October 2007 Theatre Column
October is here and
the New York Musical Theater Festival is in full
swing running September 17 – October 7, 2007.
Now in its fourth year, the NYMTF offers up a three
weeks of fledgling musicals, giving each one time
in the “oven” to see if their “cake”
will rise. According to the NYMTF press release,
this year’s festival features more than thirty
full productions and one hundred special events
including “readings, workshops, concerts,
parties, seminars and master classes.” Past
New York Musical Theater Festival selections Gutenberg!
The Musical and The Great American Trailer
Park Musical have gone on to successful Off
Stacey Sargeant, Stephen
Bel Davies, Lisa Asher, Paul Wyatt,
Amy Goldberger, George Merrick,
and Stephanie D'Abruzzo in Austentatious
This year I only saw one of the
musicals, Austentatious, a spoofy musical
about a community theatre troupe staging a new production
of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice;
the play was advertised with the tagline, “WAITING
FOR GUFFMAN MEETS JANE AUSTEN
Austentatious took on
a tremendous task. Reinterpreting Jane Austen is
an undertaking that is sure to rile up the myriad
Austen fans. And this play took huge swipe at the
purists. The first act consisted of one joke which
was reinterpreted over and over again – a
playwright writes a play that is supposedly about
Jane Austen but in fact has no relation whatsoever
to Austen’s book other than the fact that
the characters have the same names. The playwright
also hand-picks the director and insists on playing
Elizabeth Bennett. This is a joke that is funny
the first time it is told, but by the umpteenth
reiteration in the hour-long first act (Hey, let’s
move the tap dancing scene from Amsterdam to Times
Square), it was “all right already, we get
the joke - the girl can’t write and her show
Stephanie D’Abruzzo (Avenue
Q) did a great job playing the one truly sane
person on the stage. But D’Abruzzo’s
measured performance was steamrollered by Stacy
Sargeant, who played the deluded playwright Emily
as a one (strident) note wonder. Ms. Sargeant has
a great voice and stage presence, but needed to
be directed to trust the script and not to channel
the performance of a jet-engine-in-take-off-mode.
In the Second Act, however, the
actual story of Pride and Prejudice is
juxtaposed against the silliness of the community
theater’s companies’ play and the jokes
suddenly start to work. For the audience had come
to the play familiar with works of Jane Austen and
the dialogue did not need to be dumbed down.
There were many things about this
musical that really did work. The score is quite
nice and there are some absolutely hysterical lines.
Austentatious has great promise, it just
needs a little more time in the incubator. The four
members of the creative team who are credited with
the book just need to get together and take a hard
look at Act I with a willingness to “kill
their darlings.” They also need to trust their
audience and not be afraid to make their play about
the book they are attempting to parody.
Austentatious has a stellar
cast: Broadway star Stephanie D’Abruzzo of
Avenue Q fame; Lisa Asher; Stephen Bell
Davies; Amy Goldberger; George Merrick; Stacy Sargeant
and Paul Wyatt. The production was directed by Mary
Catherine Burke and the creative team included:
Matt Board (Music, Lyrics, Book); Jane Caplow (Book);
Kate Galvin (Book); Luisa Hinchliff (Book); and
Joe Slabe (Music, Lyrics, Book). Austentatious
played at the Julia Miles Theater (424 West 55th
Street) from September 18th – 29th.
Log onto http://www.nymf.org/
for more information about the New York Musical
Photo Credit Krisztina Fazekas
The next show I saw was the Billionaires Forever,
a Spectacular Musical Romp Through the Crumbling
Bush Empire which played September 4-9 at the
45th Street Theatre, 354 West 45th Street. The Billionaires
are a street theater company who attend Republican
gatherings and thank Republicans for making life
easier for Billionaires. They also perform in theaters
like when they performed Forever at the
45th Street Theater.
was filled with the usual hysterical musical numbers
such as “Landmines are a Girls Best Friend”
and “I’m a Texas Oilman.” This
performance was fun just like all the Billionaires
performances are for me (I am from Texas and I am
a lifelong Democrat). I do like the Billionaires
shows a bit better when they are in a cabaret space.
Singing or not, the Billionaires are guerilla theater
and there is just something about not knowing if
the richly dressed couple sitting at the table next
to you is another member of the audience or if they
are part of the show. And oh my goodness, will I
have to get involved? Will they pull me on the stage?
