Noises Off

NEW YORK — Who knew “Urinetown” was only the beginning? Or, to be more precise, the middle?

Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis are looking forward to an April reading of their next tuner together, known only as “the secret project.”

Kotis opines, “It might just be unproduceable.”

Composer Hollmann qualifies that. “It is unproduceable in the same way we thought ‘Urinetown’ was unproduceable. Its subject matter is absurd and risque. But we do hope to see it produced.”

Hollmann and Kotis aren’t talking about the subject matter. But it is not based on a movie.

“It is totally original, and we consider this one to be another part of a trilogy, of which ‘Urinetown’ is the center piece. This one will be the first installment of a trilogy,” Hollmann says.

On Jan. 18, director John Rando took to the soon-to-be-demolished stage of the Henry Miller to thank current and former cast and crew after the show’s final perf.

“I can’t think of a better way to tear down a theater than what they did tonight,” he said.

From there, the “blubberfest,” as actor Jeff McCarthy put it, moved to the West Bank Cafe.

“This is the show that changed all our careers,” choreographer John Carrafa said.

Next up, Carrafa stages the new Beach Boys musical for the Dodgers. Hollmann and Kotis are collaborating on lyrics for a tuner version of the Alec Guinness film classic “The Man in the White Suit,” with music by Hollmann, book by Austin Pendleton and Ann Reinking directing. Kotis also has a workshop next month of his new play, “Pig Farm,” with Rando at the helm.

The “Urinetown” director’s next best shot for returning to Broadway looks to be “Lucky Duck,” a musical retelling of “The Ugly Duckling.” Set to go up at the Old Globe this summer, the tuner by Henry Krieger, Bill Russell and Jeffrey Hatcher has a few commercial producers circling.

It’s a radically revised version of their earlier “Everything’s Ducky,” which preemed at Palo Alto’s Theaterworks four years ago.

In addition to its being Rando’s first crack at the material, the show’s title change hinged on a few factors:

“Producers thought it sounded like a children’s show, or British,” says Russell.

“Or George Bush‘s idea of how the country is doing,” offers Krieger.

Harold Wheeler orchestrates and Casey Nicholaw choreographs.

Commercial game
Snug as a bug

Scott Morfee brings Tracy Letts‘ new play “Bug” to the Barrow Street Theater next month for an open-ended commercial run.

The eyebrow-raising words here are “play” and “commercial.” Can the two co-exist in the Off Broadway world of 2003-04?

The “Bug” production reunites Amanda Plummer and Michael Shannon, who also headlined Letts’ first play, “Killer Joe,” produced six years ago by Morfee and one of the few plays in recent memory to recoup Off Broadway.

“The 1998-99 season was tremendous for Off Broadway,” Morfee recalls. In addition to “Killer Joe,” he cites such commercial hits as “Wit” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” “I hope the Off Broadway business model is still viable,” he added.

Despite the intervening four seasons, the $300,000 capitalization for “Bug” replicates what it cost to put up “Killer Joe.” Both plays employ a five-actor ensemble. Described as a sci-fi thriller set in a mysterious motel, “Bug” follows the story of a woman on the lam from her former husband, recently released from prison. Amy Landecker and Reed Birney also are featured. Dexter Bullard directs.

The “Bug” previews begin Feb. 21, with opening night for Feb. 29 at the Barrow Street.

Formerly known as the Greenwich House, the 99-seat venue had been home to the Drama Dept. for many years. Morfee now has the lease, and will expand seating capacity to 199 for the “Bug” run. He produces the show with Amy Danis and Mark Johannes.

“Bug” is that rare respite in Off Broadway’s ongoing drama drought. Gotham’s smaller commercial theaters are eschewing plays in favor of novelty shows, such as “Cookin’,” which goes into the Minetta Lane, and musicals like “The Joys of Sex,” opening at the Variety Arts, and “Johnny Guitar,” skedded for Center for the Performing Arts. The Union Square Theater remains empty.

Otto Eskin‘s play “Duet” at the Greenwich Street Theater may be the proverbial exception that proves the rule. On the strength of tepid reviews and somebody’s deep pockets, producer-director Ludovica Vilar-Hauser wants to take the play to Broadway’s Circle in the Square. If financing can be finalized, “Duet” looks to open there in early April. Eskin is working on revisions.

After reading in Daily Variety that Paula Vogel‘s “The Long Christmas Ride Home” would not be transferring to a commercial theater, Daryl Roth, Roy Gabay and the Vineyard sent this office the following email:

“Although the definitive plans have not been finalized and no theater in place as of yet, a commercial transfer is still our hope for the production.”

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