`Shrek’ sings, `Strange’ passes, Clay spams a lot

With that nasty kerfuffle involving the stagehands and the dark Broadway theaters well behind us, it’s time to take a look at what’s going on in New York, where the play is really the thing.

Sure wish I could go see Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County, the hottest play on Broadway right now. On a more local front, Letts’ Bug will have its West Coast debut at SF Playhouse in May, filling the slot that was going to be filled with Mark Jackson’s Faust, Part One.

The big news on Broadway recently is that Rent’s lease is up. The pioneering rock musical, which won a posthumous Pulitzer prize for its creator, Jonathan Larson, will close on June 1 and enter the record books as Broadway’s seventh-longest-running musical.

When one musical closes, another one — most likely based on a movie — fills its place.

And here comes Shrek the Musical.

The CGI ogre, who has now starred in three hit movies, will make his musical theater debut this summer in Seattle before moving on to Broadway in November. The creative team behind the DreamWorks musical is impressive (even if the subject matter isn’t): Oscar-winner Sam Mendes is an artistic consultant (and sort of got the project rolling); Jeanine Tesori (Caroline, Or Change); Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole) penned the book and lyrics; and Jason Moore (Avenue Q) is directing.

Moore has said the plot will follow the first movie, when Shrek joins up with his donkey cohort, Donkey, and falls in love with Princess Fiona.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid opened to reviews that were mostly piles of stinking fish. My impression, from reading those fragrant notices is that the show is overproduced, overstuffed and ought to have been thrown back early on. Still, I’d like to see it, if only to watch capable actors skate around on wheeled footwear.

With Mermaid packing in the family crowd, adult interest will shift to Passing Strange, the rock musical by Stew, Heidi Rodewald and director Annie Dorsen that had its pre-New York run at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The show is transferring to Broadway and begins performances Feb. 8 at the Belasco Theatre.

The cast is the same one we saw in Berkeley in November 2006: de’Adre Aziza, Daniel Breaker, Eisa Davis, Colman Domingo, Chad Goodridge, Rebecca Naomi Jones and Stew, himself (with Rodewald on bass and vocals in the band).

And finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Shrek isn’t the only ogre on Broadway. Clay Aiken opened in Spamalot.

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