Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Broadway Preview: Speed-The-Plow

Broadway Preview: Speed-The-Plow

Among all the plays that have been announced for the 2008-09 Theatrical Season, few are more enigmatic than David Mamet's Speed-The-Plow, a work about the cut-throat nature of the Hollywood's film industry.

For example, while the Tony-nominated original production made its debut at Broadway's Royale Theatre on April 9, 1988, it was only because Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse Theatre proved too small to accommodate demand. And that clamor wasn't to see Joe Mantegna or Ron Silver, who would go on to win a Tony for Best Actor that year.

No, it was the pre-Kabbalah Madonna, who was causing a commotion by taking on her one and only Gotham legit stage appearance. While most critics inevitably found Madonna's participation ironic due to the play's subject matter, Frank Rich of The New York Times was rather gracious:

Madonna is the axis on which the play turns -- an enigma within an enigma, in the manner of the Lindsay Crouse heroine in "House of Games.'' It's a relief to report that this rock star's performance is safely removed from her own Hollywood persona. Madonna serves Mr. Mamet's play much as she did the Susan Seidelman film "Desperately Seeking Susan,'' with intelligent, scrupulously disciplined comic acting. She delivers the shocking transitions essential to the action and needs only more confidence to relax a bit and fully command her speaking voice.
Speed-The-Plow would open May 3, 1988 and run through December 31 of the same year.

Another more recent example is that earlier this year, Jeff Goldblum joined with Kevin Spacey in a wildly popular production across the pond at the Old Vic. The two American actors were joined by Laura Michelle Kelly, who achieved lasting fame in London as the stage's first Mary Poppins (although she may be better known to American audiences for her role as the Beggar Woman in the 2007 film Sweeney Todd). Given the success of the London revival, the mystery here is why Spacey wouldn't just transfer it to Broadway.

The third example is that while a Rialto revival was announced in April, this time starring Jeremy Piven in his Main Stem debut, little else is known other than the fact the production is supposedly slated to open October 23.

With the clock ticking, it's a puzzlement to be sure. But you can be sure I'll try to fill in the missing pieces as they come in.

UPDATE (7.8.08, 9:25 a.m.): Thanks to Esther at Gratuitous Violins for providing me with a link to a February Michael Riedel piece that notes why the Kevin Spacey version wouldn't make it to Broadway:

Mamet gave (Jeffrey) Richards the rights to Speed-The-Plow, a comedy about two sleazy Hollywood producers and their secretary, long before the Old Vic secured the play for a London run.

Mamet also has promised his loyal lieutenant,
Neil Pepe, the opportunity to direct the play on Broadway. Pepe runs Mamet's off-Broadway theater, the Atlantic, and occasionally appears in bit parts in his movies.
Well, that's at least one mystery solved.

UPDATE (7.11.08, 9:45 a.m.) Hat tip to Modern Fabulousity for pointing out that Raúl Esparza has now been cast as Charlie Fox in the upcoming revival that's still due this October. Yet another part of the mystery is solved. All that's left is the casting of Karen and a theatre to house the production.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
Broadway Preview: Billy Elliot - The Musical (July 7, 2008)
Broadway Preview: Godspell (July 6, 2008)
Broadway Preview: All My Sons (July 5, 2008)
Broadway Preview: A Man For All Seasons (July 3, 2008)
Broadway Preview: To Be Or Not To Be (July 2, 2008)
Broadway Preview: The Seagull (July 1, 2008)
Broadway Preview: Equus (June 30, 2008)
Broadway Preview: A Tale Of Two Cities (June 28, 2008)
Broadway Preview: for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf (June 25, 2008)
Broadway Preview: [title of show] (June 24, 2008)
Broadway: What's Next (June 20, 2008)

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At 08 July, 2008, Anonymous Joanne said...

Hi Steve. Love your blog, by the way.

As I understand it, Spacey WANTED to bring Speed to Broadway, but couldn't because of the other production. In fact, while in London, I asked him if he was bringing it to New York, and he answered that he wished he could, but that it didn't look promising.


At 08 July, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks Joanne - appreciate your letting me know of your conversation with Kevin Spacey himself!

At 08 July, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

As much as I like Jeremy Piven, it would have been terrific to see Kevin on Broadway two years in a row! It's interesting, though, to find out the backstory. I guess you have to respect Mamet for honoring his promise.

I wish I'd seen the original production. I really liked Madonna in "Desperately Seeking Susan." It sounds like she actually was pretty good in this. And Joe Mantegna is a great actor.

At 08 July, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther, From all my years of watching "Ellen" and "Entourage," I like Jeremy Piven. And his parents did start Chicagoland's Piven Theatre Workshop.

So I mean no disrespect when I say I would much rather have seen the Kevin Spacey/Jeff Goldblum/Laura Michelle Kelly incarnation on Broadway.

As for Madonna, I finally caught her on London stage in the production of Up For Grabs back in 2002. While it's become sport to deride her acting abilities, she was better than I expected.

At 08 July, 2008, Anonymous Gene in Minnesota said...

Does anyone remember the articles in the papers at the time of Madonna's stint in STP of school kids waiting after the matinee for the next showing.....they thought that the stage was like the movies where the show went on all day......
I didn't see Madonna and Mantegna and Silver but I did see Bob Balaban, David Rasche and someone named Felicity Huffman by the time I got around to seeing the show way back when.......
Somedays when I am getting ready in the morning I like to imitate Balaban....I don't remember the lines just the patterns of speech
I really didn't mind missing Madonna but I sure would have liked to see those kids sitting there awaiting the next show..........


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