The Araca Group, producers behind the risky (and so far, quite successful) move of Urinetown from Off-Off-Broadway to Broadway's Henry Miller Theatre, were planning to bring a revival of Terrence McNally's Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune to Broadway's Belasco Theatre in the spring. Owing to its stars' schedules, plans have now been pushed to August, with the Belasco still a possible venue but not definite. Spokespersons for the show at the Boneau/Bryan-Brown press office confirmed Dec. 28 and again Jan. 10, 2002 that the McNally play would now be on the boards in "late summer or fall."
McNally's 1987 hit, Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune, is to star Stanley Tucci and Edie Falco as unlikely lovers. "In coordinating our two stars' schedules," co-producer Michael Rego of the Araca Group told Playbill On-Line (Dec. 28), "we realized we ultimately couldn't start rehearsals until July." Asked why not wait until the fall season kicks in in earnest, Rego said, "We wanted to get in as soon as possible. The sooner we start, the longer we get to keep [Falco and Tucci]."
Hopes are for a limited run, assuming Tucci's movie schedule and Falco's commitment to HBO's "The Sopranos" can be worked out. Co-producer Rego told Playbill On-Line Nov. 15, "We did a reading a couple of weeks ago, and they loved it, so we're all working diligently to iron out schedules and try to make this happen. Terrence [McNally] is thrilled, especially with these two doing it."
The show will likely have a typical Broadway play capitalization (in the $1.5 million range, depending on length of run). Designers will include John Lee Beatty (set), Scott Lahr (sound) and Laura Bauer (costumes). Though Brian MacDevitt had been previously announced, Kenneth Posner is now the lighting designer.
Joe Mantello, a McNally veteran (L!V!C!, Corpus Christi) who had been set to stage a now-postponed revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical Assassins, will direct. Recent years have seen author McNally concentrate on gay themes (Corpus Christi, Love! Valour! Compassion!, The Lisbon Traviata) and libretti for big Broadway musicals (Ragtime, The Full Monty), but one of his earlier hits was this somewhat old-fashioned love story: middle-aged boy meets plain-jane girl and, despite mutual wounds that haven't healed, romance ensues.
Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune originally opened Oct. 13, 1987, and starred Kenneth Welsh and a pre-"Misery" Kathy Bates. Later couples would include Carol Kane and Bruce "Hill Street Blues" Weitz, and Bonnie Franklin and Tony Musante. The show would run 533 performances. The 1991 movie version, "Frankie and Johnny," was well-received, though some critics noted that stars Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer were a tad too glamorous to play a short-order cook and anhedonic waitress.
Tucci rose quickly through the Off-Broadway ranks (Scapin) to become a film star ("Big Night"); just before "The Sopranos" made her an offer she couldn't refuse, Falco created the role of Terry in Side Man.
Aside from Frankie and Johnny and Urinetown, The Araca Group, which comprises Matthew Rego, Michael Rego and Hank Unger, also producers Off-Broadway's The Vagina Monologues and will soon workshop a commercial mounting of the fringe-fest hit, Debbie Does Dallas.