Thursday, August 18, 2005


Connick's Broadway debut will be 'Pajama' party
NEW YORK -- It's definite: Harry Connick Jr. will make his Broadway debut in a revival of "The Pajama Game" as part of the Roundabout Theatre Company's 40th anniversary season, opening March 2 at the American Airlines Theatre after five weeks of prevues beginning Jan. 27.

Kathleen Marshall will direct and choreograph. Jeffrey Richards, James Fudd Jr. and Scott Landis produce.

It's scheduled to play for 20 weeks through June 18.

The show you know: book by George Abbott & Richard Bissell, based on Bissell's novel, "7 and 1/2 cents." Music and lyrics by Richard Adler & Jerry Ross, which include "Hey There," "Steam Heat," "Hernando's Hideaway" and "Small Talk."

The original opened on Broadway on May 13, 1954, with John Raitt, Janis Paige and Eddie Foy Jr., won the Tony for best musical in 1955 and also launched the career of Shirley MacLaine when she sensationally stepped out of the chorus one night to sub for ailing second-lead Carol Haney. (Ever since, MacLaine has been Exhibit A in any story of a chorus girl who made good.)

A "P.G." film version appeared in 1957, co-directed by Stanley Donen and George Abbott (choreographed by Bob Fosse) with Raitt, Foy, Haney and Doris Day.

But what's new in all this is Connick.

It's his first time in a Broadway book show, though he's not a total stranger to the N.Y. theater scene. His concert production "Harry Connick Jr. and His Orchestra -- Live on Broadway" had a run at the Lunt-Fontanne in 1990; in 2001, he contributed the Tony-nominated score to the Susan Stroman-directed "Thou Shalt Not" at the Plymouth.

But his being in town is guaranteed to enliven N.Y.'s 2005-06 theater season considerably. ...

This week's prime legit opener: "Dedication" at the 59E59 main stage, which is stirring more interest than normal for an off-Broadway show because of the creators involved, i.e. Terrence McNally (playwright), Nathan Lane and Marian Seldes (cast toppers). Its official launch is Thursday, and audiences will be seeing a more subdued-than-usual N.L. as a small-time actor matching wits with a rich, dying and wholly unpredictable woman of High Maintenance, played by M.S. ...

Lynn Redgrave, who's as lively and interesting to talk to as she is an indefatigable and consummate actress, will be the special guest of the New York Women in Film & Television organization Sept. 22 at the Princeton Club for a one-time-only "A Conversation With Lynn Redgrave" event. I'm particularly looking forward to it because I get to be there asking the questions, and L.R. has much to talk about -- above and beyond, of course, her just-ending Broadway run in "The Constant Wife" (it concludes Sunday), her upcoming tour in "The Importance of Being Earnest," that new Merchant/Ivory film "The White Countess," with sister Vanessa and niece Natasha Richardson, opening in November; also her book with daughter Annabel Clark titled "A Mother and Daughter's Recovery From Breast Cancer," the Oscar and Tony nominations in her past and her 2002 Order of the British Empire medal from Buckingham Palace "for services to acting and the British community in America." Interesting, she always is; busy, she continues to be. ...

Playgoers will have additional chances to see "Doubt," this year's Tony-winning best play, with its original 14-karat cast, headed by Tony winners Cherry Jones and Adriane Lenox and nominees Brian F. O'Byrne and Heather Goldenhersh. They have agreed to extend their contracts to stay with John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama through Jan. 8 -- hooray.

Movie biz should take its regards from Broadway
Slump? What boxoffice slump?

Here in Hollywood, the film industry may be suffering through its summer of discontent, but 3,000 miles away in Manhattan, the lights are brighter than ever on Broadway, which is enjoying a torrid summer.

Attendance and ticket sales have bettered last year's numbers for the past 20 weeks, jumping 10.8% over the corresponding level last year, according to the League of American Theatres and Producers.Critics have complained loudly that this summer's movie lineup has relied too heavily on remakes of older movies and retoolings of old TV shows. But while theater critics have lobbed the same attacks on Broadway, the ticket-buying public doesn't seem to care. EDITOR’S NOTE: THEY PUTTING SOMETHING IN THE WATER IN NYC?

For the week ending Aug. 7, most of the shows playing to SRO audiences played variations on established properties: "Spamalot," the musical reworking of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," hit 102% of capacity; "Mamma Mia!" drawing from the ABBA songbook, and "The Lion King" each scored 101%.

Generalizing about why remakes are thriving in the theater while sputtering at the cinema is probably a pointless exercise; success or failure is dependent on the execution of specific projects.

But Broadway does have one weapon in its arsenal that Hollywood lacks: Under the banner of the LATP, Broadway producers have banded together to promote Broadway theatergoing. It launched a multilingual Web site to lure foreign tourists, sponsors walking tours of Manhattan's theater district and talks up theatergoing at tourism trade shows. Meanwhile, New York's nonprofit Theatre Development Fund offers discount tickets at its TKTS booth in Times Square and South Street Seaport. As a result, some theatergoers commit to seeing a show even before they figure out what show they want to see.

By contrast, Hollywood spends millions of dollars hawking individual movies, but precious little attention is spent to selling the notion of moviegoing itself. EDITOR’S NOTE: VINDICATION, THY MONIKER IS QOTD!!!!!! SEE??? THIS IS WHAT I’VE BEEN SAYING FOR SOME TIME, HAVE I NOT!! (WHAT DO I WIN?)

This summer, pundits have trotted out the usual litany of complaints: Concessions are too expensive, ads are annoying, audiences are rude. All are concerns that need to be addressed, but what is remarkable is that the industry isn't making any effort to sell itself. EDITOR’S NOTE: YES YES YESSSSS!!!!

Arguably, with the shift to stadium seating, the new generation of multiplexes are better than ever. Multiple screens and staggered start times also have eliminated long lines to get into the biggest blockbusters.

But that also means that the lines that once stretched, literally, around the block for movies like "Jaws," "The Exorcist" and the original "Star Wars" are gone -- and with them all the attendant media coverage that was itself a form of free publicity that created a want-to-see.

To lure customers, some theater chains have created loyalty programs, like Regal Cinema's Master Card offering, which rewards users with points redeemable for tickets or concessions. But in the current environment, that doesn't go far enough.EDITOR’S NOTE: IT’S A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. BUT THEY HAVEN’T PUBLICIZED IT AT ALL. THEY HAND OUT FORMS TO PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY THERE, AND EVEN THEN IN A VERY LOW-KEY FASHION.

Whether it's the studios, through the MPAA, or the exhibitors, working through NATO, somebody needs to step forward to promote the romance of moviegoing, drawing on the powerful, emotional associations that most moviegoers have with the movies. EDITOR’S NOTE: SURE WISH I COULD MAKE MONEY BY BEING RIGHT, AND BEING RIGHT FIRST. SIGH…..

Potential ticket buyers need to be reminded that moviegoing is a communal experience that can't be duplicated at home, even with the best home entertainment systems. If the film industry doesn't begin to speak up in its own defense, it has only itself to blame as audiences continue to drift away. EDITOR’S NOTE: AMEN.


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