Fall preview: Theater
Mon Aug 23 2010
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson brings guts to Broadway
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson gives you reason to feel sanguine about the future of the Broadway musical. The Great White Way has seemed pretty pale lately, after one of the most anemic musical-theater seasons in recent memory. But now, just in time, comes a vital transfusion: Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman's look at the seventh U.S. President, which enjoyed a hit run this past spring at the Public Theater, is a new breed of musical, with an emo-rock score and an ironic, silly-smart approach that takes it far from the spirit of 1776.
"I'm wearing some tight, tight jeans and tonight we're delving into some serious, serious shit," announces Jackson—played with ferocious charisma by Benjamin Walker—as he makes his rock-star entrance at the start of the show. And so begins a dizzyingly anachronistic ride through 19th-century politics, spun through a distinctly modern comic style. "Comedy in theater often doesn't have much of a dialogue with the comedy happening in popular culture, like Will Ferrell movies and South Park," observes writer-director Timbers. "The potential audience is very wide; we're just not used to having that audience see its own sense of humor reflected in the theater."
Beneath the goofiness, however, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson has ideas coursing through its veins: It makes trenchant points about American politics, masculinity and responsibility. "Jackson was the first guy's-guy President in the charming-populist mode," notes Timbers. "A lot of the statesmen that we're most attracted to come from Jackson's rib." But Jackson's legacy is scarred by atrocities toward Native Americans, which the musical pointedly depicts, lending a darker edge to the frivolity that the authors have worked hard to hone. "The show is wildly irreverent and over-the-top and offensive at times to all sorts of things," says composer Friedman. "But we want to make sure we can stand behind every one of those moments."—Adam Feldman
The Little Foxes
New York Theater Workshop kicks off a perfect season
is pulling out every last stop for its 2010--11 season. It's rare that we find ourselves so excited for an entire lineup, but this one's a doozy. (nytw.org)
Sept 10--Oct 31 The Little Foxes
Euro-chic director Ivo van Hove interprets Lillian Hellman's potboiling drama of intrafamilial greed. Van Hove's aesthetic (chilly mise en scne, operatic breakdowns, gloriously explosive messes) should make for fascinating contrast with Hellman's midcentury realism; plus, the aptly named Elizabeth Marvel—a pyrotechnic thrill in Van Hove's 2005 Hedda Gabler—is on board. $70
Dec 19 Three Pianos
In Rick Burkhardt, Alec Duffy and Dave Malloy's Off-Off Broadway hit, Three Pianos, the trio of music aficionados reenacts a postmodern Schubertiade—one of Franz Schubert's wild all-night parties—complete with dueling pianos and highly suspect translation. Three Pianos straddles NYTW's two main interests (populist musical and brainy experimentalism), and puts muscle behind three of downtown's brightest emerging talents.
February Peter and the Starcatcher
Cerebral expressionism will give way to some hearteningly loony offerings, including a version of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson's Peter Pan sequel directed by Roger Rees and helmer-of-the-moment Alex Timbers.
May 13 The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World
It's a musical about the egregiously untalented '60s sister act the Shaggs. Freaking awesome.—Helen Shaw
David Yazbek turns Pedro Almodvar's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown into a musical
David Yazbek is aware of his reputation as a jokey songwriter. The indie-musician-turned-Broadway-composer has, after all, penned numbers such as "Michael Jordan's Ball" and "Great Big Stuff" for his first two shows, The Full Monty and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which made satirical hay of basketball prowess and conspicuous consumption. Yazbek's music is rich in melodic parodies and his lyrics make generous use of broad puns, pop-culture references, slang and profanity. But all that, supposedly, is changing. Now he's scoring Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, adapted from the 1988 camp comedy by Pedro Almodvar and produced by Lincoln Center Theater. Bartlett Sher directs the production, which has a killer cast including Patti LuPone, Sherie Rene Scott and Laura Benanti. Also, the project reteams Yazbek with Scoundrels book writer Jeffrey Lane. For this new show, Yazbek insists he's going less for the funny bone and more for the heart.
Are we going to hear a lot of Spanish in Women on the Verge?
I happen to have an affinity for Spanish music that goes back to when I was 16 and learning flamenco stuff on the guitar. But I'm also acquainted with Middle Eastern music. So when I find myself writing a song that sounds sort of Latin-percussiony, I'll change the instruments to be Middle Eastern percussion. I'm skipping around so that hopefully it just never sounds like the expected. I just avoid the clichs.
Whereas in your previous shows, you embraced parody.
There are references in The Full Monty that I used just for jokes. Or in Scoundrels, I was trying to rhyme with pajamas and I came up with Fernando Lamas and I knew it would get a laugh, so whammo, there it goes! That's just a little bit of seasoning, because I know that that stuff doesn't have long shelf life. But this show, it's not really about that, it's much more about universal stuff.
So fewer crazy puns and dirty jokes?
Jeffrey's book will be funnier to English-speaking audiences than the subtitles of the original film, which sounds like faint praise but it isn't. I mean, Jeffrey is an incredibly funny writer. What's interesting about Women on the Verge is that it feels like the comedy is so much in the book, and the blood and guts and passion is mainly in the songs and the music.
, 111 W 44th St between Broadway and Sixth Ave (lct.org). Previews start Oct 2.
Sept 26--Oct 31
Elevator Repair Service turns The Great Gatsby into Gatz
It's no secret that New York has a classical problem. We don't know how to revive great old dramas or adapt literature for the stage. Sure, every fifth revival at the Roundabout escapes its curse of institutional mediocrity, and sometimes Classic Stage Company helps us see a canonical title with fresh eyes. But we don't have anything like Chicago Shakespeare Theatre or American Repertory Theater in Boston, taking risks with great, obscure works. And where are the dramatizations of major novels? That's where Elevator Repair Service comes in. This experimental troupe deconstructed Andy Kaufman routines and documentary transcripts in the early '90s, but lately, ERS head John Collins has been turning to the public library for material. Collins doesn't just take F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jazz Age classic The Great Gatsby and distill into two hours. Instead, he and his clever downtown performers read every single blessed syllable from the book and create strange, irreverent, anachronistic, yet utterly apt stage pictures to go with them. Gatz, ERS's six-and-a-half-hour performance of the novel, is finally coming to the Public Theater, after touring around the country and the world (as Collins worked around truly ridiculous copyright issues). We plan to hang. On each and every. Word.—David Cote
, 425 Lafayette St between Astor Pl and E 4th St (212-967-7555, publictheater.org). Tickets from $70, members $40.
Best of the rest
The Pitman Painters
Lee Hall (who wrote the book for Billy Elliot) again explores the intersection of blue collar and high art. Here, English coal miners discover the joys of canvas daubing. $57--$116.
Orange, Hat & Grace
In this gothic fable, an old woman in a forest cabin receives a strange, feral visitor. (sohorep.org). $30--$40, Sun 99.
Will Eno anatomizes small-town America in a new comedy that takes us from the town library to outer space. (vineyardtheatre.org). $65.
The Pee-wee Herman Show
The spastic manchild who corrupted us on Saturday mornings is back, a little older and live. The show is directed by Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson's Alex Timbers. $67--$122.
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
The long-delayed megamusical directed by Julie Taymor and featuring songs by Bono and the Edge will test its superpowers. $67.50--$140.