The Graduate, the stage version of the acclaimed 1967 film, opens at Broadway's Plymouth Theatre April 4. Based on the Oscar-nominated film and starring a trio of film stars, the Broadway mounting is shaping up to be the most commercially successful of this season's straight plays.
Featuring a cast headed by Kathleen Turner as the infamous Mrs. Robinson, Terry Johnson's stage adaptation of the classic film and Charles Webb novel has already racked up an advance sale of over $5 million, a record-breaking tally for a non-musical Broadway production.
Co-starring with Turner — who was last on Broadway in Jean Cocteau's Indiscretions — are Jason Biggs of "American Pie" fame and former "Clueless" star Alicia Silverstone. Biggs portrays Benjamin Braddock, the role created on screen by Dustin Hoffman, a recent college graduate who becomes involved with both Mrs. Robinson, an old family friend, and, later, her daughter Elaine (Silverstone).
A hit both in London, where it debuted, and on its pre-Broadway tour, much has been written about the notorious towel-dropping scene played to memorable effect on screen by Anne Bancroft. The Broadway production does include the moment (it is actually the very first scene in the two-hour-and-fifteen minute evening), which requires the 47-year-old Turner to appear completely nude onstage for approximately 15 seconds. Turner also spends a goodly amount of time in various states of disrobe during an extended trysting scene with Biggs. The Graduate is written by Terry Johnson, adapted from the original novel by Charles Webb and the motion picture screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry. Audiences will recognize several scenes taken virtually verbatim from the film script. However, there are also a few sequences which were not in the movie at all, including various exchanges between Benjamin and his parents and, significantly, a scene in which Elaine and her mother get falling down drunk. The wedding scene is also markedly different from—and much longer than—the famous one in the film, in which Dustin Hoffman rattled the church's glass back wall shouting "Elaine!"
Author-director Johnson also staged the London mounting, produced in the West End (and on Broadway) by John Reid and Sacha Brooks. The show opened at the Gielgud April 5, 2000. Reid and Brooks are still the lead producers, in association with Clear Channel Entertainment and StudioCanal.
Johnson penned and staged the London plays Dead Funny and Cleo, Camping, Emmanuel and Dick, which took the Olivier Award for Best Comedy. he wrote the plays Hysteria, Imagine Drowning, Cries from the Mammal House, Unsuitable for Adults and Insignificance. His West End directorial credits include The Memory of Water, Elton John's Glasses, Entertaining Mr. Sloane and the world premiere of Philip Ridley's Sparkleshark at the Royal National Theatre.
Turner originated the Mrs. Robinson role in April 2000. According to a recent interview with Turner in Time Out New York, the actress ultimately made the decision to appear in the nude. Subsequent London Mrs. Robinsons were Jerry Hall, Amanda Donohoe, Anne Archer and Linda Gray.
Like the movie, which spawned the hit Simon & Garfunkel tune "Mrs. Robinson," the music in the play of The Graduate plays a key role. Familiar tunes of the era fill the spaces between scenes. In fact, a CD filled with music from the Broadway production will be released by Columbia/Legacy on April 9. Entitled "The Graduate: Music from the Broadway Comedy," the 15-track disc features three songs by Simon & Garfunkel as well as works by the Beach Boys ("Wouldn't It Be Nice"), The Mamas & The Papas ("California Dreaming"), Herb Alpert, Ray Charles and Blood, Sweat and Tears.
Silverstone is best known for the film "Clueless" and for being a "Batman" Batgirl, while Biggs starred in the teen-aimed Hollywood sex comedy, "American Pie" and its sequel. He is expected to be out of the Broadway staging of The Graduate for several weeks this summer while he shoots a Woody Allen picture.
The supporting cast includes Murphy Guyer as Mr. Braddock, Victor Slezak as Mr. Robinson, Kate Skinner as Mrs. Braddock, Robert Emmet Lunney as the Hotel Clerk/Bar Patron/Psychiatrist, John Hillner as the Bartender/Priest/Motel Manager, Kelly Overton as the Assistant Desk Clerk, Judson Pearce Morgan as the Bellhop/Man in the Bar and Susan Cella as the Stripper (providing the staging with still more nudity).
Designers are Rob Howell (sets and costumes), Hugh Vanstone (lighting), Christopher Cronin (sound) and Naomi Donne (hair and makeup).
Prior to the ramping of The Graduate for Broadway, actress Turner had been promised in a solo turn, Tallulah (which toured the country last year but stopped short of Broadway so the script could continue to be developed). The "Romancing the Stone," "Body Heat" and Indiscretions actress played the elegant, heavy-lidded Tallulah Bankhead in the show, which premiered in Chichester in 1997 and enjoyed a run at FL's Coconut Grove Theatre in 1999.
Tickets range $40-$75. The Plymouth Theatre is at 236 W. 45th Street. For ticket information, call (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7250.