PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Oct. 11-17: Not Waiting Any Longer

Bill Irwin has not yet had his fill of Waiting for Godot.

After years of playing a pantomime figure somewhat evocative of Samuel Beckett's famous tramps, and then portraying Lucky in Mike Nichols' comedian-filled (Steve Martin, Robin Williams) 1988 Lincoln Center production of the absurdist classic, Irwin will now get to play the leading role of Vladimir.

The new production will begin at the Roundabout Theatre Company's Studio 54 in April 2009, with Anthony Page directing. And Irwin's co-star ain't bad: Nathan Lane — a Bert Lahr of his generation if there ever was one. (Lahr famously played Estragon in the New York premiere of Godot). To fit Godot in, the Roundabout's planned revival of Bob Fosse's Dancin' time-stepped over to the 2009-10 season.

While a staple of regional and Off-Broadway theatre, Godot hasn't been on Broadway in more than 50 years.


There was some choice casting news this week. Four-time Tony Award winner Angela Lansbury, most recently on Broadway non-Tony-winning Deuce, will return to Broadway this season in the upcoming revival of Blithe Spirit. Lansbury will take on one of the theatre's classic showpiece supporting roles: psychic Madame Arcati, who annoyingly conjures up the ghost of the protagonist's late wife, causing all sorts of problems. Mercedes Ruehl and Lily Rabe, meanwhile, will head the cast of Richard Greenberg's The American Plan, which will begin previews at Broadway's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre Jan. 2, 2009. Manhattan Theatre Club produces.


Two shows opened on Broadway this week. To Be or Not To Be, Nick Whitby's stage adaptation of the famous Lubitsch comedy about a Polish theatre troupe and their comic battles with the Nazis, bowed at Manhattan Theatre Club's Broadway space, with a cast headed by Jan Maxwell and David Rasche. The reviews, unfortunately, did not make for an auspicious beginning for the newly renamed Friedman Theatre (formerly the Biltmore). Critics called it limp and largely laugh-free.

Simon McBurney's audacious new vision of Arthur Miller's All My Sons, meanwhile, was deemed boldly abstract in form and powerfully contemporary in meaning, while a couple detractors commented that the production's use of projections and sound design — as well as a self-referential theatrical framework that involved the cast directly introducing the play to the audience beforehand and then visibly sitting on the sidelines when not on stage — had the effect of distancing the viewer from the story. Stars John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest and Patrick Wilson all got their share of plaudits, while newcomer Katie Holmes received respectable notices.


Will Ferrell, the film actor who was a regular on "Saturday Night Live" from 1995-2006, will make his Broadway debut in a solo show with the unsubtle, but funny title, You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush. Adam McKay will direct the production, which will begin previews at the Cort Theatre Jan. 20, 2009, with an official opening Feb. 1. The limited engagement is currently scheduled to run through March 15. Ferrell played Bush often in his "SNL" days.


Finally, the Theatre Development Fund's new TKTS Booth opened officially in Duffy Square on Oct. 16. By that evening, the notorious glowing red staircase that is the dominant feature of the design was already a favorite gathering place for tourists and theatregoers. One person was overheard to say that stairs were a natural set for the cast of A Chorus Line. Hm. I believe we now have the opening number for next year's Tony Awards broadcast in place.

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