After appearing in various productions of the show as it made its way from Los Angeles and through Washington, D.C. and finally to Broadway, Henry Winkler will be leaving Neil Simon’s The Dinner Party on June 3 after the matinee performance, his spokesperson said. No other information about the cast was available, and a late call to the show’s press rep was not returned by press time.
As reported earlier, Neil Simon's 31st play, The Dinner Party, opened its Broadway run Oct. 19, 2000 at the Music Box Theatre, where Len Cariou, Veanne Cox, Penny Fuller, Jan Maxwell, John Ritter and Henry Winkler sat down for previews beginning Oct. 3.
John Rando directs the new comedy about marriage and divorce, set at an upscale gourmet restaurant in Paris, where a party is being thrown by a well-known divorce lawyer. Two tuxedoed strangers meet, and are joined by a third, confused guest. Ex-wives soon enter the mix.
The jewelbox Music Box, originally built by Irving Berlin, is said to be the perfect size for Simon's humane, humorous rumination on marriage and relationships, which takes place in the restaurant's private dining room. Regional audiences embraced the play in Los Angeles and Washington DC. In the first 24 hours of ticket sales, the Broadway box office swelled to $100,000.
The play had its world premiere at the Mark Taper Forum in December 1999 and played an engagement in June and July at the Eisenhower Theatre of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The casting changed slightly in each phase of the production's development. Emanuel Azenberg, Ira Pittelman, Eric Krebs, Scott Nederlander, ShowOnDemand.com and Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum/Gordon Davidson are producing the Broadway run.
Designers are John Lee Beatty (set), Jane Greenwood (costumes), Brian MacDevitt (lighting) and Jon Gottlieb (sound). This is the Broadway debut for director Rando, who helmed Off Broadway's Mere Mortals and Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight.
All but one in the cast of the recent DC staging will repeat their duties on Broadway. Jan Maxwell (The Sound of Music, A Doll's House) is the company's newcomer. Winkler (TV's "Happy Days"), Cariou (Sweeney Todd), Ritter (TV's "Three's Company"), Cox (Company) and Fuller (Applause) starred in D.C. as the guests who attend a private dinner party in a chic Paris restaurant. One by one, guests arrive to face an evening of surprises. Answers for the men unfold when ex-wives begin showing up in what has been described as a play by turns hilarious and emotionally honest.
Cox's credits include daffy turns in Off-Broadway's The Food Chain, Broadway's Company and The Batting Cage (at The Humana Festival), and Fuller may be best known for Applause, and a recent revised revival of Do I Hear a Waltz? at the Grove Street Playhouse in New Jersey.
Jan Maxwell (Dancing at Lughnasa) takes over the role originated by Anette Michelle Sanders in L.A. and D.C.
Ritter, Winkler and Cox starred in the play's Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum world premiere in Los Angeles in December 1999.
The play ended a sold-out final week July 16 at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theatre. The D.C. run, June 17-July 16, was produced by The Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum.
Lloyd Rose of The Washington Post, in her review, said it was "Neil Simon in new, dangerous territory" and called the work "laugh out loud funny" and "Simon's emotionally richest play." John Rando's direction "gracefully glides the evening to its sweet yet mournful ending."
The Dinner Party had its world premiere Dec. 2, 1999, at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. The comedy on marital and romantic themes, set in a private dining room of a chic Parisian restaurant, continued to Jan. 16, and rewrites by the author were said to have continued through the week of Christmas last year.
The L.A. cast included Frances Conroy (The Little Foxes), Cox, Edward Herrmann (Psychopathia Sexualis), Ritter, Los Angeles actress Sanders and Winkler.
Simon's Hotel Suite (a clutch of one-acts) recently played Off Broadway's Gramercy Theatre. Other Simon works include The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park, Broadway Bound, Biloxi Blues, Brighton Beach Memoirs and Lost in Yonkers.
For tickets to The Dinner Party, call (212) 239-6200. The Music Box is at 239 W. 45 St.