Despite a recent minor cast change and an above-the-line producer list that approaches the length of a novella, Richard Eyre's revival of Arthur Miller's The Crucible seems well poised to begin previews Feb. 16 at the Virginia Theatre.
In The Crucible, opening March 7, Laura Linney will play the prudish wife of Liam Neeson's John Proctor. Broadway veterans in the supporting cast include Brian Murray (currently in Hobson's Choice), Tom Aldredge (1776), John Benjamin Hickey (Love! Valour! Compassion!), Christopher Evan Welch (London Assurance, the recent Off-Bway Othello), J.R. Horne, Paul O'Brien, Jeanne Paulsen, Jennifer Carpenter, Henry Stram, Patrice Johnson, Jack Willis, Frank Raiter, Dale Soules (The Magic Show), Kristen Bell, Laura Breckenridge, Betsy Hogg, Sevrin Anne Mason and Stephen Lee Anderson. Angela Bettis (The Father, opposite Frank Langella) plays scheming Abigail.
Anne Pitoniak was originally announced for the cast, but she's no longer in the company, her place taken by Helen Stenborg (Waiting in the Wings). Asked about the switch, production spokesperson Richard Kornberg told Playbill On-Line that Pitoniak, who finishes her stint in Dance of Death this weekend, didn't relish the burden of being in one show eight times a week while simultaneously rehearsing another.
Designing The Crucible are Paul Gallo (lighting), Tim Hatley (sets and costumes) and Scott Myers (sound), with David Van Tieghem providing original music. The production, which runs through June 8, boasts a lineup of producers longer than the second act: David Richental, Manocherian/Level/Boyett, Max Cooper, Allan S. Gordon, Roy Furman, U.S. Productions, Elan V. McAllister, Adam Epstein and Margo Lion, in association with Dede Harris/Mort Swinsky, Clear Channel Entertainment, Old Ivy Productions, Jeffrey Ash, Berinstein/Selig, Golden/Skipper, Gene Korf and Robert Cole, all by special arrangement with The Roundabout Theatre Company. Eric Falkenstein and Toby Simkin are the associate producers. Producer Richenthal told Variety that Crucible is budgeted at $2.2 million, with an extra $200K in reserve, and the show already has $1.5 million in advance sales.
News that Richenthal, the producer who brought Miller's Death of a Salesman and The Price to Broadway in the past three years, was hoping to revive Miller's 1953 parable, The Crucible, for Broadway, first broke in October 2000. The drama will play a 15-week limited run on Broadway. Richenthal has become a one-man Miller industry in the past few years, backing Broadway revivals of Death of a Salesman (directed by Robert Falls) and The Price (directed by James Naughton). He is also behind a projected revival of O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, which will bow at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in February 2002, with Robert Falls directing Brian Dennehy, and then move to Broadway, probably next season. Actress Linney has been a common fixture on the New York stage since first attracting attention as Nina in a modernized downtown Seagull and playing an aggressive German journalist in Donald Margulies' Sight Unseen. But her currency as an actress increased manyfold last year due to her many-faceted, Oscar-nominated performance as a single mom dealing with a wastrel brother in Kenneth Lonergan's film "You Can Count on Me." Linney's most recent stage turn was as Yelena in the Roundabout Theatre Company's Uncle Vanya on Broadway. She has also appeared on Broadway in Holiday and The Seagull (as Nina).
Over the past several years, Murray has done three-to-four productions a season, including stints in Uncle Vanya, Entertaining Mr. Sloan, Racing Demon, Travels With My Aunt (Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards), A Small Family Business, the original Noises Off (Drama Desk Award), Black Comedy, Da, Sleuth, All in Good Time, and Peter Brook's Royal Shakespeare Company production of King Lear. He's currently in the Atlantic Theatre Company's Hobson's Choice, following an acclaimed stint in The Play About the Baby. Neeson's last Broadway stint was in David Hare's Judas Kiss.
Director Eyre told Playbill On-Line (July 30) rehearsals would begin Jan. 7 for the David Richenthal-produced venture. Director Richard Eyre, former head of the UK's Royal National Theatre, recently wrote a book and created a TV miniseries about 20th century Western theatre.
The Crucible, written in reaction to the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s, tells of leaders in puritannical Salem overreacting to a rash of phony mass hysteria in its young women.
For tickets and information on The Crucible at the Virginia Theater: 245 West 52nd St., call (212) 239-6200.