Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, who endeared themselves to American TV viewers in the 1970s with the sitcom adaptation of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, have returned to Broadway in another Simon star vehicle, The Sunshine Boys. Previews began Nov. 29; opening night is scheduled for Monday Dec. 8 at the Lyceum Theatre.
The Sunshine Boys recently concluded tryouts at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami.
John Tillinger directs Sunshine Boys, which features supporting cast-members Jack Aaron, Stephen Beach, Peggy Joyce Crosby, Ebony Jo Ann, Martin Rudy and Matthew Arkin. The latter appeared in Laughter On The 23rd Floor and Off-Broadway's You Should Be So Lucky. Tillinger's Broadway credits include The Price, Three Men On A Horse and Loot!.
Designing Sunshine in Florida in NY are James Noone (sets), Noel Taylor (costumes), and Kirk Bookman (lighting).
Simon's 1972 play is the story of two old-time vaudeville comedians who worked together as a team, but then split up due to personality clashes. Now elderly, they're asked to reunite and perform their act for a TV special. Though they haven't seen each other or spoken in years, things pick up right where they left off. Spokesperson Charlie Siedenburg pointed out an irony in the theatre book, "It's A Hit" (by David Sheward), concerning Sunshine Boys. Wrote Sheward, "Like an older Oscar and Felix, Willie Clark (Klugman) and Al Lewis (Randall) simply cannot get along." Of course, Oscar and Felix were Klugman and Randall's characters on TV's "Odd Couple."
This will be the duo's third appearance under the auspices of Klugman's National Actors Theatre (NAT). The pair launched the theatre company with a benefit performance of the original stage The Odd Couple and later appeared together in Three Men on a Horse. Klugman performed the strenuous role despite a throat ailment that has left him with limited use of his voice box.
Randall has singlemindedly and tirelessly boosted NAT, which he founded in the early 1990s as a way of getting the finest contemporary actors to perform seldom-seen classics and stretch their acting muscles. Some of the productions have been successful, including Brian Bedford in Shakespeare's Timon of Athens. But the company has struggled. A lauded 1996 revival of Inherit the Wind with George C. Scott and Charles Durning closed prematurely when Scott developed problems with his health and personal life. Randall understudied his part. NAT's current revival of The Gin Game has been performing to half-full houses despite the presence of Durning and Julie Harris.
Both Klugman and Randall had long, if intermittent, Broadway careers. Randall starred in the musical Oh, Captain!. Klugman originated the role of Herbie opposite Ethel Merman in Gypsy. 1997 marks Randalls fiftieth year on the legit stage; his debut came in 1947's Anthony & Cleopatra, with Katharine Cornell.
The original Broadway production of The Sunshine Boys starred Jack Albertson and Sam Levene, with Lewis J. Stadlen as the nephew. The film version starred George Burns and Walter Matthau, and helped revive Burns' career when he stepped in to replace old cohort Jack Benny, who died during filming.
Neil Simon's latest comedy, Proposals, recently opened at Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre. Other Simon works include Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Laughter On The 23rd Floor, Lost In Yonkers, Promises, Promises and Barefoot In The Park.
Tickets for the Broadway production ($30-$60) can be purchased by calling (212) 239-6200. You can also order tickets on Playbill On-Line.