LONDON — A first-time Tony nominee for his Broadway directing debut, “A Day in the Death of Joe Egg,” helmer Laurence Boswell could be forgiven for resting on his laurels.
Far from it. The 44-year-old whose West End credits include Madonna‘s U.K. stage debut in “Up for Grabs” is adapting and directing “Beauty and the Beast” —not the Disney musical — for the Royal Shakespeare Co.’s upcoming Christmas show.
Boswell also is putting what he terms “the finishing touches” on a deal with Ambassador Theater Group (ATG) to be a West End producer-director responsible for up to four shows a year. The first-look arrangement would be akin to those that James Lapine and Jerry Zaks, among other American helmers, have had with various New York theater owners over time.
“They want to get good product in their theaters,” Boswell says of ATG, while facing the more immediate task of whether to fly his two children, who are 14 and 6, over to New York for the Tonys. “My daughter just insisted I take her out of school,” but, notes Boswell, “I think they’ve got to do their homework.”
Out of town
What’s it like being away from the Broadway hurlyburly as your smash musical sweeps the awards circuit? Not bad, notes “Hairspray’s” nominated director Jack O’Brien, who has been ensconced since April 13 deep within the Royal National Theater, where he is rehearsing John Guare‘s new stage version of “His Girl Friday,” which opens June 5. Alex Jennings and Zoe Wanamaker co-star.
“After all this time, it’s kind of a relief,” says O’Brien, who got his first Tony nod in 1977 for the Gershwin revival “Porgy and Bess.” “There’s such a cacophony of energy and noise and hysteria that gets batted around at this time of year” in New York.
By contrast, “There’s something civil and objective and cool about being here at the National, (where) I don’t have to worry too much about it.”
Gone, however, doesn’t mean forgotten: O’Brien got to his computer after rehearsals May 12 to find it “glowing.” The veteran director tallied 54 e-mails, much of it, he says, “Globe business, as well.” (O’Brien has been a.d. of the San Diego complex for 22 years.)
That said, O’Brien flies out 48 hours after his London opening, just in time for the June 8 Tonys, even if NT commitments until then mean missing the other seasonal shindigs. “There was talk about my going back (to New York) to do the luncheons, and I just begged and said no.” After all, reasons O’Brien, “It’s not like the actors or something that’s really got glamour behind it. Nobody cares about the director anyway — well, except his immediate family.”
Michael Ball is back on BBC Radio 2 from May 16-June 20, when the “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” star’s second series of “Ball Over Broadway” is broadcast in six late-Friday half-hour slots, 10-10:30 p.m.
Reprising a similar radio stint from two years ago, Ball took a week off from “Chitty” to do an April swoop through Broadway, where he caught six musicals in as many days. Some of Ball’s thoughts, in synopsis, as told to Variety:
- “Gypsy”: “It was in the second week of previews, and I know what that’s like. Judging by the reviews, it has changed a lot.”
- “Nine”: “Oh God, fantastic. Normally, you think Guido is a shit. This time, I thought his situation was the women’s fault, not his. I was deeply impressed.”
- “Hairspray”: “Just a joy. At the end, we were all leaping up and down. It was like having an injection in your ass.”
- “Man of La Mancha”: “Not my favorite musical, but it worked. Brilliant set.”
- “Movin’ Out”: “Amazing to watch, absolutely amazing. The only thing that was a bit of a copout was the ending. Everyone was happy and marvelous, and that ain’t real life.”
What happens if Ball finds himself on Broadway in “Chitty” the next time “Ball Over Broadway” rolls around? He laughs: “I’ll be saying, ‘I’m marvelous,’ I suppose.”