Since opening April 23 to a chorus of hurrahs from the New York drama critics, The History Boys, Alan Bennett's new Broadway play about a group of teenage English students who wrestle with the nature of education, has taken in more that $1 million at the box office.
While well-reviewed musicals often collect a few million directly after opening, the $1 million figure is fairly unusual for a play.
Bennett's somewhat autobiographical drama, a hit at the National Theatre in London, began previews April 14. Nicholas Hytner directs. It is the author, memoirist, playwright and original "Beyond the Fringe" member's first play on Broadway since 1975's Habeus Corpus, although he did have a success Off-Broadway in 2003 with Talking Heads.
Bennett has set his play in a boys school in Sheffield in the 1980s (signified by snippets of New Wave tunes by Duran Duran and the like), where the graduating class, at the insistence of an ambitious headmaster, are preparing to take the entrance exams for Oxford and Cambridge. To aid their efforts, the headmaster has hired Irwin, a young instructor who teaches the kids how to attract the attention of college Dons with unorthodox answers and serpentine reasoning. In doing so, Irwin comes in conflict with Hector, an older, eccentric, motorcycle-riding educator who believes his job is not to help the students get good marks, but to fill their minds with a world of thought, art and history. Hector is played by the respected Falstaffian English actor Richard Griffiths, who is known to movie audiences for his performances as Uncle Vernon in the "Harry Potter" films. Griffiths is making his Broadway debut. Stephen Campbell Moore is Irwin. Another esteemed English performer, Frances de la Tour (who has also appeared in a "Harry Potter" film), plays another teacher, the dry, sardonic Mrs. Lintott. Clive Merrison is the stern headmaster.
The students are played by Samuel Anderson (Crowther), Samuel Barnett (Posner), Dominic Cooper (Dakin), James Corden (Timms), Sacha Dhawan (Akthar), Andrew Knott (Lockwood), Jamie Parker (Scripps) and Russell Tovey (Rudge).
Other roles will be played by Joseph Attenborough (company), Tom Attwood (company/music director), Rudi Dharmalingam (company), Colin Haigh (TV Director) and Pamela Merrick (Make-Up Lady).
The producers are Bob Boyett and Bill Haber, who were also behind the London-to-Broadway transfers of Jumpers, Democracy and The Pillowman. The Broadway stop is part of a tour takes the show to Australia and two cities in the United Kingdom, Variety reported earlier.
The play premiered in London in May 2004 at the Royal National Theatre's Lyttleton Theatre.
For more information visit www.ntny.org.