Legiters under the spotlight and behind the scenes
In scanning the legit landscape, Variety zeroes in on 10 burgeoning forces who operate both behind the scenes and under the spotlight. While some have already made waves, their future in New York theater looms as even more promising.
Adam Bock, playwright
In just five years in New York, Bock has gained some serious ground in the theater community.
Garnering strong notices for his Off Off Broadway works “Swimming in Shallows” and “The Thugs,” Bock is taking his latest play, “The Drunken City,” uptown to the mainstage at major Off Broadway nonprofit Playwrights Horizons.
“After ‘Swimming’ and ‘Thugs’ came out, people started to recognize and understand my voice, which made me more confident,” Bock says.
The confidence boost helped Bock write “City,” about three twentysomething brides-to-be questioning their future after a bar crawl, and “The Receptionist,” which will hit the stage at the Manhattan Theater Club in November.
Despite having two projects in production, Bock doesn’t use it as an excuse to slow down. He’s currently trying his hand at composing and taking television and film meetings, in addition to embarking on a new play.
“Really what I want to do in my life is keep learning,” Bock says. “So I am really lucky because it feels like I am constantly in school.”
Laura Bell Bundy, actor
The shoes Bundy has to fill aren’t literally very big; but they once belonged to Reese Witherspoon.
For the Broadway up-and-comer — who had a supporting role in “Hairspray” and has taken over the Kristin Chenoweth part in “Wicked” — “Legally Blonde” represents her first starring role. She plays sorority-girl-turned-lawyer Elle Woods, the character made famous by Witherspoon in the 2001 movie.
The musical adaptation opens Sunday on Broadway, but early word from the San Francisco tryout is strong, for the show in general and for Bundy in particular.
“It’s a lot of pressure and responsibility,” she says of her star turn. “But working at something from the very beginning is where I thrive the most. For a control queen, it’s perfect!”
Max Crumm, Laura Osnes, actors
How does reality TV stardom translate at the Broadway box office?
Crumm and Osnes are about to answer that question. The winning duo of the “American Idol”-style casting competition “Grease: You’re the One That I Want” will topline the Broadway revival of “Grease,” set to begin previews July 24 for an Aug. 19 opening at the Brooks Atkinson Theater.
The two 21-year-olds are moving to Gotham with big dreams of conquering showbiz.
“I wanted to do it all, I just didn’t know how I was going to do it,” Crumm says.
“Sometimes it hits me: Oh my gosh. This is really happening!” adds Osnes. “I’m just this little girl from Minnesota!”
Kelly Gonda, founder of East of Doheny
If you want to ask Gonda about what her production company, East of Doheny, has on its slate, be sure you’ve got a few minutes. It’s a long list — especially for an organization that made its first big foray into legit this season with “Grey Gardens.”
“There’s a musical version of ‘My Man Godfrey,’ with music by Mark Hollmann (“Urinetown”), and ‘Please Don’t Eat the Daisies’ by Robert Lee and Leon Ko,” she says. “And Timberlake Wertenbaker is writing a play about an early 20th-century painter.”
Also in the works: “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm,” “Love in the Afternoon” and “Jubilee,” a tuner by Jason Robert Brown (“Parade”) and Charlayne Woodard. Plus the company has the rights to the 1999 pic “Aimee and Jaguar” for a potential legit version.
“Some are aimed toward Broadway, some to Off Broadway,” she says.
The name East of Doheny comes from the location of the company’s original L.A. office, which is east of Doheny Drive.
Bill T. Jones, co-founder of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co.
When you think of Bill T. Jones, you rarely think legit. But that’s changing.
Jones is a veteran of the New York modern dance scene — his troupe, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, will soon celebrate its 25th anni.
These days, though, Jones is exploring theatrical choreography, too: He created the movement in Will Power’s “The Seven” Off Broadway, and now his work is attracting attention with industry fave “Spring Awakening” on Broadway.
He’s also in the early stages of developing a theater-dance-music event based on the life of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti.
“It’s a different world,” Jones says of working in legit. “In my dance company, I am it. I don’t have anybody giving me notes. But it was good to use what I know about movement in the service of something else.”
