♦ The big theater news this week is that, after months of uncertainty, the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing have finally found a host for this year’s Tony Awards. Oscar and Tony Award winner Kevin Spacey has agreed to take the stage at Radio City Music Hall for the very first time as host. “I was their 2nd choice for ‘Usual Suspects,’ 4th choice for ‘American Beauty’ and 15th choice to host this year’s Tony Awards. I think my career is definitely going in the right direction,” Spacey said in a statement. “Maybe I can get shortlisted to host the Oscars if everyone else turns it down.” Executive Producers Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner said: “We are thrilled to have Kevin, who has mastered the Broadway stage, the big and small screens and the West End, host this year’s Tony Awards. His spirit and passion for live theatre makes him the perfect host.” Nominations for this year’s Tonys will be announced May 2 by Christopher Jackson and Jane Krakowski. The 71st Annual Tony Awards ceremony will be held on June 11 and broadcast live on CBS.
♦ This year’s Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama has been awarded to Taylor Mac and Matt Ray for their extraordinary performance piece A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: A Radical Fairy Realness Ritual. Five years in the making, this highly-acclaimed show, comprised of eight three-hour sections, had its world premiere at St. Ann’s Warehouse last fall. The work charts the history of popular music in America and its ties to activism, from 1776 to present day. The run at St. Ann’s concluded with Taylor Mac performing the entire show in a remarkable 24-hour marathon. Each of the collaborators will receive $100,000 and will be honored in a ceremony at Columbia University later this spring.
♦ The New York Theatre Workshop productions of Mfoniso Udofia’s Sojourners and Her Portmanteau, a two-part theatrical event directed by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar, begins performances Apr. 22, with an official opening set for May 16. Both plays, to be performed in repertory, are part of Udofia’s nine-part saga, The Ufot Cycle, which chronicles the triumphs and losses of the tenacious matriarch of a Nigerian family. The cast of Sojourners includes Lakisha Michelle May, Chinasa Ogbuagu, Hubert Point-Du Jour and Chinaza Uche, while Her Portmanteau features Jenny Jules, Adepero Oduye and Chinasa Ogbuaga. The limited Off-Broadway engagement is scheduled to play through June 4.
♦ Red Bull Theater‘s production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector, starring Michael Urie and Mary Testa, begins performances on May 16, with an official opening scheduled for June 1. The play is described as a comedy of errors satirizing human greed, stupidity and the extensive political corruption of Imperial Russia. The cast also features Arnie Burton, Stephen DeRosa and Michael McGrath. Directed by Red Bull a.d. Jesse Berger, the limited engagement will run through June 4 at The Duke on 42nd Street.
♦ The New York Times culture editor Danielle Mattoon announced recently that starting May 1, Jesse Green, who is currently the theatre critic for New York Magazine, will join Ben Brantley as a co-chief theatre critic for the publication. It would appear that, unlike Charles Isherwood, who had been the second-string critic of the Times since 2004 until he was unceremoniously fired earlier this year, Green will be on an equal footing with Brantley. Said Brantley: “Jesse has one of the warmest, savviest and most individual voices in theater writing, steeped in both deep knowledge and equal affection for his subject. I look forward to sharing a beat with him, and to engaging in dialogue with someone as in love with the theater as I am.”
♦ Monopoly: The Musical, the Broadway-bound stage musical based on the real estate-themed board game, has found its principal creative team. Rick Elice, Tony nominee for Jersey Boys and Peter and the Starcatcher, will write the book. Dan Lipton and David Rossmer, co-founders of the late-night improv and sketch cabaret series Don’t Quit Your Night Job, will create the musical’s score. Like the game itself, the show will be set in Depression-era Atlantic City. Hasbro Inc. will produce along with the Araca Group. No word yet on casting or a production schedule.
♦ And finally, another Broadway-bound musical will receive its world premiere at Washington, D.C.’s National Theatre as part of their 2017-18 season. Mean Girls, based on Tina Fey‘s screenplay for the 2004 Paramount Pictures film of the same name, will feature a book by nine-time Emmy winner Ms. Fey, music by her husband, three-time Emmy winner Jeff Richmond, and lyrics by Tony Award nominee Nell Benjamin. Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw is set to direct and choreograph. SNL creator Lorne Michaels, along with general manager Stuart Thompson, are on board to produce the new musical, which will run Oct. 31-Dec. 3.
– Written by Richard Hart