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Il bisogno si conosce l'amico.

You know a true friend when in need.

AUTUMN SEASON 2009

I touched on summer in London last month, but neglected a few things I thought I’d mention in this column, which covers things to come this Fall here in NYC. And some of those London pieces should be headed here as well. Of course there’s Jude Law in Michael Grandage’s production of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, which I saw at London’s Wyndham Theatre (where a stage adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Shawshank Redemption” starts this month), and which will be playing the Broadhurst Theatre starting mid-September. Tickets are selling briskly and there are those who’ve never seen Law on stage before, so despite the fact that this is an okay telling of the tale rather than a scintillating one, the entire twelve week run should be heavily populated. The actress I saw play Gertrude in London will not be repeating her role here, but otherwise the cast is intact, direct from a two week engagement in Elsinore, where “Hamlet”, of course, takes place. That must have been eerie, yes?

NOT making the trip here immediately is a play I mentioned briefly last month, but people on the Internet are still buzzing about it, so I think a trip across the pond for Jez Butterworth’s “Jerusalem”, seems more and more likely. Nothing definite is being expressed yet, however, and now that it’s star, Mark Rylance, has agreed to do Beckett’s “Endgame” in the West End until early December, it doesn’t seem possible we’ll see this beautifully written yet very disturbing play until 2010. But hey, 2010 is only 4 months away. In theater, anything can happen and usually does. And “Jerusalem”, which tells the story of Johnny “Rooster” Byron, former daredevil and current cross between the Pied Piper and Peter Pan, isn’t just a story of British decay and urban corruption, it’s a universal tale for our current times. I can’t wait to see it again, and, as I mentioned previously, Mr. Rylance gives one of the most remarkable stage performances I’ve been privileged to witness, and this kind of performance for the ages must be seen by all.
I did happen to see the London revival of Stephen Sondheim’s musical “A Little Night Music”, based on Ingmar Bergman’s “Smiles Of A Summer Night”, before it closed up shop in London back in July, and the good news is, the production, directed by Trevor Nunn, is coming here to the Walter Kerr Theatre in December, but without any of the London cast. Rumor has it that Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones are already attached to the NY production, so I’ll happily visit it again, although I will be praying someone do something about the uninspired set that marred the London production. Maybe they’ll have more money to spend on the set here. Hopefully the orchestra will be bigger too. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for, do you?
Happily, a musical I loved when it first surfaced here in the mid-90’s is coming back in a much better theatre than it played first time around, and that’s the terrific show “Ragtime”, based on the novel by E L Doctorow, with book by Terrence McNally and music and lyrics by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. This is a production that played Washington D C last Spring, received rapturous reviews and now comes back to the Neil Simon Theatre in mid-October. As for Neil Simon himself, two of his best-loved plays of the 80’s are coming back, in repertory, at the Nederlander Theatre this Fall, with Laurie Metcalf starring and direction by “Our Town”‘s David Cromer. Last time I saw “Brighton Beach Memoirs”, Fisher Stevens was starring as Eugene Morris Jerome, having succeeded Matthew Broderick in the original cast. In that production, the mother was played by the lovely Elizabeth Franz. In “Broadway Bound”, Jonathan Silverman played Eugene, and Linda Lavin played Mom. This time out, two different actors are still playing Eugene, but Laurie Metcalf does double duty as his mother. Considering the wonderful work director Cromer did with “Our Town”, recreating two works by another American original should be a snap. We shall see.

And by the way, when I mentioned all the musicals that were playing in London while I was there this summer, with all the shows I enumerated here, I left out a couple. I didn’t mention there were productions currently playing there of “Blood Brothers”, “Chicago”,”Grease”, “Hairspray”,”Hello, Dolly”, “Lion King”, “We Will Rock You” and something we will never see here called “Dreamboats and Petticoats”, and by the way, for that you should all count your blessings, or your lucky stars, whichever you prefer.
More to come, trust me, much more to come.