ShentonSTAGE Daily for MONDAY JULY 11

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Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily, focused on current and upcoming Broadway shows.

On Friday I wrote here about two Sondheim revivals I’d just seen — A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, presented by Opera North, at Leeds Playhouse (running to this Saturday), and a student production of MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG at the Royal Academy of Music (that closed on the weekend).

Meanwhile, INTO THE WOODS will be revived next month at Bath’s Theatre Royal by director Terry Gilliam, in a production that was originally due to open at the Old Vic but which got cancelled after Gilliam’s remarks on transexuals caused theatre staff there to protest at his presence in the building. Co-producers Scenario Two then struck a deal to open it in Bath instead.

And last night yet another new — heavily scaled back — production of INTO THE WOODS opened on Broadway, based on the concert staging that was seen at New York City Center in May (I reported on it here); I hope to be able to see the Broadway transfer as there have been major cast changes, including Brian dArcy James and Patina Miller replacing Neil Patrick Harris and Heather Headley as the Baker and the Witch respectively. Also new: Philippa Soo and Joshua Henry replace Denée Benton an Jordan Donica  as Cinderella and Rapunzel’s Prince, respectively.

One of the great joys of seeing familiar Sondheim shows again — or even familiar Sondheim productions again — is to see different casts bringing new colours to them.

As Alexis Soloski, reviewing it for the New York TImes, put it: “Despite some cast changes, its humor, wonder and humanity have arrived intact. Indeed, they may glimmer even more brightly at the St. James Theater than they did at City Center. So if you saw that recent staging, should you go into the woods again? Unless your budget doesn’t run to Broadway prices, of course you should. To put it another way: Wishes come true, not free.”

She is channelling the kind of ambivalent moral questions posed by the show itself. And a show that poses ethical questions around our collective responsibility to one another led her to this observation: “Judging by the hats worn indoors, the masks not worn at all and at least one surreptitious phone camera, everyone was handing responsibility a little differently.”

More New York theatre headlines…

  • Last night Beanie Feldstein announced an earlier-than-anticipated departure from the revival of FUNNY GIRL; she was originally due to be in the show to September 25, but will now leave on July 31. In an Instagram posting she stated, “Once the production decided to take the show in a different direction, I made the extremely difficult decision to step away sooner than anticipated.”

The production has announced it will make a replacement casting announcement at 1pm EST today. Co-produced by Sonia Friedman Productions and David Babani (the latter of course launched it at his now shuttered Menier Chocolate Factory, though the venue received nearly £1m in Cultural Recovery Funds) with Broadway producer Scott Landis, the show has had a tumultuous time from the very beginning, with London’s original Fanny Sheridan Smith missing many performances and having a very public breakdown after it transferred to the Savoy.

When I was in New York in May, it was the only major show — apart from the Daniel Craig MACBETH — that I decided to pass on seeing, given the reports I’d heard of it. Maybe with new casting, I’ll finally have a reason to return.

  • After recently opening successfully in Toronto, the West End hit Max Martin jukebox show & JULIET has announced that it will open at Broadway’s Stephen Sondheim Theatre this autumn, beginning previews on October 28 prior to an official opening on November 17.

  • & Juliet is the latest in a wide sweep of London-originated shows heading to Broadway this autumn and winter. The Kite Runner (which originated at Nottingham Playhouse before transferring to the West End) has just begun previews at the Hayes Theatre (prior to an official opening July 21), with a revival of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (with Wendell Pierce and Sharon D Clark reprising their Young Vic performances as WIlly and Linda Loman) due at the Hudson Theatre from September 19.

  • A second Young Vic show, Anthony McCarten’s The Collaboration, will transfer to Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J Friedman Theatre from November 29, prior to an official opening December 20, with Paul Bettany and Jeremy Pope reprising their London roles as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat respectively.

  • A busy autumn on Broadway will also see three new musicals — the transfer of Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire’s Kimberly Akimbo to Broadway’s Booth Theatre, based on Lindsay-Abaire’s play of the same name (from October 12 prior to an official opening on November 10, after a run last winter at Off-Broadway’s Atlantic Theatre), Almost Famous with music by Tom Kitt and book and lyrics by Cameron Crowe, who wrote the autobiographically-based 2000 film of the same name (at Broadway’s Bernard B Jacobs from October 3, prior to an official opening November 3),and Some Like It Hot, with music by Marc Shaimam and lyrics by Scott Wittham and Shaiman, whose previous credits include Hairspray (at the Shubert Theatre from November 1, prior to an official opening on December 11). 

  • Also this autumn: a new jukebox show A Beautiful Noise, currently playing in Boston, will transfer to the Broadhurst, based on the back catalogue of Neil Diamond, starring Will Swenson and featuring a book by Anthony McCarten (in his second Broadway credit this season, see The Collaboration above), running from November 2 prior to an official opening December 4.  

  • And transferring (belatedly) after originally premiering at Off-Broadway’s Ars Nova in 2017 is KPOP, inspired by what is described as the ‘global phenomenon’  and featuring K-pop singer Luna (at the Circle in the Square from October 13, prior to an official opening November 20)

SEE YOU ON WEDNESDAY

I’ll be back here on Wednesday. If you can’t wait that long, I may also be found on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/ShentonStage/ (though not as regularly on weekends.

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