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‘Crazy,’ ‘Murder’ and More on Playwright Ken Ludwig’s Packed Plate

You’re not imagining it: Ken Ludwig is everywhere these days. The playwright’s adaptation of “Murder on the Orient Express” is going into rehearsal just as a likely Broadway revival of his Tony-winning musical “Crazy for You” kicks off a four-week workshop — both happening while his Sherlock Holmes play “Baskerville” stirs up talk of a U.K. tour (with a potential stop in London) and his newest play, “Dear Jack, Dear Louise,” debuts in a reading he’ll direct at D.C.’s Folger Theater in March.

The writer, whose other Broadway credits include “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Moon Over Buffalo,” has always been popular and much produced, regularly showing up on American Theatre’s list of the country’s most-produced living playwrights (he was No. 10 in 2017) and boasting thousands of productions of his work around the world in the last decade.

But even he admits he’s been unusually productive over the past couple of years, due to a mix of concurrent commissions and a spate of self-generated ideas. “It’s been about two plays a year,” he said.

Ludwig, whose most recent New York production was the 2010 Broadway revival of his farce “Lend Me a Tenor,” is one of those playwrights whose near-constant stream of work beyond Broadway can sometimes get forgotten in New York. But a couple of these projects look poised to change that.

With director-choreographer Susan Stroman returning to a show she originally choreographed in 1992, the current developmental staging of “Crazy for You” stars Laura Osnes, Tony Yazbeck, Jerry O’Connell and Rebecca Naomi Jones, along with Harry Groener, who led the cast of the original staging.

Although the workshop comes about a year after a well-received concert version that also starred Osnes and Yazbeck, producer Joey Parnes (“Meteor Shower,”“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”) had been thinking about reviving “Crazy for You,” a let’s-put-on-a-show romance with Gershwin tunes, even before that. (Rachel Dratch and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” star Rachel Bloom were both in the concert, but aren’t part of the lab cast.) No production timeline is yet set, but don’t be too surprised if the musical books a Broadway opening next season.

Meanwhile, Ludwig’s “Murder on the Orient Express” moves to Hartford Stage in February following a premiere last year at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre. The playwright — who won an Edgar Award for “The Game’s Afoot,” his 2012 outing about a murder solved by an actor who made his name portraying Sherlock Holmes — was contacted by the Christie estate as part of a push to rejuvenate its catalog. (See: recent, starry screen versions of “Orient Express,” at $330 million worldwide, and “Crooked House.”)

For Ludwig, there’s a clear overlap between the structural requirements of his two fortes, comedy and mystery. “He’s a craftsman,” said Emily Mann, who directed “Orient Express” at the McCarter and will stage it again in Hartford. “He really understands the structure and the construction of a great comedy, and he’s also one of the most prolific playwrights we have. The well doesn’t go dry.”

“Baskerville,” his comic adaptation of “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” is winning acclaim at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre and looks to be on the way to future life. All that’s in addition to “Gods of Comedy,” the original laffer he’s penned about Dionysus and Thalia helping out a modern-day classics scholar (tentatively set to premiere at the McCarter next season), plus another play about David Garrick’s 18th-century Shakespeare Jubilee.

What’s next? He’s not sure, but he won’t wait long to figure it out. “I’ll know just as soon as I polish ‘Gods of Comedy’” he said. “I’ll roll up my sleeves and start the next one.”

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