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Weekend Agenda: The Midseason Return

It’s January, guys. It’s freezing. There are no major holidays in sight. You can only confidently recommend one Broadway show to your friends and family without embarrassing yourself and calling your taste into question. But never fear! Spring is on the way, along with Stark Sands, Santino Fontana, Billy Porter, those Matilda girls, and a revival of Jekyll & Hyde that has a for-real theater and a for-real opening date. There is light at the end of the tunnel, as Richard Stilgoe once wrote. And all the stuff that happened this week in theater is proof…

  • In news that probably should have sent us over the cliff of passion and joy but didn’t because it’s so not-surprising, Meryl Streep will play the witch in Rob Marshall’s film version of Into the Woods. Best part? The beans were spilled — har — in a local Connecticut newspaper, which was doing an interview with the film’s arranger, David Krane. And now he’s on Perez. Ain’t life grand? Now we just hope that Patrick Wilson stays attached to this project…
  • He was already the knight in shining armor of your dreams, but now he takes down the bad guys in real life, too. After the SAG Awards on Sunday, Taye Diggs caught a burglar trying to rob his garage, chased him down the street and held him until the police arrived. The guy has been charged and Taye Diggs is a national badass. Insane.
  • You think Rent and Spring Awakening fangirls are a little unhinged? Ladies, you have seen nothing — nothing — until you bear witness to the feminine throngs that adore Barry Manilow like it’s a well-paying, perk-filled job. This week, one of them was unceremoniously shouted down by critic Peter Filichia, who was trying to like… do his job and write a review of Manilow’s Broadway show. Only he couldn’t, because one of Manilow’s fans was standing and he couldn’t see. He asked her to cut it out. She wouldn’t. He called security. She burst into tears. Clive Davis was there and gave her a quiet, out-of-the-way place to have her fangirl moment without disrupting anyone. The day was saved, but we can’t help but wish more stuff like this happened on Broadway. It’s a hell of a lot more interesting than bored audiences politely clapping for shows they don’t really like.
  • In a story that lent itself to exactly one excellent headline, and everyone used it (Aaron Sorkin’s Disappearing Act! Muahaha!), writer Aaron Sorkin has departed as the librettist of Hugh Jackman’s Houdini musical. The producers are saying he had “scheduling conflicts,” but we’re not super shocked by his departure. This project has been a major revolving door, with Kurt Andersen, Danny Elfman, David Yazbek and Glenn Slater attached — and unattached — to it at different times. We hope this show gets itself written, because we want to see it. But at this point, that could require a serious magic trick.
  • A must-read this week: Buzzfeed’s incredible takedown of the first season of Smash, which features people close to the show firing away at former showrunner Theresa Rebeck like she’s in season. The story sheds a lot of juicy light on the show’s inner workings, and makes a fair point: By the end of the season, the show sucked so hard that it had become a parody of itself.
  • In other news of things that refuse to die quietly… Rebecca‘s producers are suing one of the show’s former press agents for sending anonymous emails to legit investors warning them that some of the musical’s financial backing was fradulent. Never mind that that he was actually… um… right. They’re suing him anyway. Most intriguing, though, is the complaint itself, which alleges that the press agent was “induced by unknown persons to ‘torpedo’ the production.” Whoever those “unknown persons” might be — producers of other, competing shows? people with taste? — we can’t wait for that lawsuit…

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