Comedian Larry Miller will replace John Ritter in Neil Simon's hit comedy, The Dinner Party, June 12, the same day comic actor Jon Lovitz takes over for Henry Winkler in the play.
Lovitz was previously announced to join June 5, with Winkler exiting June 3, but now both Winkler and Ritter will stick around the Music Box Theatre through June 10. The rest of the cast — Len Cariou, Jan Maxwell, Penny Fuller and Veanne Cox — continue in their roles, playing ex-spouses who are mysteriously reunited at a fancy dinner party in a Paris restaurant. The play is rare instance of Simon not writing American characters, though these French folk sound much like the Simon people we've seen before. They are neurotic, anguished, angry, confused and not without punchlines. Simon's The Good Doctor was inspired by stories by Chekhov and had Russian folk as characters, and Fools also had Eastern Europeans at its core.
Lovitz is the comic character actor remembered for playing an "SNL" character known as "Master Thespian," for which pompously declaimed lines. The character was apparently inspired by a professor he had at the University of California. He has appeared in such film comedies as "A League of Their Own," "City Slickers 2," "Small Time Crooks" and "Little Nicky," and was the voice of Jay Sherman in the cult animated TV series, "The Critic."
Miller made a name for himself as a comedian, but graduated to character parts in film and TV, usually playing sourpusses. *
Neil Simon's 31st play began Broadway previews Oct. 3, 2000, at the Music Box, where Len Cariou, Veanne Cox, Penny Fuller, Jan Maxwell, Ritter and Winkler sat down for the comedy about marriage and divorce. John Rando directs the work, set in 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 production got mixed reviews but was an instant hit, and has since made its investment back (as have small-cast Broadway plays,Proof and The Tale of the Allergist's Wife).
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. Official opening was Oct. 19, 2000.
The play had its world premiere at the Mark Taper Forum in December 1999 and played an engagement in June and July, 2000, at the Eisenhower Theatre of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. 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.
The play began life at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in late 1999 and then moved to the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. in summer 2000, prior to New York. er Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum world premiere in Los Angeles in December 1999.
The Music Box is at 239 W. 45th Street. For tickets to The Dinner Party, call (212) 239 6200.