Broadway Baby: June 2008

STRANGE DAYS HERE HE COMES

It's Tony time, kids, and like the just-ended season they celebrate, this year's awards are studded with wacky surprises. In the best musical category, two of the nominees, In the Heights and Passing Strange, began life downtown and then came crawling up to Broadway. And the other two contenders, Cry-Baby and Xanadu, though Broadway originals, sprang from the distinctly downtown sensibilities of auteurs, John Waters and Douglas Carter Beane. These shows, in addition to drawing younger, hipper, more diverse audiences to augment the traditional Broadway fan base of Jews, homosexuals and Jewish homosexuals, have swept a raft of fresh young performers onto the Great White Way.

So for this special Tony edition of Broadway Baby, we were excited to talk with one of these young whippersnappers, Daniel Breaker, himself a nominee for his role in Passing Strange as "Youth," the embodiment of the younger self of the show's creator and onstage narrator, Stew. True, this isn't Breaker's first time at the Broadway rodeo. In fact, he's a veteran who first came to our attention in his Broadway debut two seasons back in Lisa Kron's Well, when he uttered one of our favorite lines ever to describe one of Kron's experimental stage conceits: "This is some kind of fucked up DOWNTOWN bullshit!" It's been all up-hill from there for the actor, and things have really kicked into overdrive this season. Last fall, fresh off Passing Strange's acclaimed summer run at the Public, Breaker was featured in a small role in Lincoln Center's production of Shakespeare's Cymbeline, before heading right back into rehearsals for the Broadway incarnation of Passing Strange. Oh, and along the way he managed to find time to get married to theater director Kate Whorisky (The Piano Teacher), who is expecting the couple's first child in September.

This breakneck pace left his head spinning a bit, he tells us. "Cymbeline closed on a Sunday and I started rehearsals for Passing Strange on the Monday" he says, but admits that there are compensations. "Which was a blessing -- to keep getting Broadway checks. I afforded a ring through Cymbeline, and I afforded a wedding through Passing Strange, and hopefully if this bad boy runs long enough I'll be able to buy formula." When the talk turns to his Tony nomination, though, Breaker is humble. "People always say this," he says, "but this is the truth: I had no dream of being nominated for a Tony, or winning a Tony or anything. That was just never in the stars for me." And we tend to believe him, for when we ask about his plans the ceremony, he tells us that what he's really excited about are "My parents' outfits -- my mom and dad are really excited about their gown and tuxedo. My whole family is going to descend on the Tonys, which I'm really looking forward to." And this family man is looking forward to some daddy daycare after the dust settles from this tumultuous theater time after the baby is born and Whorisky gets back to work. "I'm probably going to take some time off and be the dad for a little while" he says. "2008 is the biggest year of my life. Hopefully 2009 will be mellow," he adds, before pausing. "But of course it's not going to be mellow because I'll have a five-month old by the time January rolls around."

LAST CHANCE DEPT.

This weekend is your last chance to catch last month's Broadway Baby Deanna Dunagan's acclaimed performance in August: Osage County. But sad as we are to lose the likely Tony-winner, we have to admit that the show's producers found a pretty darn exciting replacement for her: Academy Award winner Estelle Parsons. Anyone who caught her as Roseanne's nightmare of a mother will have no trouble imagining her going to town with the role of venom-spewing, chain-smoking Oklahoma matriarch Violet Weston.

MIDSUMMER MADNESS

It's that time of year again: When a goodly portion of the New York theater community flees the steamy city for the cooler climes and greener pastures of the many theater festivals scattered across the country. One of the most venerable of these shindigs, the Williamstown Theater Festival in Williamstown, Massachusetts, has assembled a drool-inducing cast for its revival of Christopher Durang's Beyond Therapy that includes multiple Tony nominee Kate Burton (Hedda Gabler), Tony winner Katie Finneran (Noises Off) and Saturday Night Live alumnus Darrell Hammond. We were nearby in the scenic Berkshires, and we can promise you that the scenery alone is worth the trip, and the ticket prices are a steal by New York standards, so jump in a Zip Car and tootle on up.

ON THE HORIZON

Looking ahead to next season, we're super-excited at the announcement that big-time Hollywood types Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons will be returning to Broadway next spring for the first time in a long, long time in Impressionism, a new play by Michael Jacobs, to be directed by multiple-Tony winner Jack O'Brien. Like so many bold-faced names, these two are both Tony winners who honed their chops on the boards before going on to Left Coast fame and fortune.

Passing Strange: Belasco Theatre, 111 W. 44th St., (212) 239-6200. Tues. 7 p.m.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Wed. & Sat. 2 p.m.; Sun. 3 p.m. $26.50-$111.50.

Beyond Therapy: Nikos Stage, Williamstown Theater Festival. Jun. 11- 22. Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. $35-$37. http://www.wtfestival.org/

Impressionism: Theater and dates TBA.

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