A dear Hudson fellow– an intelligent, older but still “with it” kind of guy — recently expressed excitement about the upcoming NYC theater season previewed in this past weekend’s New York Times Arts and Leisure section. Pronouncements like these always inspire mixed feelings in me: excited interest on the one hand and, frankly, feelings of sadness and resentment on the other, knowing that I’ll probably miss most, if not at all, of the new shows, living far enough from the source to make attending (not to mention covering for a major publication, which I used to do) too much of a project.
So it was with some dread, and then relief, that I looked through the section. Two of the shows– revivals of The Elephant Man starring Bradley Cooper and directed by Scott Ellis, and the great Bernstein/Comden and Green musical On the Town, directed by John Rando, are transplants of productions I had already seen (and reviewed very positively) — the first at The Williamstown Theater Festival and the second at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield. I was fortunate enough to have seen the original production of another prominently advertised revival – On the Twentieth Century—a good Cy Coleman musical adaptation of the wonderful Howard Hawks/Ben Hecht film, Twentieth Century, as a youngin’ in 1978 . (It starred the late great Madeline Kahn, as well as Kevin Kline, John Cullum, and even Imogene Coca and was directed, terrifically, by Harold Prince– while the new production stars Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher and is directed by the ubiquitous –and always dependable — Scott Ellis. Still, if need be, memories of the original will serve nicely.) Ditto Hedwig and the Angry Inch (a thrilling discovery when it debuted starring its creator, John Cameron Mitchell, in 1998); Side Show ( a stunningly dark musical about circus people that sadly flopped in its first incarnation in 1998); and even A Delicate Balance. (The Gerald Gutteriez 1996 production of this Edward Albee play featured the luminous Rosemary Harris, plus Elaine Stritch, George Grizzard, and Elizabeth Wilson, and at the time, I thought it couldn’t be beat; it is now being revived in a production starring Glenn Close, John Lithgow, and Bob Balaban —all favorites perhaps, but once again, if need be, I’m happy enough with my memories). The wonderful Helen Mirren, in The Audience, playing Queen Elizabeth II once again, would no doubt be fun —but certainly feels like a retread, if not downright audience pandering. (The Queen is very available on DVD.)
Which only leaves Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth, Larry David’s Fish in the Dark, David Hare’s Skylight, Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play, and older-running shows like The Book Of Mormon and perhaps Kinky Boots to feel a twinge at the possibility of missing. Though who says I definitely will? There’s always Amtrak and the TKTS booth—or, in lieu of that, going under the bed covers and watching Rehab Addict — a TV show not about Lindsay Lohan but a spunky woman who likes to restore old homes using everything original to the house, which can –and perhaps should –be seen on the DIY network, particularly by certain individuals involved in what seems like WAAAY too many “revivals” in town.
Thinking of that today, I coincidentally ran upon this oddly phrased yet observant little sign posted on the street facing yet another suburbanized, Frankenstein-like production being patched together by Eric Galloway’s Galvan Foundation at Warren and Fifth Streets. Yes, it’s true, I made recommendations and finally approved plans for it while on the Historic Preservation Commission, but, as theater people know, it’s sometimes hard to know how the pieces will come together until the curtain is about to rise, particularly when this “impresario” is involved –Scott Baldinger