Director Michael Mayer roped him into “Spring Awakening” when he asked Jones to do a few numbers for the show. “I said, I don’t do ‘numbers,’ ” Jones remembers. “But I knew what he meant.”
David Korins, set designer
Set design can be a tough biz to break into, but Korins has, with unusual speed, established a rep for creating striking stage spaces.
His designs for Edge Theater Company, for which he also serves as a producer, include the detailed realism of “Blackbird” (2004) and the environmental evocativeness of “Orange Flower Water” (2005).
Having just provided the set for “Essential Self-Defense” at Playwrights Horizons (by Edge resident playwright Adam Rapp), Korins will take on “Passing Strange” at the Public and the latest from David Henry Hwang, “Yellow Face,” at the Taper.
He’s also getting into production design for the movies, with his next project being “Hungry Girls,” a feature from legit helmer Will Frears.
Prolific as Korins is, don’t look for a common aesthetic thread uniting his work. “Really, the true test is to try to keep your own personal sensibilities out of it,” he says. “You have to serve the text. You have to constantly fight the ‘cool’ impulse.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer-lyricist-performer
The man behind “In the Heights” is this season’s legit “it” boy.
The 27-year-old wrote the first version of the Latin hip-hop musical when he was a sophomore at Wesleyan U. Seven years later the $2.5 million tuner opened at Off Broadway’s 37 Arts to rave reviews.
Manuel credits “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “West Side Story” and most of all “Rent” as the inspirations behind his unusual sound.
“I had never seen a contemporary musical before I saw ‘Rent’ at 17. That was really important for me because it gave me permission to go there. It was really freeing.”
So what’s next for the theater prodigy?
“I have a whole folder of ideas, but I am not sure what form they will take. I take meetings because apparently that is what you do when you have something successful and you say ‘I can’t do anything right now because I am performing in eights shows a week but nice to meet you.'”
David Pittu, actor
You recognize him from memorable performances in such shows as “Stuff Happens,” “Parade” and “The Coast of Utopia,” but don’t know his name.
That oversight might become a thing of the past when the season’s most anticipated tuner, “LoveMusik,” opens May 3.
Pittu co-stars in the Broadway show, staged by Harold Prince, the thesp’s director on the National Tour of “Parade.”
“A couple of years ago (Harold) called me and said he has this project (“LoveMusik”) that he has been working on. We did some readings of it, and that was the beginning of it.”
Although the veteran character actor says that he “loves theater the most,” he is hoping to further his film career, which has thus far included roles in “King Kong” and “Shortbus.”
Pablo Schreiber, actor
After garnering a Tony nod last year for his Broadway debut in “Awake and Sing!,” Schreiber is once again scoring strong reviews, this time for his role in “Dying City.”
“After ‘Awake,’ I didn’t want to do theater for a little, but I got the (“City”) script and I felt like it was something that I had to do,” Schreiber explains after a Sunday matinee performance, which requires that he play identical t
Schreiber’s real-life older brother, Liev, is of course a big star, and Pablo observes: “It’s been a blessing and a curse because you get more opportunities and people will see you because you are somebody’s brother, but I think in the same respect, people — in some twisted recess of their brain — want one brother to be talented and one brother not to be. So I think I have battled that, but I am glad that it is all going well now.”
When “City” closes at the end of this month, Schreiber has a film, “Favorite Son,” coming out, followed by a probable break from theater and a pursuit of film and television roles.
Daniel Sullivan, director
It is not Sullivan’s seasoned direction that audiences will be scrutinizing this summer when he helms Shakespeare in the Park’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for the Public Theater; instead all eyes will be on his performance as the interim artistic director of the Manhattan Theater Club.
Currently directing Broadway’s “Prelude to a Kiss,” Sullivan will replace MTC’s 35-year a.d., Lynne Meadow, for the year while she takes a sabbatical.
Although he is keeping mum about the upcoming season’s lineup, he does admit that no “huge changes” would occur.
“It is not going to appear to the public as though there has been a change of course in any way,” he says. “Lynne and I have similar tastes, and she is very much involved with (the) season’s selection.”