rambling reporter

Out of the wings this week: 'Seagull,' musical 'Cry-Baby'

This week's most arresting legit opening with the biggest-name cast isn't happening on Broadway but far, far off (on East 13th Street, in fact). Dianne Wiest, Alan Cumming, Annette O'Toole and David Rasche head the cast of Chekhov's "The Seagull," directed by Viacheslav Dolgachev, which officially debuts Thursday at the Classic Stage Company for a limited run, part of the company's 40th anniversary season. … The biggest new attention-getter this week on Broadway is "Cry-Baby," the musicalized version of John Waters' 1990 Johnny Depp starrer. It begins prevuing Saturday at the Marquis following its world premiere last year in La Jolla, Calif. James Snyder plays the title role. … Sunday also marks the end of the limited run of the Manhattan Theatre Company's Broadway revival of William Inge's "Come Back, Little Sheba" at the Biltmore, with S. Epatha Merkerson, Kevin Anderson and Zoe Kazan essaying the respective roles created in the 1950s by Shirley Booth, Sidney Blackmer and Joan Lorring. The current "Sheba" will have played 58 performances and 27 prevues. Contrary to popular belief, the original "Sheba" — despite being a critics' favorite — was not a Broadway long-runner, playing only five months. The 1952 Hal Wallis movie version did much better, eventually earning Booth the Academy Award over a lively field of best actress competitors that included Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, the latter having been offered the film, pre-Booth, but turned it down. Davis told Wallis, "No one would ever believe Bette Davis would spend her life moping about a dog who's run away." … There's more star power on the immediate off-Broadway horizon: On March 18, "The Little Flower of East Orange," a new play by Stephen Adly Guirgis, opens at the Public. It is being directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman and stars Ellen Burstyn; the same day, Jackie Mason begins a 10-week run in his latest comedy romp, "Jackie Mason: The Ultimate Jew" at the New World Stages. Two days later, prevues begin at Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse on Paul Rudnick's "The New Century." It is being directed by Nicholas Martin with cast that includes Linda Lavin. … The newest addition to Broadway's plans is "Pal Joey," the dazzling Rodgers and Hart musical that made a star out of Gene Kelly in 1940 and co-starred Vivienne Segal. It will get a new Roundabout production opening Dec. 11 at Studio 54 for a limited run. This "Joey" will have a new book by Tony winner Richard Greenberg, based on the original John O'Hara story. (O'Hara also wrote the book for the original production, which boasted two chorus boys who certainly did well for themselves in Hollywood shortly after: Van Johnson and Stanley Donen.) Joe Mantello will direct the new "Joey," with musical direction by Paul Gemignani and choreography by Graciela Daniele. No casting has been announced. This will make the fourth New York revival of the show, following ones in 1952 with Harold Lang and Segal, in 1963 with Bob Fosse and Viveca Lindfors and in 1976 with Christopher Chadman and Joan Copeland. Most recently, Patti LuPone starred in a bang-up concert staging of it as part of the City Center's "Encores!" series.