Following a successful premiere production that is still in previews at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA, Sara Bareilles’ new musical, based on the film of the same name, announced that it will move to Broadway in the spring.
Previews begin in March 2016 and opening night is scheduled for April at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, where Spring Awakening will play a limited run starting in September. The A.R.T. production will have its official opening night Aug. 20.
The show is directed by A.R.T. artistic director Diane Paulus (who, it would seem, has a clause in her A.R.T. contract that she move one show to Broadway every season), with choreography by Chase Brock. The cast is led by Tony winner Jessie Mueller, of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical fame, as Jenna, the title character. Based on the motion picture written by the late filmmaker Adrienne Shelly, the new musical has a book by Jessie Nelson and music and lyrics by Bareilles.
Hamilton doesn’t seem like a Cameron Mackintosh-type show — he’s more a sung-through guy than a rap-through guy — but the powerhouse producer can do whatever he wants. And he apparently wants to move the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical to London.
Mackintosh was quoted in the London Evening Standard as saying, "I think there’s every intention for it to come to London." 2017 would be the target year. Mackintosh previously collaborated with Hamilton lead producer Jeffrey Seller to bring the musical Avenue Q to the UK.
The paper also quoted creator and star Miranda as saying: "We’re hoping it will happen sooner rather than later. My wife is always trying to get me to other countries so I would be honoured to open the show in London."
Plenty of American musicals transfer to London, of course, but not so many that make such pointed fun of a past British monarch — in this case King George III, who is portrayed in Hamilton as a preening, delusional egotist who is sure the rebelling colonists will “be back.” However, British playwright Alan Bennett’s The Madness of King George III, about the same royal, wasn’t exactly a love letter, so...
Annie Baker’s new play John, helmed by Sam Gold, officially opened at the Signature Theatre Aug. 11, with Lois Smith in the cast. Baker is on a roll lately, what with her Pulitzer Prize-winning The Flick enjoying an open run elsewhere Off-Broadway.
The new work takes place at a weird and creepy bed and breakfast in Gettysburg, PA, the week after Thanksgiving. In attendance are a young couple trying to stay together and a spooky doll collection. The Flick caused a stir for its long running time when it was first staged at Playwrights Horizons, but that doesn’t seem to have deterred Baker in the least: John lasts three hours and 30 minutes, including two intermissions.
The general critical response was encapsulated by Variety’s question, "Whatever does that mean?" Reviews were respectful of Baker’s and Gold’s work, as well as the cast, but somewhat mystified.
"Something strange is surely afoot," wrote Variety. "Which is fine with us, because we’re with Jenny when she says, 'I like spooky things,' and specifically, 'I like scary stories.' That sense of foreboding is expertly sustained and periodically intensified by helmer Sam Gold, who generates the ominous atmosphere by treating the house like another character, a rather disturbed character who could turn ugly without warning."
The New York Times said, in this play, Baker "stretches her talents in intriguing if sometimes baffling new directions. Not incidentally is the play set near the site of a bloody battle in the Civil War. The membrane between life and death, the world of things and the realm of spirits, seems strangely permeable in Ms. Baker’s appealingly odd — and perhaps less appealingly long — drama, which is laced with shivery suggestions of a ghost story." The paper added that, "As has been the case in all of the Baker-Gold collaborations, the acting is exquisitely honed and artifice-free."
The production is helmed by Delacorte regular Daniel Sullivan, who, in the estimation of some critics, took a rare Central Park misstep with the staging.
"Daniel Sullivan," wrote the Times, 'the reliably fine director whose Shakespeare productions here usually have avoided self-conscious concepts, has almost made a U-turn with this disappointing staging...Here, the emphasis is somewhat deflatingly on the artifice in Cymbeline. We are encouraged to recognize that we are watching a troupe of actors in performance, presenting a fictional tale."
The Hollywood Reporter agreed, saying "director Sullivan has essentially taken a 'throw everything at the wall and see what sticks approach,' in which the tone veers wildly between broad slapstick and tearful tragedy," but added, "The performers work very hard to put it all over, and for the most part they succeed."
On the pro side of the argument, Newsday declared, "The Public Theater's modern-dress production, directed with wit and unexpected substance by Daniel Sullivan, has nine terrific actors switching around 24 sober and silly characters. The style has more than a dash of Lewis Carroll and, with actors generally sitting on chairs facing the stage when not performing, there is a let's-pretend attitude that never loses touch with the need to keep emotions real." And Deadline called the production "wonderful."
Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald will reunite for the first time since Ragtime (back when Audra only had three Tonys) in the upcoming production of Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed (or, as the kids are calling it, "SAMMS-21")
The backstage story is about the making of one of the first all-black Broadway musical hits that was also written by African-Americans. It opened the door for black performers and writers on the stage during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance.
Joining McDonald and Mitchell are Billy Porter, Brandon Victor Dixon and Joshua Henry. Scott Rudin is producing the show, which will start previews at the Music Box Theatre March 14, 2016, and open April 21. George C. Wolfe will write a new book as well as direct, and tap-dance icon Savion Glover will choreograph.