This past weekend it was good news and bad news for Scent of the Roses, a new play by Lisette Lecat Ross. The show began Upstate New York performances of its pre-Broadway tryout, as scheduled; but Broadway plans for the show were postponed from late fall 1999 to spring 2000.
Roses, which stars five-time Tony winner Julie Harris, started previews at the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack, NY, Oct. 30. The official opening date has been changed from Nov. 4 to Nov. 11, but the show will still run there through Nov. 21. Broadway performances were supposed to start at the Belasco Theater Nov. 30 for an opening Dec. 12, but now the show will happen in springtime instead, according to a Hayes Center spokesperson. Calls to the New York producers were not yet returned at press time.
Veteran actor Remak Ramsay co-stars in Roses, alongside Peter Francis James, Jay Patterson, Kate Forbes, Jessalyn Gilsig (Mere Mortals), Jeanne Paulson, Akili Prince and Myra Taylor.
The Upstate New York staging is being produced by the Hayes Center, whereas the New York producers are Arthur Cantor, Jay and Cindy Gutterman and Carol Ostrow, with Laura Heller serving as General Manager.
Rehearsals for Roses, by South African playwright Lisette Lecat Ross, began in late September. The Broadway production will be an open run. Scent of the Roses was first produced with Harris at Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre, July-Aug. 1998. ACT artistic director Gordon Edelstein staged the show, and he'll do so again for the New York mounting. The Seattle design team of Thomas Lynch (set), Martin Pakledinaz (costumes), Peter Kaczorowski (lighting) and John Gromada (sound, music) will also design the New York production.
Ten-time Tony nominee Harris recreates her role as Annalise Morant, a South African woman whose children wish her to part with her most cherished possession: a mysterious and valuable painting. The drama unfolds as we discover what special significance the artist and the painting hold for Annalise.
Harris was recently in Chicago for an extended run of the play Winter. Prior to that, she toured opposite Charles Durning in the National Actors Theatre's The Gin Game. Ramsay's credits include Stoppard's Every Good Boy Deserves Favor (1979) and Roundabout Theatre's 1980 revival of The Winslow Boy.
For several months after announcing the project, producer Cantor debated whether to bring the play to Broadway or Off-Broadway, owing to the scarcity of Broadway houses and the financing required for a Broadway production. Ultimately, he and co-producer Ostrow decided on Broadway, with a capitalization of $1,250,000. "It's not easy to raise the money now," said veteran producer Cantor. "The high cost of production is more than a metaphor. The highest I'd ever raised previously was three quarters of a million for A Little Family Business with Angela Lansbury. Back then, units were $4-5,000 apiece; now they're $20-30,000. That's a lot."
As for the play itself, Cantor said, "I know the fashion now is to bring in all these plays from London, but this is an English kind of play. I can see it doing very well in the West End. In fact, if it does well here, it'll go to London. I would think they'd love her."
Other plays by Lecat Ross include Moment of Truth and Pluperfect Subjunctives.
Producer Cantor's credits include The Tenth Man and All The Way Home, as well as Off-Broadway's Beau Jest and A Room of One's Own.
-- By David Lefkowitz