Grizzard, Ashley, Gallagher Reading Helps Vidal's Latest Get its Sea Legs

News   Grizzard, Ashley, Gallagher Reading Helps Vidal's Latest Get its Sea Legs Following the well-received Broadway revival of The Best Man a season ago, word came that author Gore Vidal was busy fixing up another old play, Visit to a Small Planet, as a candidate for a future revival. Less hoopla was made about another Vidal project, a new play he was writing loosely based on his novel, "Burr."
Gore Vidal, C.J. Wilson and Peter Gallagher at the On the March to the Sea reading.
Gore Vidal, C.J. Wilson and Peter Gallagher at the On the March to the Sea reading. (Photo by Photo by Mike Dressel)

Following the well-received Broadway revival of The Best Man a season ago, word came that author Gore Vidal was busy fixing up another old play, Visit to a Small Planet, as a candidate for a future revival. Less hoopla was made about another Vidal project, a new play he was writing loosely based on his novel, "Burr."

It was the latter project, however, that brought the stars out Jan. 14, when George Grizzard, Elizabeth Ashley, Peter Gallagher, Penny Fuller, C.J. Wilson, Mark Dold, Patrick Tovatt, Nicole Lowrance and Christian Camargo participated in a reading of On the March to the Sea, a Civil-War era drama about duty, honor and familial ties.

John Rando (Urinetown) staged the invite-only reading, cast by Stuart Howard Associates and coordinated by producer-press agent, Jeffrey Richards. Ashley and Wilson were both in Vidal's The Best Man. Grizzzard was most recently in Judgment at Nuremberg; Gallagher's currently in Noises Off.

According to a spokesperson at producer Richards' office (reached Jan. 15), the next step for On the March to the Sea has yet to be decided.

* As for Vidal's 1957 satire, Visit to a Small Planet, the most recent word, months ago, had been that plans were afoot for a Broadway berth in fall 2002. At the May 16, 2001 Tony Nominees' brunch, Vidal told Playbill On-Line, John Tillinger would direct the revival, which is being "reworked and brought up to date." Cabaret Tony-winner and Design for Living co-star Alan Cumming was being sought to play the alien lead.

Previously, producer Jeffrey Richards confirmed that the cast of his private March 5 reading of a draft of Planet featured Cumming, Christine Baranski, Philip Bosco, Kristin Chenoweth, Cumming, Tony Randall, Lily Tomlin, Josh Alexander, Raul Aranas, Steven Michael Harper, Shawn Elliott and Wesley Ramsey.

"A lot depends on securing the right cast," Richards told PBOL May 25. "And John Tillinger will direct, if it comes together." Tillinger recently currently directing Abby Mann's Judgment at Nuremberg for Randall's National Actors Theatre.

Visit to a Small Planet originally opened Feb. 7, 1957, at the Booth Theatre. Eddie Mayehoff, Conrad Janis and Cyril Ritchard were among the cast-members of Vidal's three-act, satirical comedy, which ran nearly 400 performances. The play is set in the living room of a well-to-do television commentator (originally played by Philip Coolidge) and concerns a visitor from a more civilized planet paying a call on Earth.

"Gore has revised the script, updating it, adding a scene, and he's done some trimming," Richards told PBOL March 5, 2001 prior to the Manhattan reading. Richards, Michael B. Rothfeld, Raymond J. Greenwald, and Sean Strub are the producing team.

— By David Lefkowitz