The talented cast included: Dave
Bennett; David Case; Brandi Rhodes; Alex Mitchell;
Melissa Collom; Jim Simon; Yvonne Willrich-Teague;
Kellie Aiken; Raven Pease; and DJ McDonald. Book
by Melody Bates and Dave Bennett Directed by Melody
The Billionaires will be performing
on Saturday, October 6, 2007 at 7:30pm at the South
Presbyterian Church, 343 Broadway, Dobbs Ferry,
New York. Tickets are $15 individuals - $30 families.
Proceeds to benefit Military
Families Speak Out. For more information: 914-478-3848.
For more information on the Billionaires for Bush,
log onto: http://billionairesforbush.com/index.php.
I am appending my
September and August Theater Columns which covered
Broadway shows that are opening this fall:
Fall is upon us
and there is a bevy of hot new shows and hot Hollywood
stars hitting Broadway. In fact, if you look at
the line up of Hollywood stars who will be gracing
Broadway stages this fall, a thinking man or woman
would surmise that SAG will strike in solidarity
with the WGA when the Writers Guild of America's
contract expires in October. Both unions are unhappy
about the way they are being compensated by the
new media world of DVD's and the internet.
But this rumbling out of California
is only benefiting the fall theater line up. Chazz
Palminteri is opening his one man show, A Bronx
Tale, at the Walter Kerr Theater.
Kevin Kline and Golden Globe winner Jennifer Garner
will star in a new production of Cyrano de Bergerac
at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, running October
12th - December 23rd. Randy Quaid will be starring
in his first Broadway show, Lone Star Love,
which opens for preview on November 1, 2007 at the
And Claire Danes will star in Pygmalion,
which will run October 11, 2007 - December 16, 2007
at the American Airlines Theatre.
Tom Stoppard's Rock & Roll
One other notable show that will be
opening this fall is Tom Stoppard's Rock &
starring Rufus Sewell, Sinead Cox and Brian Cox
- all from the original London cast. Stoppard has
always been a brilliantly subversive playwright.
And his talents first shone on Broadway forty years
ago with his first Broadway production when he turned
Hamlet on its ear in Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern are Dead.
One play that I am sure to catch is
Tracy Lett's August:
Osage County which begins previews on October
30th and opens November 20th for an open run at
the Imperial Theatre after a sold out run at Chicago's
Steppenwolf Theater. Letts is the Pulitzer price
nominated playwright (for Man from Nebraska)
of Bug, which I reviewed when it ran three
years ago at the Barrow Street Theater. Bug
was subsequently made into a movie starring
Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon (from the Off Broadway
production). See my June
theater column for more about Bug.
Bug was wonderful so August: Osage County
is definitely makes my short list.
Disney's The Little Mermaid
Also, believe it or not, The
Little Mermaid (thelittlemermaid)
is another not-to-be-missed show hitting Broadway.
Mermaid has a book by Douglas Wright, the
playwright who won the Pulitzer Prize for I
Am My Own Wife, a play about an East German
transvestite. Just as playwright Douglas Carter
Beane (The Little Dog Laughed) was able
to turn Xanadu into a delicious campy feast,
with Wright as the playwright, Mermaid
should be truly enjoyable for the entire family
and not just a treat for Brownie-troupes-on-a-field-trip.
And from my August Theater Column:
Fall will soon be here and there
is a plethora of interesting new shows opening on
Broadway. Here are three that caught my eye:
The Farnsworth Collection
(of West Wing fame) has penned a new play,
The Farnsworth Collection, which is opening
on November 4, 2007 at the Music Box Theater. The
show tells the story of the invention of television.
Now I am a West Wing junkie (I have all
the first four Sorkin years DVD's) and I really
tried to love Studio 60, so I am truly
psched to see this new play. Log onto farnsworthonbroadway.com
for more information about the play.
The Producers may have
closed on Broadway but another one of Mel Brook’s
campy movie classics, Young Frankenstein,
is coming to Broadway, opening on November 8, 2007
at the Hilton Theatre. Now I just know this one
is going to be fun and nothing like the other monster
fiasco, Frank Wildhorn’s Dracula.
for more information about this show.
Lone Star Love
And last, Randy Quaid is starring
in Lone Star Love, a musical retelling
of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Lone Star is opening December 2, 2007 at
the Belasco Theater. I saw Lone Star Love
when it played off-Broadway back in February of
2005 and featured it in this column.
It was a lot of fun and has the potential to be
a hit on Broadway (you certainly can’t fault
the plot). Log onto lonestarlovethemusical.com
for more information about the show.
For information on all the Broadway
shows, log onto our Broadway
theater listing section.