As Fall Approaches, It’s Transition Time On and Off-Broadway
It’s a given: the New York theatre-scape is always in flux—sometimes in a good way, sometimes not so much. Still, from mid-August to mid-September there’s breaking buzz almost every day involving newsworthy entrances and exits.
On the entrance front (Broadway division) of 2012’s crop of fall shows, the first to arrive is the musical bio Chaplin, which begins previews on August 21 (official opening night is September 10). Following the personal and career trajectories of silent film trailblazer Charlie Chaplin, this much anticipated 22-person show hits the Great White Way with considerable creative cred thanks to its book by three-time Tony Award winner Thomas Meehan (The Producers, Hairspray, Annie) and direction/choreography by Warren Carlyle, whose last Broadway venture was the recent acclaimed revival of Follies.
In the title role is Rob McClure, whose ability to channel Chaplin’s signature character, The Little Tramp, is apparently brilliant to the point of uncanny.
(FYI: The show originally debuted at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2006 under the title Behind the Limelight, and was produced at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2010 with McClure and several of his current costars.)
The second show to arrive on Broadway is a new version of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, starring four-time Tony winner Boyd Gaines as activist/pariah Dr. Thomas Stockmann and noted stage and TV actor Richard Thomas (The Waltons) as his brother, Peter. Regarding the production, Gaines noted, in a phone interview prior to beginning rehearsals, that unlike previous versions of the script, this production is not locked into a super-serious mindset. “It’s more lively and hopefully has humor in it, particularly in presenting the human foibles of small-town characters,” he says. “I think the show will be a fun ride.” The Manhattan Theatre Club production is directed Tony winner Dough Hughes (Doubt). Previews begin September 4 for a September 27 opening.
Moving on to Off-Broadway, Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking, the long overdue 21st edition of Gerard Alessandrini’s notoriously hilarious, irresistibly diabolic sendup of New York theatre, is back! After a three-year hiatus -- during which fans of the iconic musical revue have suffered serious withdrawal symptoms, myself included -- it’s returned to the 47th Street Theatre where I predict tickets will be flying out of the box office. Current targets include Anything Goes, The Book of Mormon, Death of a Salesman, Evita, Follies, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Newsies, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Once, and Spider-Man.
Notes Alessandrini: “Over the past three years, I sat through show after show, with no outlet at all. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. Now I have 3 years worth of pent-up parodies, and am blessed with a season that has practically written itself.” New York theatre addicts couldn’t be happier. May I be among the first to say “Welcome home, Forbidden Broadway!”
As for adieus, the following shows are on the cusp of leaving Broadway so tick-tock, my theatre-loving friends— this well may be your final call for scoring tickets before the curtain comes down on:
Sister Act, currently starring Raven-Symoné, closes August 26; Clybourne Park (2012’s Best Play Tony winner) and One Man, Two Guvnors, starring Best Lead Actor in a Play Tony winner James Corden, both end on September 2nd; and Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, with a mega-star cast led by James Earl Jones, leaves the Gerald Schoenberg Theatre on September 9. And for those of you looking ahead, The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (2012’s Best Musical Revival Tony), starring five-time Tony winner Audra McDonald, will only be around through September 23.