PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Dec. 22-28: A Hot Tin Roof, Rags to Return, Broadway Loses Jack Klugman & Charles Durning

By Robert Simonson
December 28, 2012

This week, all the producers were nestled all snug in their wee little beds, with visions of Tony-winning, spring smashes dancing in their heads. So there wasn't much doing in the theatre world.



On such a restive week as this, the scratch Scarlett Johansson is scaring up at the Richard Rodgers theatre counts as headline news. The New York Times reported that the new revival of Tennessee Williams' oft-produced Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has grossed $843,215 for its first seven preview performances—more money than any of the last three Broadway revivals of that play (I told you it was oft-produced) made in a single week, even after adjusting for inflation.

Those revivals starred Anika Noni Rose (in 2008), Ashley Judd (2003) and Kathleen Turner (1990) in the role of Maggie. The box-office sales have benefited from the advent of premium ticket pricing of up to $175 a seat last week.

The production of Cat, along with the Broadway revival of Glengarry Glen Ross (starring Al Pacino), were the highest-earning plays in a pre-Christmas week that is almost always dominated by musicals.

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Theresa Rebeck's new play Dead Accounts, which stars Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz and Katie Holmes, announced that it will play its final performance at Broadway's Music Box Theatre Jan. 6, 2013. When it closes, the family drama will have played 27 previews and 44 regular performances.

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The Off-Broadway company with the ungainly name of The Beautiful Soup Theater Collective is doing well by favoring big, fat, juicy flops.

Beautiful Soup has raked in plenty of press in recent months with its plan to stage Arthur Bicknell's cult flop Moose Murders, scheduled to run January-February 2013. Now it has made public its intent to stage a new revival of the short-lived Broadway musical Rags in May 2013.

Now, Rags is by no means in the infamous league of Moose Murders; some musical fans actually champion the piece, and it was nominated for five Tonys. But it still was a disaster, commercially speaking, during its debut Broadway outing at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in August 1986; it closed after only four performances. (They must have crammed a lot of Tony voters in during those four shows.)

Directed by artistic director Steven Carl McCasland, the Charles Strouse, Stephen Schwartz and Joseph Stein musical will open May 27, 2013, at The Connelly Theatre.

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Charles Durning

On Dec. 24, two performers who personified the potentially sturdy life of the character actor passed away. Charles Durning died at age 89, and Jack Klugman died at 90.

Both players were known as dependable, likable supporting actors, adept at embodying the characteristics, virtues and foibles of everyday citizens. So dependable were they that, once they received their first big breaks, they remained eminently employable for decades.

Durning was largely associated with film (his roles included "Dog Day Afternoon," "The Sting," "Tootsie" and "O Brother, Where Are Thou?"), and Klugman was thought a television fixture, with two hit series, "The Odd Couple" and "Quincy," to his name. But both put in plenty of time on the stage before graduating to the small and large screens. Durning did grunt work for producer Joe Papp in three dozen plays by the Bard, was part of the acclaimed ensemble of the original That Championship Season and later returned to Broadway to win a Tony for his Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. And, Klugman earned a place in musical theatre history by creating the part of Herbie in the original Gypsy. Later, he—like Durning—returned to the stage, often performing alongside pal Tony Randall. Both actors professed to prefer the stage. Workhorses are like that; they like work.

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Finally, "Les Miserables," the star-studded film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical by Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg and Herbert Kretzmer, was the highest-grossing film on Christmas Day, its first day in cinemas around the country.

The movie musical took in $18 million, beating out "Django Unchained," "The Hobbit," and other films.

The film, which has generated significant Oscar buzz, has been nominated for four Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy.