abbey"? Hot enough that its previously obscure cast members are now being cast as theatregoer-bait in Broadway productions.

Dan Stevens, known to millions of international TV viewers as "Downton" romantic lead Matthew Crawley, will play faithless suitor Morris Townsend in the new Broadway production of The Heiress,, starring the previously announced Jessica Chastain and David Strathairn, as Catherine Sloper and her father.

Performances will begin in October at a theatre to be announced. Moises Kaufman, director of I Am My Own Wife (possible alternate title for The Heiress?), will direct.


Will Swenson, Tony Sheldon and Nick Adams in Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which, to the surprise of many, celebrated its one-year anniversary on Broadway March 20, will play its final performance at the Palace Theatre June 24. When it closes, the musical will have played 23 previews and 526 performances.

The U.S. national tour of Priscilla, according to a May 16 press announcement, will begin in Minneapolis at The Orpheum Theatre on Jan. 8, 2013.


The Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman enjoyed better news. The staging, which stars Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy Loman and officially opened March 15 following previews that began Feb. 13 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, will recoup its entire original investment of $3.1 million this week.


Finally, Lincoln Center Theater this week joined New York's three-theatre club — members of which exclusive group include the Roundabout Theatre Company, the Public Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club and, most recently, Signature Theatre Company — with the unveiling of its latest space, the rooftop aerie christened the Claire Tow Theater.

The Tow joins LCT's long-standing duo of spaces, the Broadway-large Vivian Beaumont and the more intimate Mitzi E. Newhouse. (I suggest theatre types start referring to the trio of theatre as the Three Sisters.) The two-story Tow actually sits, penthouse-like, atop the Beaumont, and is accessible via an elevator in the Beaumont lobby.

The Tow will be home to LCT3, Lincoln Center Theater's already up-and-running (it commenced in 2008) programming initiative dedicated to new works by new, and often younger, playwrights and directors. The new space's debut production will be Slowgirl by Greg Pierce and directed by Anne Kauffman.

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