‘Don’ takes on Broadway

Look for a pre-Christmas Broadway opening of “Don Carlos,” the Friedrich Schiller revival, which, against the odds, has turned into a serious West End hit. Although other Michael Grandage productions have been pegged for New York at various times (including his remarkable Donmar “Caligula,” starring Michael Sheen), this one has a particularly potent champion in its star, Derek Jacobi, who is keen to show New Yorkers an all-but-unknown (in America, that is) play.

“It’s a good story,” says the actor, who has earned some of the best reviews of his career for playing the fearsome father, King Philip II, of Don Carlos, the Crown Prince. “Audiences want to know what’s going to happen: Is Carlos going to survive, and all that?”

At the Gielgud Theater, the London stand paid back its £300,000 ($560,000) capitalization the first week in March and has been grossing nearly double its weekly £80,000 ($150,000) nut throughout the limited run (ending April 30). That’s not bad, says lead producer Matthew Byam Shaw, for “a play in German featuring a load of men in tights.”

No London extension is possible, since the theater is previously committed to David Schwimmer starrer “Some Girls.” “That’s pretty frustrating,” says Byam Shaw, “when you get something like this.”

Numerous specifics remain to be confirmed for the Broadway run, which will certainly be longer than its 12-week London gig (more time is needed to recoup) and considerably pricier — $2 million-plus. And among the 17-strong cast, only Jacobi and Peter Eyre, who makes a formidable 11th-hour appearance as the Grand Inquisitor, have green cards, which means “a lot of the casting is down to the State Dept.,” says Byam Shaw.

Looking ahead, the producer will partner Robert Fox in 2006 on a new play, “Frost/Nixon,” centering on the historic 1977 interviews between the British broadcaster David Frost and Richard Nixon. The author is Peter Morgan, whose Channel 4 teleplay “The Deal” shone a scintillating light on that defining night in 1994 when Tony Blair and Gordon Brown carved up the leadership of Britain’s Labor party over dinner in Islington.

“If you’re crass, you’d call it ‘Rocky’ with words,” says Byam Shaw. One nonetheless assumes Sylvester Stallone isn’t among the actors under consideration.

SOUR ‘BIRD’

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered quite the full-scale Tennessee Williams dud that is the current Paris revival of “Doux Oiseau de Jeunesse” (that’s “Sweet Bird of Youth” for any Francophobes), which turns a ruminative, deeply poetic play into a ludicrous melodrama that surely says something about the way the French nowadays see all Americans as rednecks.

The staging, at the Theatre de la Madeleine through April 7, garnered copious advance interest due to the star presence of onetime screen diva Claudia Cardinale (“8½,” “The Leopard”) as Williams’ onetime screen diva, the Princess. In the event, Cardinale’s perf was unaffecting and grotesquely affected, a trashy star turn that didn’t begin to merit the numerous bows the Italian thesp seemed determined to take.

Somewhere in Cardinale’s heart of hearts, she’s no doubt bowing still. As for other Princesses to come? Jessica Lange, perhaps?

BRIT BITS

  • “Don Carlos” has company in the recoupment department. Co-producer Michael Whitehall reports his Duchess Theater production of Terence Rattigan’s “Man and Boy,” starring David Suchet, paid back its £125,000 ($234,000) costs after only five weeks. Whitehall’s interest in the Rattigan canon continues: Look for Patricia Hodge to headline a revival of the scribe’s 1973 play “In Praise of Love.”

  • The new Broadway revival of “The Glass Menagerie,” with its British producer and director, has one admirer, at least, in U.K. critic Paul Taylor, whose rave in the Independent appeared the same day as the New York pans. “In a Broadway season not exactly overburdened with fragile lyricism or creative integrity, this ‘Menagerie’ glimmers with the well-tended glow of those eponymous objects,” wrote Taylor. “Roll on a West End transfer.”
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