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Let 'er Rip!

Rip Taylor hopes to stalk vampires, The Guthrie orders Chinese from Warren Leight, and David Esbjornson moves from Albee to Miller. logo

Rip Taylor
They flew in Rip Taylor to see if he'd fly as Professor Abronsius, the chief vampire stalker in Dance of the Vampires, Jim Steinman's musicalization of Roman Polanski's 1967 spook-spoof flick The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck. (I warned you it was a spoof.) Maybe the casting director took his cue from The New York Times' Bosley Crowther's critique of the film Abronsius: "Jack MacGowran as a nutty professor looks mad enough to be a front-running clown."

David Ives and Michael Kunze are revising Steinman's book, and John Rando is directing. Rehearsals begin August 5. The show starts previews September 30 and opens November 14 on Broadway with that Tony-winning Phantom, Michael Crawford, in the star part.



Getting The Goat up on all fours for Broadway without wobbling was no piece of cake, but director David Esbjornson rose commendably to the occasion and is now open to new challenges. From the new Edward Albee, he is moving to the new Arthur Miller: Resurrection Blues will rise for the first time this summer at Minneapolis's Guthrie Theater, where Esbjornson recently staged a Broadway-worthy revival of Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with Patrick Stewart and The Goat's Mercedes Ruehl.

Casting is currently going on for the Guthrie gig; Stanley Tucci, David Strathairn, Patricia Clarkson, and Lili Taylor, who did the previous reading, can't make it. Esbjornson says the play "takes place in a fictitious Central American country where a Messiah figure has appeared among the people. It's about the exploitation of that figure through the press."

When in Minneapolis this summer, Esbjornson will be huddling with a writer there--Jeff Hatcher--about a stage treatment of Tuesdays With Morrie. A 1999 TV version of this won Jack Lemmon his last batch of prizes (an Emmy and a Screen Actors Guild Award). Then there is the new Israel Horowitz piece, My Old Lady, which Esbjornson staged in L.A. in December with Sian Phillips, Peter Friedman, and Jan Maxwell. He recently reassembled the cast to read rewrites, readying the play for its eventual New York date.


Warren Leight

One thing you probably never knew about Warren Leight is that, in 1980, he taught English in China for eight months. Well, it turns out there's a play in all that, and, Leight--being a writer of plays, including the Tony-winning Side Man--wrote it. Baltimore's Center Stage commissioned the opus, called No Foreigners Beyond This Point, and just workshopped it with Robert Sean Leonard (himself a Tony winner for The Invention of Love) and Carrie Preston (who's currently at Playwrights Horizons in Boys and Girls.

Leight is also a writer (and, on at least one occasion, director) of films. And only recently did he dash off his first television script, for 100 Centre Street. Joseph Lyle Taylor, an actor from Side Man and a regular on the series, got him the job ("It's the first time in my life that an actor recommended me for something," says the scribe) and the segment went down well with series director Sidney Lumet. The day before the show aired, Leight relates, Lumet called up to say that (1) the episode was being submitted for Emmy consideration and (2) if the program was renewed, Leight could come aboard in whatever capacity he cared to. The very next day, the series got canned. "I figured, 'I just lost $800,000,'" moans Leight. "It was so fast. I didn't even get a chance to take the idea to bed with me."



The producers who are bringing Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song to the Virginia on October 17 are sweating the pilot season: Sandra Allen has a nibble and, apparently, there are limits to how much she enjoys being a girl. But the Tony-winning Miss Saigon, Lea Salonga, and her love interest, Jose Llana, will reprise their L.A. roles for Broadway.



Spring will be a little late this year at Radio City Music Hall. In fact, it won't be properly celebrated there for another year, when Carnivale--a lavish rite-of-spring extravaganza--finally lifts off. The spectacle was supposed to happen next month, but the World Trade Center bombing derailed those plans. Now, the project is back on track and set for next spring--largely because of 9/11, it being a danceathon with a theme of renewal and rebirth.

Graciela Daniele, an eight-time Tony contender for choreography, will direct the show and supervise the post-modern footwork of Mark Dendy (who choreographed The Wild Party at Manhattan Theater Club), the Latin steps of Wilie Rosario and the Cirque du Soleil flying of Deborah Brown. (The Rockettes will also be tapping their little soles off). Sets are by David Rockwell, who made his Broadway debut shoehorning The Rocky Horror Show into Circle in the Square; he also designed the new, much-ballyhooed Kodak Theater in Hollywood, where this year's Academy Award ceremonies were held.

Linking the production numbers will be a narrative of sorts, scripted by Mark Waldrop, a writer-director who has made pigs--and, more recently, a Bea (Arthur)--fly. "Radio City wants to make it a very different, surprising show, like nothing else that has ever played there," says Waldrop. "They're taking a page from Cirque du Soleil--that type of entertainment that's a little more avant garde--and there will be a thread of plot running through it." An appropriately elaborate workshop of Carnivale is now in rehearsal at The Armory in Jersey City. The performance dates are May 9 and 10. Then, assessments will be made.


[Ed. Note: After more than two years of faithful service, Charles Nelson is leaving TheaterMania to pursue other writing projects and assignments. We wish him well in his future endeavors.]

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