Linda Lavin, Frank Wood, Michele Pawk, Sara Niemietz and Donna Lynne Champlin will enact the life of Carol Burnett in Hollywood Arms, as the Burnett-Carrie Hamilton script officially opens on April 29, after previews from April 19 at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. Harold Prince directs.
The play, based on Burnett's best-selling memoir "One More Time," chronicles the life of a woman named Helen in a pre- and post-World War II Hollywood. The piece contains a cavalcade of characters, including a pill-popping Christian Scientist grandmother (Lavin) who cares for the heroine after the divorce of her parents, a wide-eyed and distant mother who longs to be a celebrity interviewer (Pawk) and a recovering drunk father who wants to be the daddy he never was (Wood).
The central role of Helen will be played by nine-year old Niemietz as a young girl and Champlin as an adult.
Champlin has acted on Broadway in such works as the recent By Jeeves and James Joyce's The Dead. Pawk has worked on Broadway in Seussical and Cabaret. Lavin recently starred Off-Broadway and on in Charles Busch's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, while Wood won a Tony Award for Side Man.
The cast is completed by Steve Bukunas and Christian Kohn as Policemen, Patrick Clear as Bill, Emily Graham-Handley as Alice, Nicolas King as Malcolm and Barbara E. Robertson as Dixie. The play will run through June 1.
Writer-director Hamilton, daughter of Burnett, died of cancer Jan. 20. She started the ball rolling on the project. Hamilton was skeptical of taking on the adaptation alone, as she said in a release from the Goodman: "Having only written screenplays, I didn’t think I'd be up to the task." So when mom Burnett suggested to co-write the play with her, she was "thrilled."
When Burnett sent a rough draft to "a close friend" for a personal suggestion of someone to helm the work, the friend volunteered himself. When the friend is 20-time Tony-winner Harold Prince, the mother-daughter team could not pass up the opportunity. Prince who stated that he loves "working in the new Goodman," went to his friend, Goodman artistic director Robert Falls, and the final piece of the puzzle was set.
Prince will work at the Goodman again next season, directing Sondheim and Weidman's Gold.
For more information on the Goodman Theatre, 170 North Dearborn Street in Chicago, IL, call (312) 443-3800.