The Broadway revival of Herb Gardner's A Thousand Clowns, which had been staying afloat at the Longacre Theatre, ends this weekend in the wake of the World Trade Center and Pentagon tragedies. The production, which suffered a drop in attendance to 30 percent for the week ening Sept. 16 (with grosses down $180K to $61,416), shuts its doors Sept. 23, instead of its originally scheduled close of Oct. 14.
"We had no plans to close early prior to this [event]," said a production spokesperson at the Nina Lannan Associates office. Attendance of the revival — which, ironically enough, started previews on Independence Day, July 4 — had remained just under 60 percent of capacity throughout August, following its July 11 opening. The production, which will close after 6 previews and 84 regular performances, joins five other Broadway shows that posted closing notices The Rocky Horror Show, Stones in his Pockets, If You Ever Leave Me... I'm Going With You, Kiss Me, Kate and Blast! (the latter closing announced weeks before the WTC events).
A Thousand Clowns had seen out-of-town productions prior to reaching Broadway and was confident enough to push up its opening date from July 17 to July 11.
Rugged Marlboro man Tom Selleck has reportedly always wanted to play the iconoclastic, slovenly and free spirited Murray Burns, the lead figure in A Thousand Clowns. He got his chance this spring and summer. The new revival of Herb Gardner's comedy recently finished the last leg of its mini-tour before reaching Broadway for a limited run. A Thousand Clowns started rehearsals April 10 and premiered at Duke University in Raleigh Durham, NC, May 15 for a run there that ended June 3. The next stop was Chicago's Shubert Theatre, June 5-17, followed by Boston's Shubert Theatre, June 19-July 1. Clowns was supposed to come to Broadway this past season, but the timeframe was scotched owing to a lack of available Broadway houses. The 1,079 seat Longacre is a mid-sized house, comparable to the Music Box, Plymouth, Cort and Barrymore.
Co-starring with Selleck's Burns in Clowns are Barbara Garrick, as social worker-turned-love-interest Sandra Markowitz and Nicolas King as young Nick Burns, the nephew Murray tries to raise in decidedly unfatherly way. Also in the cast are Mark Blum as Leo, Bradford Cover as Albert, and Robert LuPone (A Chorus Line, True West) as Arnold Burns. Designing the production are Allen Moyer (sets), Martin Pakledinaz (costumes), Brian MacDevitt (lighting) and Peter Fitzgerald (sound).
Selleck has made his fame and fortune as TV's "Magnum P.I.," as well as a movie career that's included "Three Men and a Baby" and "Her Alibi" along with a high-profile, guest-starring TV gig on "Friends."
In a story about plans for Clowns, the New York Times noted (Feb. 25, 2000) that Selleck had talked to Gardner about doing the show back in 1996, but that was just when the Roundabout Theatre Company had put their Broadway production together, one that starred Judd Hirsch and Marin Hinkle (now starring Off-Broadway in Blue Window).
Asked why he'd be interested in the role of a man who shirks work in favor of an easy, careless lifestyle, Selleck, 55, told the Times, "I'm 6'4". I was always being asked to do the other guy, the guy who always gets the girl."
A Thousand Clowns has an especially nostalgic tinge these days, since Murray Burns was originally played by the late Jason Robards, who repeated the role in the 1965 film.