PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 7-13: Spider-Man Flies Again; Mormon Will Tour; Wonderland Ends

ICYMI   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, May 7-13: Spider-Man Flies Again; Mormon Will Tour; Wonderland Ends
Following in the glorious footsteps of The Scarlet Pimpernel, the much-reported-about musical Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, which has been on hiatus since April 17, appeared again May 12 in a revised version at Broadway's Foxwoods Theatre. Waggish Broadway pundits are now labeling the mega-show as Spider-Man 2.0.

T.V. Carpio, Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano
T.V. Carpio, Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The April 17 performance marked the final chance for audiences to see director and co-creator Julie Taymor's original vision for the musical, which began previews Nov. 28, 2010, and never officially opened — though it was most definitely reviewed (and harshly) by the critics, who bum-rushed the show in February. The Taymor reign saw several cast injuries and numerous delays of the opening night.

On her way out Foxwood's revolving door, Taymor passed the playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (a Marvel comics writer and acclaimed dramatist), director Philip Wm McKinley (The Boy From Oz) and choreographer Chase Brock. The trio were hired by producers to fix the show. The only creative members left from "1.0" are Bono and The Edge of U2, but even they are writing some new songs. Opening night is scheduled for June 14.

According to the current Playbill for the musical, music and lyrics are by Bono and The Edge; with a book by Julie Taymor, Glenn Berger and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; choreography and aerial choreography by Daniel Ezralow; additional choreography by Chase Brock; and original direction by Julie Taymor. Philip Wm McKinley is billed as the creative consultant.


Andrew Rannells in Book of Mormon.
photo by Joan Marcus

That's the news from the unluckiest musical of the 2010-11 Broadway season. Now, for the luckiest. The national tour of The Book of Mormon — the new Broadway musical that recently nabbed 14 Tony Award nominations and is a shoo-in to win for Best Musical — will open in 2012 in Denver. Colorado is the home state of creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and, not incidentally, the dwelling place of a fair number of Mormons. (Utah's just to the west.) It will launch at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, with additional cities and dates to be announced in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, producer Sonia Friedman, who is among the Broadway producers of Book of Mormon, is planning to bring the production to the West End in 2012.


All around the country, artistic directors are using the news vacuum between the Tony nominations and the actual awards to announce their 2011-12 seasons. And the lists have contained some eye-catching upcoming attractions. What is more curiosity-piquing than the Geffen Playhouse's intention to stage a new adaptation of the demonic-possession thriller The Exorcist?

John Pielmeier, the author of Agnes of God and thus a man who knows his way around spooky-crazy religious situations, is penning the stage version of the tale of a little girl possessed by the devil. Though it began as a novel, The Exorcist was brought to the world through the 1973 William Friedkin film. Tony Award winner John Doyle is the intriguing choice for director. Sure, he was responsible for the recent Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd, which depicted a kind of Hell on Earth. But will little Regan MacNeil play a piccolo?

The Geffen season will also include a new play by Pulitzer Prize winner Beth Henley and the playwriting debut of actor Alan Alda, whose topic is Nobel-winning scientist Marie Curie.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, very interesting — but how are they going to do the projectile vomiting?


Carla Gugino
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Long Wharf Theatre in Connecticut also has a literary adaptation up its sleeve. It will host the world-premiere stage adaptation of William Styron's acclaimed novel Sophie's Choice. (In this case, the novel and the film are both well known.) Carla Gugino will star as the troubled titular war survivor, who falls in love with a Southern writer in 1947 Brooklyn.

Long Wharf artistic director Gordon Edelstein will stage David Rintels' adaptation of the novel. It will play the mainstage April 25-May 20, 2012. Styron died in 2006.


New seasons were announced in Gotham as well. Manhattan Theatre Club named three world-premiere productions that it has in the works — including the long-awaited return of prodigal Pulitzer Prize son David Auburn (Proof). The writer's new play, The Columnist, will run at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.

The work takes place in midcentury America, when newspaper columnists were kings. It follows one Joseph Alsop (a real life Washington columnist who died in 1989, and was a closeted gay man), who "is beloved, feared and courted in equal measure by the Washington political world at whose center he sits. But as the '60s dawn and America undergoes dizzying change, the intense political drama Joe is embroiled in becomes deeply personal as well." Expect a top star in the lead role. Kevin Kline appeared in an earlier reading. I love it when they cast handsome actors as journalists. Don't you?


John Kander
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Down at the Vineyard Theatre, the birthplace of John Kander and Fred Ebb's Tony-nominated The Scottsboro Boys, the company is investing in another Kander musical. The most interesting aspect of this new show is that 84-year-old Kander — who wrote with Ebb for 40 years, and whose most recent premieres have all been of shows that were near completion at the time Ebb's death — has created it with a new partner, 32-year-old playwright-lyricist Greg Pierce.

The show is called Andra, and it will be a 2012 Vineyard Developmental Lab Production that Kander described as a "tiny, tiny little piece for four actors and three musicians. It's basically three short stories with the same four actors, and — after it's over — there is a loose kind of linkage between them."


Stephen Adly Guirgis' Motherf**ker with the Hat, which recently received six Tony Award nominations, including one for Best Play, has extended its run at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. The production, which officially opened April 11, had originally been scheduled to run through June 25. Performances will now continue through July 17.

Off-Broadway, meanwhile, Second Stage's world-premiere production of Lynn Nottage's comic look at Golden Age Hollywood's treatment of black actors, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark — which received positive reviews when it opened this week — has been extended for a second time, through June 12.

No such good news for Wonderland, the new musical that reinvented "Alice in Wonderland." The Frank Wildhorn show, battered by bad reviews and no Tony love, gave up its losing fight and announced a closing date of May 15.


Barbra Streisand, who held the film rights to Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart for ten years but never made a movie out of the property, this week provided some wonderful free publicity for the current Broadway revival of the play.

Kramer has made a regular practice out of trashing the actress and director in interviews for many years now, blaming her for the play never reaching the screen. Finally, after Kramer slammed her again in Entertainment Weekly, Streisand retaliated. She posted a lengthy statement on her official website to refute Kramer's assertions.

In this He-Said-She-Said, Kramer contends Streisand rewrote the script to make her character the star and marginalizing the gay characters who are at the center of the play. Streisand retorted that Kramer insisted on using his screenplay as written, wouldn't agree to any of the revisions she asked for, and also held out for more money when an HBO deal came along.

Bobby Cannavale and Chris Rock
Bobby Cannavale and Chris Rock Joan Marcus
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