The Playgoer: Dancin' in the Dark

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dancin' in the Dark

After a near collapse of the finish of their '09-'10 season, Roundabout Theatre has stumbled into another programming embarrassment right out of the gate this year. (I guess big cheese Todd Haimes didn't heed my advice from before.)

This is already old news from late August, but I'm still stunned that not only did they inexplicably decide to open the season with an ill-advised revival of Bob Fosse's 1978 omnibus revue, Dancin'...but that they couldn't even see it through to opening!  As Riedel reported:

The nonprofit company announced plans to revive Bob Fosse's 1978 revue "Dancin' "... in September with enhancement money from commercial producers. But that money hasn't come through, and sources say the Roundabout's reluctant to pick up the tab by itself. This is the second time the Roundabout's scrapped the show, and some people wonder if it's ever going to come together.

"Dancin' " was a big hit in its day -- it ran 1,774 performances -- and was nominated for the Tony for Best Musical. Fosse won the Tony for his choreography. "The truth is, it's just not very good," says a top Broadway director, who points out that the best numbers -- "Sing, Sing, Sing," "I Wanna Be a Dancin' Man" and "Crunchy Granola Suite" -- were used to better effect in the 1999 Tony-winning revue "Fosse."
Let's start with the question, again, of .... why Dancin'????  Fosse good, yes. But while remounting classic dance can work in the ballet house (and to some extent on Broadway in revivals of shows with "recreations" of original choreography Fosse or Jerome Robbins), Dancin' seems so of its time--Crunchy Granola Suite???--as the handiwork of a living auteur.

But to announce such a folly without even the financing in place? And who were these "commercial producers"?  I have this terrible feeling Todd Haimes got hosed by a really shaky "enhancement" deal.

The upshot of all this is that--once again--one of the Roundabout's main Broadway venues (Studio 54) is sitting there dark for what looks like most of the Fall season. Worse, the rest of their announced lineup is hardly buzz-worthy. I myself am looking forward to seeing Frank Langella rediscover an obscure Terence Rattigan vehicle... but is anyone else? Two new plays in the Off Broadway spaces might potentially score but so far are totally unknown quantities. And then yet another Brit-loving revival no one asked for: Look Back in Anger? (A play that in performance today never seems to live up to its cage-rattling reputation.) And as much as I admire Athol Fugard, we have a revival of his 1987 Road to Mecca?

When you're the most well-funded nonprofit theatre company in New York--with five stages at your disposal--one would imagine you could commandeer any number of exciting artists and projects. And this is the best they can do?


Unknown said...

Well, I for one would sure love to have Haimes' salary and inexplicable job security. You know what? I bet I could be just as incompetent for a lot less money. Are you listening, board of directors??

RLewis said...

When my high school drama dept' came to nyc back in the day, Dancin' was one of the shows we saw. Although I still have the poster and T-shirt, the show was not all that good or memorable (the ad' artwork was the best part!). I'm sure it's best to shelve this one.