La Bête, which played a brief Broadway run in 1991, returns to America by way of London, where Warchus (God of Carnage, Boeing-Boeing, The Norman Conquests) and his cast debuted the revival at the Comedy Theatre this past June. The play began Broadway previews Sept. 23 with the original London company. Two American cast members joined for the Broadway run.
The 90-minute, 17th-century-set farce is scheduled to play a limited engagement through Feb. 13, 2011, at the Music Box Theatre.
Tony Award winner Rylance (Boeing-Boeing, Jerusalem) stars as the obliviously base street clown Volere, opposite Tony winner Hyde Pierce (Curtains, Spamalot) as the uncompromising highbrow playwright Elomire (an anagram for Molière) and BAFTA winner Lumley ("Absolutely Fabulous"), who makes her Broadway debut as the imperious princess who forces the two men to align in this beastly intersection between art and populism.
The transatlantic cast also includes Stephen Ouimette, Lisa Joyce, Greta Lee, Robert Lonsdale, Michael Milligan, Liza Sadovy, Sally Wingert, Deanne Lorette and Steve Routman.
For the new staging, the role of Prince Conti (originated on Broadway in 1991 by Dylan Baker) has been changed to Princess Conti, with Lumley in the part. La Bête marks the Broadway return of the Warchus-Rylance collaboration. The two were last represented in the Tony-winning revival of Boeing-Boeing and are frequent collaborators in the U.K. “I love outsiders and difficult people," Rylance told Playbill. "I’m attracted to the wit and the observation of character in David Hirson’s writing. David is a rare and unique American talent—adventurous and daring with the English language, in the American tradition. And I love the challenge of the rhymes.”
He continued, "I had a great time with New York audiences at Boeing-Boeing and with my friends in the city. It’s always fun for me to play in the culture of my youth, and I am so excited to be part of La Bête’s long-overdue revival in its place of birth."
According to producers, "La Bête is a comic tour de force about Elomire (Pierce), a high-minded classical dramatist who loves only the theater, and Valere (Rylance), a low-brow street clown who loves only himself. When the fickle princess (Lumley) decides she’s grown weary of Elomire’s royal theatre troupe, he and Valere are left fighting for survival as art squares off with ego in a literary showdown for the ages."
La Bête is produced by Scott Landis & Sonia Friedman Productions, Roger Berlind, Robert G. Bartner/Norman Tulchin, Bob Boyett/Tim Levy, Roy Furman, Max Cooper, Dan Frishwasser, Bud Martin, Philip Morgaman/Frankie J. Grande, and Stephanie P. McClelland/Hagemann-Rosenthal in association with 1001 Nights and Richard Winkler.
The production has set design by Mark Thompson, lighting design by Hugh Vanstone, music by Claire van Kampen and sound design by Simon Baker.
La Bête made its Broadway premiere in 1991, playing 25 performances at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. The original cast featured Dylan Baker, Michael Cumpsty and Tom McGowan. The play received acclaim when it arrived in London in 1992, earning the Olivier Award for Best Comedy.
Tickets for the Broadway run are available by phoning (212) 239-6200 or by visiting Telecharge. The Music Box Theatre is located at 239 West 45th Street.
View highlights from the show: