Ask Playbill.com is a weekly Playbill.com column that answers questions about theatre, generated by readers and Playbill.com staff, every Thursday. To ask a question, email AskPlaybill@Playbill.com. Please specify how you would like your name displayed and please include the city in which you live.
If your question is used in our column, you will receive a Playbill.com mug.
This question comes from Jack Rudi of New York, NY.
Question: Was there ever an actor that directed a Broadway show and starred in it too? Answer: Some of the Playbill.com writers wracked our collective brain on this one, and the most recent example we could remember was Lonny Price, who directed and starred in the musical A Class Act in 2001.
There are other examples as well. Tommy Tune staged and starred in (and choreographed) the 1983 musical My One and Only. Orson Welles did double duty for a few Broadway productions, including Julius Caesar and Heartbreak House. José Ferrer also did it for a few productions, including the play Edwin Booth and a revival of Twentieth Century. Laurence Olivier played Romeo in his own production of Romeo and Juliet in 1940.
As for Off-Broadway, this past fall, for instance, Michael Cumpsty co-directed and played the title role in Richard III at Classic Stage Company.
If you think of any others, please let us know by emailing AskPlaybill@Playbill.com.
This question comes from Debbie Gass of Rockford, IL.
Question: Is it unusual for one director to be directing more than one show on Broadway at a time?
Answer: It depends what is meant by "directing." If it means actively rehearsing two shows at once and bouncing between two rehearsal rooms, then it would be very unusual.
But directors will usually contribute their thoughts to a show well before they get into the rehearsal room, especially with musicals, in which the director typically gets involved very early on in the writing process, to help guide the script and come up with staging ideas. Therefore, they can have one show in development while they're in rehearsal for another.
The result is that it's not uncommon for directors to have multiple shows running on Broadway at once. In fact, currently there are two directors who share this distinction. Theatre fans, can you name them?
The number of shows one director has running at once seems to peak at three. Even the ubiquitous Mantello has "only" reached three, such as the period in 2006 when Wicked, The Odd Couple and Three Days of Rain were running at once. Daniel Sullivan also reached three, with Proof, Morning's at Seven and I'm not Rappaport in 2002.
There's one director AskPlaybill.com can think of who has had four: Trevor Nunn, in spring 1988: Cats, Les Misérables, Starlight Express and Chess.
If you can think of other directors who have had four shows or more running on Broadway at once, email AskPlaybill@Playbill.com.
Updates: As Ryan Meisheid of Brooklyn, NY, astutely pointed out, Susan Stroman has also had the distinction of having four shows she directed running simultaneously, in late 2001: The Producers, Contact, Thou Shalt Not and The Music Man. And as Merritt Baer of New York, NY, pointed out, Nunn also had four shows running at once in 1995: Cats, Les Misérables, Sunset Boulevard and Arcadia. Also, C. Murphy said George C. Scott directed and starred in several Broadway shows, including Death of a Salesman and Present Laughter.