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Talkin' Off-Broadway

Broadway, it seems, has become the land of musicals in the last few decades. Musicals? Well, it's always been that, but dramas and comedies are currently few and far between. Currently Art, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, and Side Man are the only non-musicals on the boards. A View From The Bridge announced an early closing date as of August 29th so that's already history.

There was a time when the Broadway stage featured many great dramas and comedies with some of the finest actors in the world. Theatergoers had plenty to choose from on any given night. The Theater Guild, founded in 1919, was responsible for producing hundreds of plays and nurturing some of the best writers in America. They did this for over four decades. However, the cost to produce most of their plays came in under $15,000.00, a sum that would not even cover your advertising costs today. Today, the Guild pretty much provides theater type entertainment for cruise ships with an occasional Broadway outing. State Fair was their last venture and currently up in Westport the Guild is presenting Jean Stapelton in a one woman show, Eleanor. The show will tour before a decision is made on whether it will come to the Great White Way.

Off-Broadway is where you will find the dramas and comedies, whether new works or classics, and with some of the best actors in America. Eli Wallach, one of America's greatest actors, recently completed a stint in Visiting Mr. Green down at the Union Square Theater (Hal Linden currently stars). In October Tony winning actress, Amanda Plummer, will star in an Off-Broadway production of Killer Joe at the Soho Playhouse. Graciela Daniele directs A New Brain, a new musical, at the Newhouse At Lincoln Center. Mary Louise Parker, Patricia Hodges and David McCallum star in Alan Ayckbourn's play, Communicating Doors at the Variety Arts. Another Tony winner, Lillias White, is now starring in Dinah Was at the Gramercy Theater. And there is always something going on at the Public.

And that's really only the tip of the iceberg as there is much more happening Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway. After meeting with staff members, we've decided to address this vital area of the theater scene with a new section devoted to talkin' Off-Broadway. That will be coming up after we debut our Regional section covering various cities with resident theater companies across the land. Coming after Labor Day.

Tidbits: High Society will close today. The Cole Porter tuner played 144 performances and 20 previews and there is talk of taking it out on a national tour.

Davis Gaines returned to the role of the Phantom in the Los Angeles production of The Phantom of the Opera as of August 28th at the Pantages Theater. Davis has played the Phantom a couple of thousand times and he has a huge fan base who will fly in from the four corners of the globe to see him. You have until November 1 to catch him. Leila Martin, who has been playing Madame Giry on Broadway for the last 10 years, will be joining the Los Angeles production. Others in the cast include Marie Danvers as Christine and Lawrence Anderson As Raoul. Here's an idea. Why not videotape this production for posterity or commercial release? It would keep the Phantom movie fans happy regardless of who is cast in the film ... if the film is ever made.

Speaking of Phantom, there is an add in the Arts and Leisure section of today's New York Times for the musical's new website. It shows a computer mouse with a mask on it and the world wide web address (www.thephantomoftheopera.com).

Audra McDonald's new CD "Way Back To Paradise" will be released on September 22 on the Nonesuch label. She'll be singing 14 songs by various composers: Adam Guettel, Michael John LaChiusa, Jason Robert Brown, Jenny Giering, and Ricky Ian Gordon. You can also head over to The Ford Center and catch Ragtime where the 3-time Tony winner slays 'em nightly in the role of Sarah.

The British are Coming! As of today Brian Cox, Henry Goodman and David Haig take over for Alan Alda, Victor Garber and Alfred Molina in the Tony winning play, Art at the Royale theater. All three of the newcomers have won Olivier Awards in their homeland.

The other night I headed over to Actors Repertory Theatre, an Equity resident theater company in Las Vegas. They were having a benefit and presented a revue called Show Stoppers. It was enough for me to decide that we'll be watching this company in their future productions in our new Regional theater section. There was a cast of thirty or so, but two performers caught my eye. Both Harrison DeCreny and Christi Colombo have that little something extra that few actors have besides talent ... some call it the X factor. Dare I say it? Star quality. Incidentally, they're both around ten years old.

See you Thursday!


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