Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Send in the Replacements?

The current revival of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music was one of the most anticipated revivals of the last season - and perhaps of the last 5 years, at least for me.   However, despite the brilliant casting of Angela Lansbury and the star quality of Catherine Zeta-Jones, the drab and minimalist production has been a disappointment. 

I attended the first preview and left feeling very disappointed. After a second trip, where I was seated in a better seat, I liked the show better if only for the cast.  I will go once more, if only for what might be a final chance to see Angela Lansbury in a Broadway production.

A transfer from the West End under the direction of Sir Trevor Nunn, the show began previews on November 24th and opened on December 13th.  As of today, there have been 188 performances. By contrast, the original ran for 601 performances in 1973.

It has earned only four Tony nominations: Best Revival of a Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for Catherine Zeta-Jones, Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for Angela Lansbury, and Best Sound Design of a Musical for sound designers Dan Moses Schreier and Gareth Owen.

Angela Lansbury, as Madame Armfeldt, was originally only contracted for a limited run but was persuaded to extend until June 20th, which is also Catherine's last day.   From almost day one, there has been endless chatting and conjecture about who would replace these two stars playing mother and daughter- and in my opinion, as for Angela's role, who could

At first, the mother-daughter roles were allegedly offered to Blithe Danner and her daughter Gwyneth Paltrow for a little stunt casting.   While I find them only mildly interesting, I believe they both could have tackled the roles as accomplished actresses.   As recently as a few weeks ago, Debbie Reynolds admitted that she was offered the role as Madame Armfeldt, but subsequently turned it down.  I think that would have been head-scratching casting.     An Insider further tells me that "the numbers of who were approached and passed on it are staggering.  Stars just don't want to be replacements."

Perhaps they don't.   I believe that had the production itself been worthy of an extended run - and not so damn expensive where even the worst balcony seats in the entire theatre district cost over $50 - so-called stars would have been lining up to play the roles, throwing aside the stigma of "replacement".  

However, the producers have launched a last ditch effort with a casting notice in the May 13-19 issue of Backstage.   There's the possibility that should the ladies win the Tony - Catherine's first and Angela's record-breaking sixth - then perhaps they would be further persuaded to extend into the summer months of tourists.   Personally, while I keep my fingers crossed for that sixth Tony for Angela, I don't see an extension happening.

So, I'll wait for another revival someday...maybe when I'm old enough to play Madame Armfeldt myself. 


Elizabeth said...

It will be interesting to see who *does* replace Angela.

Elizabeth said...

No sooner than we talk about replacements, and I'm reading that *Night Music* is not going to be extended after all. I'm a little surprised. I'm trying to find out the reason why. But that's okay with me, because I would have only wanted to see Angela anyway.

Sarah B. Roberts said...

Elizabeth, if you read my post more carefully you have seen that I said I don't see an extension happening. It's not worthy and nobody wants to do it. I actually knew the announcement was coming, but I couldn't post that. Believe me, nobody else is surprised.

Elizabeth said...

I'm sorry, Sarah. I did read your post much more carefully now. When I read it yesterday, I only had time to skim-read, what with the distraction of other things going on around me. I suppose, as you said, it isn't at all surprising. I knew it hasn't been doing that well.

Sarah B. Roberts said...

Actually, you're wrong. It's done very well and has been at or almost at capacity almost every week previews and there were only several weeks of discounts with the occasional showing on TDF and/or TKTS.