In his column yesterday, Michael Riedel of the New York Post wrote that the upcoming Broadway transfer of Trevor Nunn's acclaimed London production of A Little Night Music will very likely star Angela Lansbury (Madame Armfeldt) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (Desiree Armfeldt). There hasn't been any official announcement about casting, but the production is tentatively scheduled to begin performances in December at the Walter Kerr Theater.
Rumors have been circulating for weeks about Angela Lansbury's involvement in A Little Night Music, but this is the first I've heard about Catherine Zeta-Jones. I'm not sure what I think of CZJ as Desiree. She certainly has musical-theater experience, but I didn't think she really deserved an Oscar for the movie version of "Chicago." She was fine, but unexceptional.
But, irrespective of whether CZJ can pull off the part, there's the Antonio Banderas factor to consider. It's very unlikely that the recent Broadway revival of Nine would have gotten off the ground if it hadn't been for his presence, and as long as he stayed with the show, it did terrific business. But as soon as he left, business plummeted, despite the presence of replacement Guido John Stamos.
I have a sneaking suspicion that the same dynamic will play out with CZJ in Night Music. There's no question that she'll be a huge box-office draw, but once she leaves, the show will likely close. Unless, of course, they can get some other Hollywood star to take her place. (Rene Zellwegger as Desiree? The mind boggles...) And what are the odds that CZJ is likely to stick around for more than 6 months, a year tops?
I adore A Little Night Music, and have been longing for a strong Broadway revival of the show, of which this production would be the first. I'm not usually a pie-in-the-sky kind of guy, and I know that the economic realities and vagaries of producing a Broadway show can induce producers to find ways to mitigate their risk. I can certainly understand the producers' wanting to bring in a name, but there's a part of me that wishes they would rely on the strength of the show itself and the quality of the production.