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Backstage Whispers overheard by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 2nd June 2008

The 9th annual Midtown International Theatre Festival, which runs from July 14th to August 3rd, has announced the list of over 40 productions that will feature. The MITF will present more than 200 performances of the shows in 4 theatres on the same block of 36th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues, encompassing fully staged performances, world premieres, revivals, staged readings, solo shows, multimedia presentations and talkbacks. Among the shows selected are: Eighty-1, a romantic adventure musical that gives a modern twist to a classic tale, as Phileas Fogg must recreate his great-grandfather's eighty day journey or lose his shirt - only two things stand in his way: his own ambition and a beautiful woman; Opa! The Musical, about the desperate attempts of the inhabitants of a small unknown Greek island to put it on the map and become a tourist attraction; My Life As A Bald Soprano, a play with music tracking the tumultuous journey of a young girl desperately wanting to fit in despite a physical condition rendering her appearance different; and Kidnapping Laura Linney, a comedy about two struggling actors who create the sitcom of their dreams but are driven to drastic measures when love, jealousy, and an actress named Laura Linney get in their way. Further information can be found on the MITF web site, via the link from Festivals in the Links section of New York TheatreNet.

It's Official! As previously forecast here, that the coming of age musical 13, music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn, directed by Jeremy Sams, with choreography by Christopher Gattelli, currently playing at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, will transfer to Broadway, opening at the Bernard B Jacobs Theatre on September 16th. Broadway casting is unconfirmed. The producers are Bob Boyett and Tim Levy.

Carl Djerassi's Three On A Couch, with Mark Pinter, Lori Funk and Brad Fraizer, directed by Elena Araoz, will receive its U.S. premiere previewing from May 29th at SoHo Playhouse, opening on June 8th. The comedy is the tale of a writer obsessed with his reputation, who fakes his death in order to read his obituaries, but his 'death' ignites a chain of outrageous events. The producer is Redshift Productions' Scientist's Studio. SoHo Playhouse is located at 15 Vandam Street, between 6th Avenue and Varick Street.

Gilbert and Sullivan's first operetta, Thespis, or The Gods Grown Old, little known because the original score was lost, will receive a semi-staged concert performance, directed by F Paul Driscoll, at Teatro Heckscher of El Museo del Barrio on June 16th, premiering a new score by Thomas Z Shepard. It is a tale of a troupe of hapless actors who trade places with world-weary gods. The cast will include Alan Abrams, Scott Benedict, Tracy Bidleman, Jane Brendler Buchi, Jim Busterud, Erik Hanson, Matt Hughes, Joanne Lessner, Rich Miller, Kevin Murray, Amanda Smith, and Bill Tost. The producer is the Blue Hill Troupe. Teatro Heckscher of El Museo del Barrio is located at 1230 5th Avenue, between 104th and 105th Streets.

Despite the stagehands strike, which shut down most of Broadway for 19 days, according to figures released by The Broadway League, paid attendance for the 2007/2008 Broadway theatre season was only slightly down on the previous record breaking season. 12.27m people paid to attend Broadway shows, down from 12.31m, while grosses were $937.5m (including an estimate for Young Frankenstein, which does not report its grosses), down from the all time record of $938.5m. In 2007/2008 there were 36 new productions: 8 new musicals, 11 new plays, 1 musical return engagement, 4 musical revivals and 12 play revivals, which was up 1 from the previous season.

On The Casting Couch: Simon Russell Beale, Sinead Cusack and Rebecca Hall will be joined by Richard Easton, Ethan Hawke and Josh Hamilton in The Bridge Project productions of The Winter's Tale and The Cherry Orchard, opening at Brooklyn Academy of Music in January, and the Old Vic Theatre in London next summer.

Ron Fitzgerald's Safe, with Patch Darragh, Alfredo Narciso and Jess Weixler, directed by Zetna Fuentes, will preview from June 10th at Studio Dante, opening on June 14th. It is a tale of three relative strangers bound by self-destructive tendencies and the common desire for a fresh start, who travel from city to city, doing whatever it takes to survive. Studio Dante is located at 257 West 29th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues.

Natalie Mosco's A Brush With Georgia O'Keeffe, a bio-play about the 20th century American painter, with Natalie Mosco, Virginia Roncetti and David Lloyd Walters, directed by Robert Kalfin, will preview from June 7th at St. Luke's Theatre, opening on June 14th. The producers are Earl Productions and Briana Seferian in association with Edmund Gaynes and Julia Beardsley. St. Luke's Theatre is located at 308 West 46th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues.

Following its refurbishment, the HERE Arts Center will reopen with the premiere of oph3lia, three works on themes of isolation and disconnection inspired by Shakespeare's character from Hamlet, written and directed by Aya Ogawa, incorporating video, music, live singing, and choreography, previewing from June 11th, opening on June 14th, a co-production with knife, inc. The company comprises Laura Butler, Drae Campbell, Dawn Eshelman, Constance Hall, Ikuko Ikari, Hana Kalinski, Eunjee Lee, Mark Lindberg, Jy Murphy, Alanna Medlock, Jorge Alberto Rubio, Magin Schantz and Maureen Sebastian. HERE Arts Center, which now features a new and improved cafe/gallery and two performance spaces, is located at 145 6th Avenue, between Spring and Broome Streets.

The Rumour Machine says: that the musical Vanities, adapted from the Off Broadway comedy charting the journey of three All-American girls as they mature from cheerleaders to sorority sisters to independent women, book by Jack Heifner, music and lyrics by David Kirshenbaum, with Lauren Kennedy, Sarah Stiles and Anneliese van der Pol, directed by Judith Ivey, will be Broadway bound in the fall; and that the Philadelphia Theatre Company production of the musical Nerds, book and lyrics by Jordan Allen-Dutton and Erik Weiner, music Hal Goldberg, about the rise of rival computer pioneers Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, directed by Philip W McKinley, with choreography by Joey McKneely, which premiered in the 2005 New York Musical Theatre Festival, is also aiming for Broadway this season. The Rumour Machine grinds on.