When Life Was Slow and Oh, So Mellow
Wrestling Southern Californians away from the beach and into theatres on lazy, breezy summer nights is a feat that challenges the best of America's theatre producers. Or forget the beach; just try to lure them out of the local Starbucks! At least two producers in sunny Orange County have the summer attendance blues dilemma absolutely under control. Laguna Beach entrepreneurs Andrew Barnicle and Richard Stein simply park their snazzy Laguna Playhouse right next to the ocean, serve sushi and Starbucks under the stars prior to performance, and woo their audience with a Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt musical featuring two old codgers—Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt!
The results? Packed crowds of cheering seniors humming "Try to Remember" and "My Cup Runneth Over," and curious younger audiences hoping to catch a glimpse of two theatre legends and capture a memorable moment in musical theatre history. The Show Goes On played briefly (especially by The Fantasticks standards) in New York in 1998 at Off-Broadway's York Theatre. In February 1999, Jones and Schmidt were inducted into the Broadway Hall of Fame at the Gershwin Theatre, and in May 1999, their "stars" were added to the off-Broadway Walk of Fame outside the Lucille Lortel Theatre. Their latest musical, Mirette, was produced by the Goodspeed Opera House, and they are currently working on a western musical titled Roadside, based on a play by Lynn Riggs (whose play Green Grow the Lilacs was also musicalized, as Oklahoma!). Roadside will have its world premiere Feb. 15, 2001, at the Lyric Stage of Dallas. These two guys just aren't slowing down!
The Show Goes On (closed July 30) featured the duo's best known songs from The Fantasticks, I Do! I Do!, and 110 in the Shade, and many of their delightfully quirky not-so-well-known-songs from Celebration, Philemon, and Mirette. Tom Jones' showmanship and Harvey Schmidt's quiet charm warmed the audience, and a supporting cast featuring Jo Ann Cunningham, Emma Lampert, and Mark McGrath balanced the duo in a variety of roles (including the "other" Starbucks from 110 in the Shade!).
Baring It All On Broadway
America's most playful, most articulate, and most productive regional theatre artistic director is producing a different kind of moon-over-Broadway. Directed by Jack O'Brien, The Full Monty musical sashays from San Diego's Old Globe Theatre into the Eugene O'Neill Theater on Oct. 26. The world premiere opened on May 26 in San Diego and broke box office records at the Globe.
Although The Full Monty is heading east, there's still plenty to do at The Globe. David Rambo's play, God's Man in Texas, is billed as a "Baptist Super Bowl," and is creating a stir on the Cassius Carter Stage. Based on a true story, God's Man in Texas pits an ambitious minister and church deacons against an aging pastor who has led his flock for 50 years (through Aug. 26). Next door, in the Old Globe Theatre, is Alan Ayckbourn's Things We Do for Love (through Sept. 2).
Good News at the Geffen
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Wit, It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues, and the star-studded Defiled (with Peter Falk and Jason Alexander) led to sold-out houses and a record-breaking fourth season for Gil Cates' Geffen Playhouse. Single ticket sales skyrocketed 59% and subscriptions rose by almost 30%. "I couldn't be happier with the success we had this year," explains outgoing Managing Director Lou Moore. "It pleases me greatly to know that I leave the Geffen in this terrific shape."
Replacing Lou Moore is independent producer and former Steppenwolf Theatre head Stephen Eich, who begins work this week as the Geffen's new managing director. "Steve comes to us with wide-ranging credits as a professional theatre manager and producer on Broadway and on stages around the world," said Producing Director Cates. "The Geffen Playhouse has already become a major force on the Los Angeles theatre scene and is now poised to become a key player on the national and international theatre scene as well," said Eich.
Greenberg Premiere at So. Coast Rep
Evan Yionoulis is directing Everett Beekin, Richard Greenberg's latest world premiere for South Coast Repertory, opening Sept. 1 and running through Oct. 8. This new comedy from the Pulitzer Prize-winning finalist for Three Days of Rain is set in 1940s Manhattan, and spans three generations and 50 years. South Coast Rep will follow with Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Sept. 19-Oct. 22, and Yasmina Reza's Art, Oct. 13-Nov. 19.
Beauty and the ....Yawwwwwn
Across the street at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, hopes are high that productions of Titanic (Aug. 22-27) and Ragtime (Sept. 12-24) will balance the cheeky, but way-too-long production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast (closed July 23), and the divinely decadent, but definitely-in-a-space-too-big for-the-concept Cabaret (closed Aug. 13). Beauty and the Beast was definitely at its best in the short, sweet, and silly 50-minute version that first premiered at Disneyland. Bolstered with additional songs, endless dance numbers, and a longer book for Broadway, the musical loses its magic by Act Two—about the same time most of the younger tykes in the audience are yawning and settling into a deep slumber.