Chris Rawson’s Broadway Journal, Day 4: Broadway is full of echoes, many of August Wilson

Tuesday, 08 May 2012 01:26 AM Written by 
Saturday, May 5, PG Broadway ShowPlane, Day 4 (the last)

Four days seems like plenty in prospect, but just a scrap in retrospect, as departure beckons. Still, today I had two shows to enjoy, plus a farewell dinner and drinks with friends to stretch a long day into early morning.

At night, the ShowPlane group saw a new musical, “Leap of Faith,” based on the 1992 movie that starred Steve Martin, Deborah Winger, Liam Neeson and a strong supporting cast. Two local connections: Martin joined the movie when Michael Keaton dropped out; and Rob Ashford was the director-choreographer for the 2010 premiere of the new musical in L.A.

But whatever the origins, they certainly go back to “The Rainmaker” (1954 on Broadway; 1956 movie), which became an earlier musical, “110 in the Shade” (1963, revived 2007). Or maybe it's more complicated than that, like the tangled web of textual variations in a Shakespeare play.

More to the point, we had a good time at "Leap of Faith," although star Raul Esparza is very cool for a charismatic faith healer, conman or not. Still, I'd guess this is at least a contender for a future life on tour..

Earlier, for my matinee, I saw Bruce Norris’ very engrossing (and funny, but serious, too) “Clybourne Park,” which starts out as the flip side of “A Raisin in the Sun.” If you recall that classic 1959 play, the black Younger family is deciding whether to move out to a white suburb. Here, we see the upset that causes in the suburb. Act 2 is 50 years later, in the same house, as a white couple is about to move in, part of a wave of gentrification of what had long ago become a black neighborhood.

It’s very clever, but not just clever, but thoughtful. Along with “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” it was my favorite for the week. (Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer, sitting just in front of me, seemed to have a good time, but how can you really tell?)

In between matinee and evening, many in the group shared a farewell dinner at Bond 45, ever sadly memorable to me as the site of the opening night party after the 2007 premiere of August Wilson’s “Radio Golf” – the only premiere he couldn’t attend.

Later that evening, again in the August Wilson vein, I had drinks at Sardi’s with Todd Kreidler (August’s long-time colleague) and wife Erin, charmingly pregnant, and we were joined by August’s last Broadway director, Kenny Leon, and his new wife, Jennifer Gordon Thompson. Kenny happens to have directed the 2004 Broadway revival of “Raisin in the Sun,” plus the 2008 TV version, but I didn't get his opinion of "Clybourne." He and Todd have a fistful of projects in the works . . . .

It’s hard to keep up with it all.

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