The fireworks were supposed to be between TV's Morgan Fairchild and Broadway's John Davidson, going head-to-head in the new Off-Broadway comedy, High Infidelity. Instead, it's turned into the producer vs. supporting actress J.C. Wendel, who, according to show spokesperson Keith Sherman, walked out of the production on Tuesday July 18.
A new cast-member, Jennifer Roszell, has now been officially announced to take Wendel's place, but not before the producers decided to delay the scheduled Aug. 3 opening date. A new opening night is expected to be announced soon, a Sherman office spokesperson told Playbill On-Line (July 28). High Infidelity began performances July 14 at Off-Broadway's Promenade Theatre. No word yet on whether the show's run -- scheduled through Sept. 24 -- will be further affected.
Actress Roszell's regional credits include Other People's Money at Boston's Colonial Theatre and shows at her theatre alma mater, MA's American Repertory Theatre Institute.
At 6 PM July 18, the decision was made to cancel that evening's performance (with Fairchild making an apologetic curtain speech) and the scheduled Wednesday matinee for July 19 was also scuttled. At 5:30 PM the next night, producers made the decision to go on with that evening's performance. "The understudy, Lisby Larson, is also the understudy for Morgan," said Sherman (July 19). "and Lisby wasn't up on the part enough to be ready to go on. The character has a lot of business onstage. We're auditioning new replacements tomorrow." Audience members were offered refunds or exchanges at the box office for the two canceled performance.
Asked what precipitated the Wendel walkout, Sherman said, "She told the producers she was `unhappy.' Then she hopped on a plane and went back to California. In all my years working in the theatre, that's never happened. She's in breach, and the producers are considering legal action." He added that producer Jennifer Smith Rockwood knew that Wendel had a dental appointment that day and followed the actress to the dentist "to beg her to do the show. But she walked."
Several calls to Ms. Wendel's representatives at the A.P.A. Agency were not returned at press time.
Asked about her decision to break the cancellation news to disappointed theatregoers herself, actress Fairchild told the New York Post (July 20), "Having been an audience member myself, I wanted to explain the situation and apologize for what happened."
A vet of such series as "Friends," "Falcon Crest" and "Dallas," actress Fairchild most recently appeared on stage in Crimes of the Heart at Los Angeles' Falcon Theatre. Her last New York role was in the 1981 Playwrights Horizon production of Geniuses.
Davidson is making his Off-Broadway debut, surprising for an actor who has Broadway credits with State Fair, Foxy and Oklahoma! and criss-crossed the country in a variety of tours from The Music Man, Camelot and Carousel to Bully and Ragtime. No TV slouch, he hosted "That's Incredible!," "Hollywood Squares," his self-titled program and "The Entertainers."
In Infidelity, Davidson and Fairchild play a U.S. Senator and his wife, forced into marriage counseling by his party leaders who feel their damaged relationship is going to sink his chances for the presidency. The play is set, circa 1970s, in "Dr. Edward Finger's Marriage Clinic on the Jersey shore."
Also in the cast are Neil Maffin and Daniel Ziszkie. Long Beach Civic Light Opera artistic director Luke Yankee directs.
The design team includes Harrison Williams (sets), Carrie Robbins Designage Inc. (costumes), Jack Mehler (lighting) and Catherine Mardis (sound).
Tickets are $60-$50. The Promenade Theatre is located at 2162 Broadway at 76th Street. For tickets, call (212) 239-6200. High Infidelity is on the web at http://www.HighInfidelity.org.
-- By David Lefkowitz
and Christine Ehren