America needs to laugh now more than ever, and Noises Off, the Broadway version of the current hit London revival, aims to lighten sadness, opening Nov. 1 following previews that began Oct. 16, at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
Patti LuPone and Peter Gallagher star in the Jeremy Sams- directed staging of the Michael Frayn farce about the backstage foibles of a fifth rate theatre company touring the English provinces in a terrible sex farce. Tony Award-winners Richard Easton (The Invention of Love) and Faith Prince (Guys and Dolls) share in the merriment of the 19 year old script, which Frayn revised for the London revival and this staging. The three-act work is now presented in two acts, while maintaining the original's three-scene structure.
The 1982 farce, first seen in London, follows the rag-tag British theatre company over several months of the run of a tired sex farce called Nothing On. Frayn gives us a view of both the backstage antics of the troupe and the on-stage performance of farce they are playing. Act One shows the dress rehearsal, full of flubs, lapses and tentative choices that reveal the artists' temperaments. Act Two takes place backstage, a month later, during a performance, when the company begins sabotaging itself due to petty jealousies. Act Three is the final performance of the run of Nothing On, and, seen from the point of view of the audience again, the company destroys itself.
The play's title is a theatrical term referring to offstage sound effects, usually made by the actors themselves. Tony Award-winning LuPone, the Broadway star of Evita, Anything Goes and Master Class, plays a faded TV comedienne, Dottie Otley, playing a housemaid in Nothing On. Gallagher, known for the film, "sex, lies and videotape," and the most recent Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls (with Prince), was a Tony Award nominee for Best Featured Actor (Play) in 1986's Long Day's Journey Into Night. He plays the egotistical, womanizing director, Lloyd Dallas. LuPone and Gallagher appeared together in the Encores! concert revival of Pal Joey and in a concert production of Annie Get Your Gun.
Easton is the tippling actor Selsdon Mowbray and Prince is wide-eyed actress Belinda Blair in the new production of the play-within-a-play. The Broadway mounting of Frayn's breakneck backstage farce also includes Edward Hibbert as meticulous actor Frederick Fellowes, Katie Finneran as sexy actress Brooke Ashton (who was stealing scenes in previews), T.R. Knight as put-upon company and stage manager Tim Allgood, Thomas McCarthy as leading man Garry Lejeune and Robin Weigert as assistant stage manager Poppy Norton Taylor.
Sams helmed the 2000 Royal National Theatre staging, which toured the UK earlier this year before sitting down for its current commercial run at the West End's Piccadilly Theatre. Broadway producers are The Ambassador Theatre Group, Ltd., Act Productions, Ltd., Waxman/Williams, USA OSTAR Theatricals and Nederlander Presentations Inc.
Frayn's comedy, still remembered for literally having people laugh themselves out of their seats, had a popular, Tony Award-nominated run on Broadway in the 1983-84 season. It has become a favorite in stock, regional, university and amateur theatres.
The first Broadway run of the intensely clever show -- which had a Playbill within the Playbill to tell of the hilarious history of the fictional folk putting on Nothing On -- also played the Brooks Atkinson. The fictional "programme" for Nothing On is again found within the genuine Playbill of Noises Off.
Frayn won the 2000 Tony Award for his play, Copenhagen. Noises Off was nominated for a Best Play Tony Award. The original London run of the play spanned 1982-1987. The 1983-84 Broadway staging played 553 performances.
Noises Off designers are Robert Jones (set and costumes), Tim Mitchell (lighting) and Fergus O'Hare (sound). Tickets range $40-$75. The Brooks Atkinson is at 256 W. 47th Street. For ticket information, all (212) 307-4100 or visit the box office.