Cricket's Notebook by Larry Stark

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide



entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark

Sunday, 19 October '97 --- Cricket's Crystal

I have just heard some great news which I can't share because it may only be a rumor. I've heard that a show will come through Boston soon on a try-out tour heading for Broadway, with a surprising, perfectly cast star. It's not a new show but a revival, but it is NOT a musical. Nevertheless, the casting is so perfect that were I to tell you the name and the title you would pick up the phone NOW and order tickets. It will be at Ye Wilbur Theatre, and it may sell out the entire run even before it opens. And yes, Tom Stoppard was correct, there IS an Art to the building of Suspense! Watch This Space!

A friend of mine often talks to a person who deal in tickets. (I can't tell you what agency this person works with, because my friend has never told me.) The talk between them, and then the talk between us, centered on the fact that the coming run of "Chicago" is longer than that of "Peter Pan" and that the Fosse revival is outselling the Cathy Rigby revival by a huge margin.

"Not only that," my friend's informant seemed amazed, "but they want to take their children. I mean to a show about sex and sleaze --- to 'Chicago'! Why all the excitement all of a sudden?"

Well, the pat answer everyone opens with is the obvious: TV ads. But "Showboat" was advertised on television, and had a lot of ass-less seats going begging. Besides there aren't any people in "Chicago" who made their reputations somewhere else than Broadway and then used that reputation to sell the show --- as Donny Osmond did with "Joseph..." or Carol Burnett did with "Moon Over Buffalo". However even without a non-theatrical star the show is selling. It's the SHOW that's selling seats and nothing else.

People may be confusing "Chicago" the stage musical with "All That Jazz" the musical motion-picture, and expecting to see Roy Scheider playing Bob Fosse drop dead of a heart-attack LIVE on the Colonial Theatre stage --- but even though the theory is mine, I don't believe it. I am probably the only person in America who sits through that movie balwing my eyes out every time I ferret-sit at Steven's apartment as though it were a religious rite. But the song that gave Fosse's movie its title is certainly one thing that makes me want to see "Chicago" when it gets here.

But what is making everyone else hot for the show?

I think people are fighting over tickets because the NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE and the REAGLE PLAYERS and the TURTLE LANE PLAYHOUSE and the VOKES THEATRE have been educating an entire generation of movie-goers in the joys of live musical theater, and they're ready to trade up. Reagle and North Shore pride themselves on using professionals, but all four companies do solid, serious work that reaches their audiences in a way that the tube and the cinema never will.

But they hardly ever do anything totally new.

For all the fine production values, "Showboat" or "The King And I" or even "Carousel" are all old, familiar tunes. "Gypsy", even with Tyne Daley and Arthur Laurents' directing, was really same-old same-old. You can get same-old Done NEW at North Shore or Turtle Lane. People are ready for New.

But, you will argue, "Chicago" is thirty years old! And, yeah, it's old --- but it's not same-old.
What I mean is, people haven't seen it so often they can hum along with the book, which is true of "Gypsy". And yes, it's played down in the Apple for a whole year, but I don't think it's been back in Boston since its original try-out run, and that was so long ago there are grown-ups old enough to understand every little sexual innuendo that weren't conceived until after the original Broadway run ended. To a lot of people, this will be A New Show that has gotten lots of publicity through its New York run, and they can't wait to have the experience of a new, live show for a change.

That's really my assessment of the situation.

I'd love to see "Chicago", but I won't. The publicity people for the Broadway houses all know that The Theater Mirror exists but ignore it totally. (Even The Huntington refuses to send us press-releases.) In fact, the last time I asked her for reviewer's comps to a Shubert show, Deedee Cheraton the publicity person called back to say she was sorry that all the press-passes had been used up already --- at the very same moment she had people on other phones papering the house to make sure it was full. I'll never call Deedee again. For anything.

But the big Broadway barns here in Boston are looking forward to flush times.

It will be interesting to see what the Boston GLOBE does with this new-found vigor. It will be possible of course for their reviewer to yawn and quibble that the touring company can't hold a candle to the "Chicago" they saw down in The Apple. However, that star I cannot name in the play I cannot name is someone who has made a verry big name outside the legit stage, so appearing live in a show perfectly wedded to the talent will have to get serious attention.

Who knows --- it may be that next April a piece of theater right here in Boston's Theater District might actually get reviewed Above The Fold of the GLOBE Arts & Entertainment section --- for the first time since Kevin Kelly died.

That would be news, now wouldn't it?


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide