Sunday, May 29, 2022

B'way Update: Into the Woods; OCC Ceremony

The Encores! staging of
Into the Woods will transfer to Broadway
Credit: Joan Marcus
When I went to see Golden Shield at Manhattan Theater Club's City Center Off-Broadway space, I had to stand in line with attendees for the Encores! production of Sondheim and Lapine's Into the Woods. The line went around the block and I was worried about missing my curtain (I didn't). Well, that immensely popular staging of the 1987 fairy-tale musical by Lear de Bessonet, Encores' artistic director, will by transferring to a limited run on Broadway at the St. James Theater, with previews starting June 28 for a July 10 opening. 

Sara Bareilles (Waitress) will reprise her role as the Baker's Wife with Brian D'Arcy James (Something Rotten, Sweet Smell of Success) replacing Neil Patrick Harris as the Baker. Gavin Creel (Tony winner for Hello, Dolly!) will also return in the dual roles of the Wolf and Cinderella's Prince. New cast members include Patina Miller (Tony winner for Pippin) as the Witch, Phillipa Soo (Hamilton, Ameila) as Cinderella, Joshua Henry (Carousel) as Rapunzel's Prince, and Annie Golden (Assassins) as Cinderella's Mother/ Grandmother/Giant's Wife). Miller is replacing Heather Hedley who will be filming Netflix's Sweet Magnolias series. Soo is taking over for Denee Benton who will be doing the second season of The Gilded Age for HBO. Ironically, Benton replaced Soo in Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 when it transferred from Off-Broadway to on.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

B'way Update: Beautiful Noise, Kimberly, Mask Mandates, etc.

Neil Diamond is the latest pop
artist to get the jukebox musical treatment
As the 2021-22 Broadway season comes to a close, 2022-23 is taking shape. A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical joins the handful of shows with firm dates and theater. The bio musical about the 81-year-old singer-songwriter will play Boston's Emerson Colonial Theater for a six-week run starting June 21 and then start previews at Broadway's Broadhurst Theater on Nov. 2 prior to a Dec. 4 opening. The score will be composed of Diamond's hits including "Sweet Caroline," "Forever in Blue Jeans," "Song Sung Blues," and "Cracklin' Rose." The book will be by Anthony McCarten, Oscar-nominated screenwriter for The Two Popes and The Theory of Everything. Tony winner Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening) directs. Mayer has also staged such jukebox musicals as Swept Away, Head Over Heels, and American Idiot. Diamond will be played in Boston by Will Swenson, seen most recently in the CSC revival of Assassins. Casting for Broadway will be announced.

Victoria Clark and Justin Cooley
in Kimberly Akimbo.
Kimberly Akimbo
, which has already won top prizes from the New York Drama Critics Circle, Outer Critics Circle and Lortel Awards for its Off-Broadway run at the Atlantic Theater Company, has announced its Broadway venue. The bittersweet tuner about a teenager living in an older woman's body due to a rare aging disease, will begin previews at the Booth Theater Oct. 12 with an opening set for Nov. 10.  

Meanwhile COVID continues to wrack the New York theater community. Due to a new surge in cases, the Broadway League has extended its mask mandate through the end of June. Proof of vaccination has been made optional. (I think this is not a good move. We should still be made to show our vax cards when entering the theater.) Last weekend, Moulin Rogue, The Skin of Teeth, and Suffs had to cancel performances due to outbreaks among the casts. With a summer surge predicted, who knows how long these necessary restrictions will be in place. 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

2022 Theater Award Season Roundup

The past few days have been a crazed marathon of theater awards, from the Tony and Drama Desk nominations, to the New York Drama Critics Circle voting to the announcement of the winners of the Outer Critics Circle. COVID has caused delays and postponements for announcement dates, so that many of these events were smashed close together. There were also the winners and nominees for the Lortel Awards (for Off-Broadway), the Theater World honorees (for performers making their on or Off-Broadway debut), and the Chita Rivera nominees (for top dancers).
Here's a breakdown on the major accolades and a few thoughts on the choices:

Tony Nominations
The nominees for Broadway's biggest awards were announced by Tony winner Adrienne Warren (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical) and Tony nominee Joshua Henry (Carousel, Violet, The Scottsboro Boys) on May 9. A Strange Loop shockingly received the most nominations with 11. I say "shockingly" because this Pulitzer-Prize-winning musical previously presented Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons focuses on a black, gay musical-theater writer and includes graphic sex, liberal use of the "n" word and a little number called "AIDS Is God's Punishment." Not your typical Broadway fare. I'm just wondering what number they will do on the Tony telecast and will the network have to censor any of the lyrics like they did with The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Spring Awakening. I want the show to win for Best Musical, but the top prize might go to the more commercial choice of Six. 

Mrs. Doubtfire, first casualty
of the Tony Wars.
Credit: Joan Marcus
Coming in second for number of nominations was MJ and Paradise Square with 10 each, two so-so musicals with fantastic choreography. Totally screwed over was Mrs. Doubtfire, receiving only one nomination--for Rob McClure's stellar lead performance. This show was superior to MJ and Paradise in that its book and score were totally integrated and provided a solid two and half hours of entertainment. After the Tony announcement, Doubtfire promptly posted a closing notice for May 29. I hope McClure wins, he deserves it after brightening up numerous other short-lived tuners such as Chaplin and Honeymoon in Vegas.

Monday, May 2, 2022

B'way Update: London Death of a Salesman to Transfer

Wendell Pierce and Sharon D. Clarke 
in Death of a Salesman.
Credit: Brinkhoff Mogenburg
Willy Loman will soon be returning to Broadway for the sixth time. A 2019 London production of Arthur Miller's great American play Death of a Salesman with a mostly black cast will be opening on Broadway during the 2022-23 season. Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Serious Money, The Piano Lesson) and Sharon D. Clarke (Caroline, or Change, Doctor Who) will repeat their roles as Willy and Linda. Pierce was nominated for an Olivier Award and Clarke won for this production when it transferred from the Young Vic to the West End. Clarke recently made her Broadway debut in a well-received revival of Caroline, or Change and is a front runner for this season's Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. She is well-known to sci-fi fans for her recurring role as Grace who was killed by a nasty alien and made occasional re-appearances from the dead on Season 11 and 12 of Doctor Who.

Tony winner Andre de Shields (Hadestown) joins the cast as Willy's brother Ben and Khris Davis (Judas and the Black Messiah) will play the Lomans' wayward son Biff. Dates and a theater are to be announced. Miranda Cromwell will direct this NYC production after co-directing the London staging with Marianne Elliott (Angels in America). Together they won the Olivier Award for Best Direction.