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amBroadway | Lea Michele contracts COVID, Muhammad Ali musical in works and more

Lea Michele in Funny Girl
Lea Michele takes a curtain call during a recent performance of “Funny Girl” on Broadway.
Photo by Bruce Glikas, provided

Mere days after taking over as Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl,” Lea Michele has tested positive for COVID. She is currently slated to rejoin the show on Sept. 20.

In the meantime, Fanny will be played by standby Julie Benko, who has already played the role many times before, including throughout all of August. Tovah Feldshuh joined the cast on Tuesday night along with Michele.

‘Royal Oak’ combines fashion and theater

Off-Broadway’s Soho Playhouse marked New York Fashion Week with “Royal Oak,” a drama-fashion crossover by writer-director Justin Vibbert, a former undercover journalist, about a drug trafficking operation at a major couture fashion house, which incorporates a climactic runway show.

“I’ve spent time with drug traffickers, cartel associates, and known killers, and none of them frightened me in the same way a fashion industry executive has…there was a vacantness to them that was bone chilling,” said Vivert, who also directed the play.

According to Vibbert, “Royal Oak” is “not a play about fashion” but rather “how easy it is for people to do the wrong thing at the right time…it’s meant to entertain.” There are plans to extend the play’s New York run and bring it to Florida for Miami Fashion Week.

Muhammad Ali musical in the works

In 2014, the musical “Rocky” briefly brought boxing to Broadway, with a match brought to life on a regulation-sized boxing ring through fight choreography and unbelievable stagecraft. (“Rocky” otherwise was a stinker, but that’s another story.)

Now, another boxing spectacle is being developed for Broadway: “Ali,” a bio musical about heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali. It will be directed and written by Clint Dyer (deputy artistic director of London’s National Theatre) and have music by Teddy Abrams.

Jefferson Mays’ one-man ‘Christmas Carol’ to play Broadway

During the early days of the pandemic, when digitally-produced theater was the only game in town, Tony Award winner Jefferson Mays (who is currently playing Mayor Shinn in “The Music Man”) starred in a one-man adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” directed by Michael Arden, which was made available for streaming and raised money for regional theaters.

The production will now play Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre (recently home to “Mr. Saturday Night”) beginning Nov. 8 for 66 performances only. Three years ago, a full-scale, lavish version of “A Christmas Carol” which originated at London’s Old Vic played Broadway.

‘Into the Woods’ receives one final extension

The highly-acclaimed Broadway revival of “Into the Woods,” which was originally slated to run for just a few weeks at the St. James Theatre following its premiere as part of the Encores! series at City Center, has been extended one last time through Jan. 8, 2023.

The cast underwent major changes last week, with the addition of Montego Glover, Stephanie J. Block, Sebastian Arcelus, Krysta Rodriguez, and Andy Karl. Additional casting changes are expected to be announced shortly.

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