As reported by Playbill On-Line in early May, Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, who endeared themselves to American TV viewers in the 1970s with the sitcom adaptation of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, will end their Broadway engagement in another Simon star vehicle, The Sunshine Boys, June 28. At that point, the show will have run 12 previews and 230 regular performances.
Though the show was overlooked by the Tony Award nominators May 4, spokesperson Charlie Siedenberg (of Springer/Chicoine) stressed again (June 3) the closing had been long-planned and had nothing to do with the Tonys or Broadway's typical summer doldrums. (The clarification was necessary, since quite a few Broadway and Off-Broadway shows are shutting within a brief span, including The Herbal Bed, The Chairs, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, The Life and As Bees In Honey Drown.)
Neil Simon's comedy plays at the Lyceum Theatre -- home of the Randall founded National Actors Theatre. There are tentative plans for Klugman (75) and Randall (78) to tour after the Broadway engagement, but no itinerary has been set. Siedenberg says a 1998-99 season hasn't yet been chosen for the NAT, "but the company will be back on Broadway in the fall."
The Sunshine Boys marks Randall & Klugman's third appearance under the auspices of the NAT. The pair launched the theatre company with a benefit performance of the original stage The Odd Couple and later appeared together in Three Men on a Horse. Klugman performed the strenuous role despite a throat ailment that has left him with limited use of his voice box.
Previews of The Sunshine Boys began Nov. 29, 1997 for an opening Dec. 8, 1997 at the Lyceum. Tryouts were first held at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami. John Tillinger directs Sunshine Boys, which still features supporting cast-members Jack Aaron, Stephen Beach, Peggy Joyce Crosby, Ebony Jo Ann, Martin Rudy and Matthew Arkin. The latter appeared in Laughter On The 23rd Floor and Off-Broadway's You Should Be So Lucky. Tillinger's Broadway credits include The Price, Three Men On A Horse and Loot.
Designing Sunshine in Florida in NY are James Noone (sets), Noel Taylor (costumes), and Kirk Bookman (lighting).
Simon's 1972 play is the story of two old-time vaudeville comedians who worked together as a team, but then split up due to personality clashes. Now elderly, they're asked to reunite and perform their act for a TV special. Though they haven't seen each other or spoken in years, things pick up right where they left off.
Both Klugman and Randall had long, if intermittent, Broadway careers. Randall starred in the musical Oh, Captain!. Klugman originated the role of Herbie opposite Ethel Merman in Gypsy. 1997 marks Randalls fiftieth year on the legit stage; his debut came in 1947's Anthony & Cleopatra, with Katharine Cornell.
The original Broadway production of The Sunshine Boys starred Jack Albertson and Sam Levene, with Lewis J. Stadlen as the nephew. The film version starred George Burns and Walter Matthau, and helped revive Burns' career when he stepped in to replace old cohort Jack Benny, who died during filming.
Neil Simon's last comedy was Proposals, which ran at Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre. Other Simon works include Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Laughter On The 23rd Floor, Lost In Yonkers, Promises, Promises and Barefoot In The Park.
Randall has singlemindedly and tirelessly boosted the NAT, which he founded in the early 1990s as a way of getting the finest contemporary actors to perform seldom-seen classics and stretch their acting muscles. Some of the productions have been successful, including Brian Bedford in Shakespeare's Timon of Athens. But the company has struggled. A lauded 1996 revival of Inherit the Wind with George C. Scott and Charles Durning closed prematurely when Scott developed problems with his health and personal life. Randall understudied his part. NAT's recent revival of The Gin Game performed to half-full houses despite the presence of Durning and Julie Harris.
The good news is that the show will definitely tour nationally with Durning and Harris, starting in October in Raleigh-Durham NC. The show will then travel to Cleveland, Baltimore, Los Angeles and Phoenix, winding up in Boston in Apr. 1999.
As for The Sunshine Boys, tickets can be purchased by calling (212) 239-6200. You can also order tickets on Playbill On-Line.