Kaye Ballard, whose Broadway credits include Carnival and Pirates of Penzance, will leave the cast of Off-Broadway's Over The River and Through The Woods July 4, after a four-month stint with the comedy. On April 6, she took over for Joan Copeland as the food obsessed Grandma. On July 5, Vera Lockwood replaces Ballard.
Also leaving that weekend is Ralph Lucarelli, to be replaced by John LaGioia.
Best known for co-starring with Eve Arden on TV's "The Mothers-in-Law," Ballard got her Broadway start in The Golden Apple, after being discovered by the musical lunatic-genius, Spike Jones. More recently, Ballard starred opposite Eddie Bracken and Helen Gallagher in Paper Mill Playhouse's No, No, Nanette and alongside a host of stars in that theatre's celebrated revival of Follies.
Other castmembers in River include Allen Swift (the voice of vintage TV character Howdy Doody) as Grandpa Nunzio, Marie Lillo, Heather Raffo and Paul Urcioli.
DiPietro's play concerns a grandson who gets advice from two sets of Italian-American grandparents. When writing the play, DiPietro drew on his relationships with his four grandparents. Previews for Over the River and Through the Woods, directed by Joel Bishoff, began Sept. 18, 1998 for an opening Oct. 5. DiPietro and Bishoff's earlier collaboration was I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, still running at the Westside Theatre. Over the River celebrated its 100th performance Jan. 6. Hours after the cast party celebrating the milestone, co-producer James Hammerstein died of a heart attack, shocking the cast who had seen him so robust the night before. Jonathan Pollard, Bernie Kukoff and Tony Converse are the other co-producers.
Over the River performances play every day but Thursday at the John Houseman Theatre, 450 West 42nd St. Call (212) 239-6200 for ticket information.
-- By Kenneth Jones