NEW YORK — The spring season got under way March 3 with the opening of “Damn Yankees,” and it looks like the revival will test not only the impact on the box office of a pay-per-view telecast but the impact on the box office of the New York Times’ new chief theater critic, David Richards, as well.In December, the “Damn Yankees” producers won the right to offer a PPV performance of the show, and they plan to do so later this spring, probably close to the June 12 Tony Awards broadcast. Of course, the show has to be running then for a PPV performance to mean anything. And there’s little question that it will be, given the nearly unanimous, though somewhat qualified, raves the show got on TV Thursday night and in the Friday papers. Did we say nearly unanimous? The exception was a Bronx cheer from Richards, who panned stars Victor Garber (in “a vintage soft-shoe number, he could be wearing army boots”) and Bebe Neuwirth (whose “thin and chilly performance” in “Whatever Lola Wants””simply registers as hard work”), along with nearly everything else about Jack O’Brien’s production. The review was the first Broadway notice to find Richards on a limb, unaccompanied, since moving from the Sunday recliner to the daily chair. John Scher, president of Polygram Diversified Entertainment — which invested $ 1 million in the $ 3.75 million revival and is behind the PPV deal — was taking it in stride on Friday. “We always face the wild card of the New York Times,” he said. Losing the Times “hurts your snob appeal and we want everybody to come to the show, snobs included,” he added. “But if we have to lose one segment of the audience, that’s the one we don’t mind losing.” And he crowed that with Neuwirth, “We’ve got a big, Emmy-winning star and corporate sponsors are knocking on our door” for the telecast. FROM D.A. TO PH.D. Talk about tests! Michael Moriarty will replace Richard Chamberlain in “My Fair Lady” at the Virginia Theater beginning April 8. Will Moriarty, ankling from his D.A. slot on NBC’s “Law & Order,” draw the customers? Can he sing? Will he still get along with Fran and Barry after the ink is dry? Will anyone believe he’s just an ordinary man? Stay, er, tuned. HAPPY END “Allegro” was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s fourth collaboration (after “Oklahoma!””Carousel” and the film “State Fair”), a brave music-theater experiment that won some critical acclaim but failed at the box office. For the middle offering in City Center’s “Encores” concert series, director Susan H. Schulman left a very talented cast mostly high and dry with a static presentation, save for a Lar Lubovitch pas de deux nicely danced by Mia Babalis and Scott Rink. Nevertheless, it was great to hear the original Ado Annie, Celeste Holme, as the grandmother, along with the touching Carolann Page as Joe Taylor’s mother. Stephen Bogardus was bland as Joe, though John Cunningham lent dramatic weight to the proceedings as Joe Sr. Most delightful numbers: Karen Ziemba’s “So Far” and Christine Ebersole’s “The Gentleman Is a Dope.” The series concludes its premiere season in May, with Kurt Weill, Ira Gershwin and Moss Hart’s “Lady in the Dark.”
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