Claudia Shear, who wrote the Broadway hit comedy Dirty Blonde and has starred in the show since its beginnings Off-Broadway, will give her final performance in the dual role of Mae West and Mae West fan, Jo, on Jan. 7. On Jan. 9, Kathy Najimy will assume the Shear role.
Dirty Blonde was originally staged at the New York Theatre Workshop. The show transferred to Broadway last spring, just in time to meet last season’s Tony eligibility deadline. In all, Dirty Blonde garnered five Tony nominations: Best Play, Best Director, Best Performance by a Leading Actress and two for Best Performance by a Featured Actor. It won no awards.
Kevin Chamberlin, the co-star of Claudia Shear's original Dirty Blonde, gave his final performance in his Tony nominated role on July 5 at the Helen Hayes Theatre. Chamberlin went on to join the cast of The Seussical, which opened on Broadway Nov. 30. Replacing Chamberlin in Dirty Blonde was Tom Riis Farrell, who assumed the role on July 6. A founding member of the Barrow Group, the Off-Broadway theatre company, Farrell's credits include appearances in the Roundabout production of 1776, the City Center Encores! presentation of Li'l Abner, The New York Theatre Workshop production of View of the Dome as well as roles in the films "Bringing Out the Dead," "The Out of-Towners," "Devil's Advocate," "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Scent of a Women."
The New York Theatre Workshop production of Claudia Shear's Dirty Blonde opened at the Helen Hayes Theatre on May 1. Claudia Shear (playwright and star) and James Lapine (director) co-conceived the show and shepherded its move to Broadway . The play marked Shear's return to NYTW, where she triumphed in 1993 with her one woman "tour de résumé" Blown Sideways, a 64-job search for employment. That piece earned her an Obie Award and a Drama Desk Award nomination.
Dirty Blonde involves two single New Yorkers who meet at Mae West's grave site and goes on to trace the couple's changing relationship while simultaneously tracking West's career.
Tickets for Dirty Blonde are $65. The Helen Hayes Theatre is located at 240 W. 44 St. For tickets call Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7250.
—By Robert Simonson and Murdoch McBride