Geffen Playhouse drops a musical, gains a play


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Some good news-bad news comes our way from the Geffen Playhouse.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way: “Nightmare Alley,” the original musical slated for an end of June opening, is off -- at least for now. Jonathan Brielle’s musical, based on the William Lindsay Gresham novel and subsequent 1947 film about con artists, clairvoyants and carnies, has fallen victim to the tanking economy.


“Look,” said Geffen Producing Director Gilbert Cates, who had been slated to direct. “I love ‘Nightmare Alley’; I have a particular affection for it. But it’s too expensive for us to do this year. So we’re postponing it until next year -- when we have more money and we can do it right.”

Cates said they struggled with the question of whether to do “Nightmare Alley” with “less production values and less resources” but ultimately decided they “couldn’t do it justice with less.” The world premiere musical will “definitely” be included in the season next year, he said.

On to the good news:

In place of “Nightmare Alley,” the Geffen will present “Farragut North,” Beau Willimon’s play about the world of spin during a presidential campaign. The play, which had its premiere off-Broadway last year at the Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater, featured Chris Noth (yes, Mr. Big from “Sex and the City”), who will appear in the Geffen production.

Hollywood types may already be familiar with the play and with Willimon -- who worked for New York Sen. Charles Schumer and, later, presidential candidate Howard Dean -- because George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio’s production companies hold film rights to the play.

The Geffen production also will feature Chris Pine in the role originated off-Broadway by John Gallagher. If you’re trying to place Pine’s name, here’s a hint: “Star Trek.” He’s the new Capt. Kirk in the upcoming J.J. Abrams film, set for release in May. For die-hard theater people who don’t know who Abrams is (hint: “Lost”) or those grasping their 1960s time-warp devotion to William Shatner, we offer you this about Pine: He’s a Geffen veteran, having appeared there in 2007 in Neil LaBute’s “Fat Pig” (reminder: he was the really funny one).

“Farragut North” will be staged by its original director, Tony winner Doug Hughes. It will open June 24 and run through July 26. Tickets are $35 to $74. For more information, call (310) 208-5454.

-- Lisa Fung

Top photo: Chris Noth. Credit: Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images. Bottom photo: Chris Pine, left, and Scott Wolf in the Geffen production of Neil LaBute’s ‘Fat Pig.’ Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times