PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 1-7: The Anarchist, Golden Boy, Foxwoods for Sale

By Robert Simonson
07 Dec 2012

Lee Pace and Will Rogers
Photo by Joan Marcus

Golden Age, meanwhile, is not golden.

Manhattan Theatre Club presented the New York City premiere of Terrence McNally's period play about the world of 19th-century Sicilian composer Vincenzo Bellini — part of the writer's so-called "opera trilogy."

Critics found the script didn't pay off on the promising premise. The plot "has all the makings of a belly-busting backstage farce," wrote Entertainment Weekly. "Unfortunately, McNally hasn't written one." "McNally has not infused the proceedings with either the sparkling wit or emotional resonance necessary to sustain the play’s two-and-a-half hour running time," wrote Hollywood Reporter. "To say that the latest [of the trilogy] is the least of the three is an understatement," said the Times, "…as a drama it is flaccid and shallow." 


Over in London, The Bodyguard, a new musical based on the 1992 Warner Bros. Whitney Houston film of the same name, officially opened at the West End's Adelphi Theatre Dec. 5, with Broadway's long-ago Aida star Heather Headley in the Houston role of a pop diva.

The jukebox musical features a multitude of the late Houston's greatest hits including, including "I Will Always Love You."

Critics loved the show, but loved Headley more. Critic Mark Shenton in The Stage called Headley "an utterly compelling star" who combines "an authentic glamour and blazingly soulful vocals but also humanises her, too." Evening Standard newspaper critic Henry Hitchings, meanwhile, said she was "mesmerizing," and the Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer praised her "sassy stage presence," adding, "when it comes to selling a song, hitting the high notes and ornamenting a number with vocal swoops and trills, struck me as being at least as fine a singer as Houston in her heyday, if not even better."

As for the show Headley stars in, the Independent stated, "The Bodyguard manages to fall simultaneously into two pretty suspect categories — the screen-to-stage adaptation and the jukebox musical. But the show is an altogether more pleasurable experience than that doubly dubious distinction might make it sound." Spencer was more flattering, call the show "far more enjoyable than the movie." 

Talk has already begun of a Broadway transfer. With Headley in the lead, of course.


Inside the Foxwoods auditorium

Broadway's Foxwoods Theatre is for sale, learned this week. This barn of a house on 42nd Street (Broadway's largest, at 1,932 seats) was fashioned out of two existing theatres, the Lyric and the Apollo, by Garth Drabinksy, the now-disgraced Canadian producer. In 1998, it opened as the Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Livent declared bankruptcy and the theatre was sold off to the media company, SFX, which was later subsumed by Clear Channel. It was renamed the Hilton Theatre in 2005, which made some people think more of celebutante Paris Hilton than hotels. Then, in 2010, it became the Foxwoods, which made people think of gambling in the suburbs. (As you can see, the building has never had a decent name.)

Now, the Foxwoods is for sale. Owner Live Nation Entertainment, which wants to concentrate its business focus on live music performances, is looking for a buyer for the four-story theatre. With the sale, of course, comes the opportunity for a new owner to change the name — perhaps to something less corporate? The Oscar Hammerstein? The Jerome Kern? Only asking.


Finally, The Broadway League came out with its 15th annual demographics report, "The Demographics of the Broadway Audience 2011-2012," which is based on data gleaned from audience questionnaires distributed throughout the 2011-12 Broadway season.

The gist: more tourists, and more women.

The new study reveals that tourists accounted for 63.4 percent of all Broadway tickets, up from 61.7 percent in the 2010-11 season. International tourists accounted for 18.4 percent of all admissions to Broadway shows in New York City.

Of all theatregoers, 67 percent were female.