Every Good Boy Deserves Favor, the 1977 play-with-music by playwright Tom Stoppard and composer André Previn, gets a rare staging at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Nov. 20-26.
Richard Easton of The Invention of Love fame will head a cast which also features David Strathairn, Paul Hecht, Dennis Michael Hall, David Howey and Polly Holliday.
The Philly staging is a co-production by The Philadelphia Orchestra and The Wilma Theater. The piece is directed by Wilma co-artistic director Jiri Zizka, with The Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Rossen Milanov.
In Boy, Ivanov (Strathairn) is in an asylum in the Soviet Union of the 1970s. His ailment? He has an orchestra in his head (hence Previn's music). His cellmate, Alexander (Easton), meanwhile, is a political dissenter who is trying to find a way to save his son, Sacha (played by Dennis Michael Hall of Broadway's The Full Monty and Off-Broadway's The Prince and the Pauper). Howey plays The Colonel, Holliday is The Teacher, Hecht is The Doctor.
Previn wrote the music to the 1969 musical Coco, and contributed to the film, "Paint Your Wagon," and has scored films. Still, he is best known today as a conductor and classical composer. Designers for Every Good Boy are Anne Patterson (set), Janus Stefanowicz (costume), John Stephen Hoey (lighting).
The Wilma Theater staged Stoppard's Arcadia as its premiere attraction at its new space in the Avenue of the Arts in 1996, and has presented Stoppard's The Invention of Love, Indian Ink, Travesties, On the Razzle and The Real Inspector Hound.
According to production notes, "In 1974, Stoppard was invited by Previn to write a work that included an orchestra on stage. In 1976, Stoppard met Soviet dissident Victor Fainberg, one of a group of people arrested during a peaceful protest of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. Pronounced insane, Fainberg spent five years in the Russian prison hospital system and later wrote about his experiences in the magazine, Index on Censorship. Fainberg was exiled and worked tirelessly to secure the release of Vladimir Bukovsky, another dissident imprisoned for exposing the abuses of psychiatry in the USSR. Bukovsky was released and sent to the West in 1976. He attended a rehearsal of Every Good Boy Deserves Favor in June 1977. The play is dedicated to him and Victor Fainberg."
Performances play Verizon Hall Stage at The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 260 South Broad Street on the Avenue of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. The Kimmel Center is located across the street, diagonally, from the Wilma. For tickets, call (215) 790-5800.
— By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson