Jumpers is the first play from the Royal National Theatre's success-spangled 2003 season to reach American shores. It began performances April 6.
David Leveaux, of Nine and Fiddler on the Roof, directs the work, which is replete not only with Stoppard's typical mental gymnastics, but also actual gymnastics. Simon Russell Beale stars as George Moore, a faded and slightly foolish philosophy professor employed at a university whose slick, exercise-mad Vice-Chancellor Archie Jumper (Nicky Henson) forces a tumbling and leaping curriculum on the faculty. One such flipping prof, McFee, is shot dead in the cabaret chaos of the opening scene, setting off a suddenly very urgent philosophical duel on the moral nature of man.
Caught in between is Dotty (Essie Davis), George's disturbed wife and Archie's "patient." Dotty, a former student of George's, ended a semi-successful stage career when the sight of astronauts on the moon unhinged her sanity. According to Dotty, the conquering of the moon revealed the human race—once scientifically and spiritually the center of the universe—as is actually is, "little, local."
In addition to the troupe of acrobats, the production employs a trapeze, a couple musical numbers, projections (depicting a moon landing gone awry), a live jazz combo (playing a variety of tunes about the now-forever-lost allure of the moon), a bow and arrow, a frequently-rotated scenic turntable and a symbolism-laden tortoise and hare.
Also in the cast are John Rogan as the university caretaker Crouch, Nicholas Woodeson as part-time Dotty groupie and full-time police inspector Bones, Eliza Lumley at an attentive but silent secretary, and Michael Arnold, Andrew Asnes, Clark Scott Carmichael, Tom Hildebrand, Michael Hollick, Don Johanson, Joseph P. McDonnell, Hillel Meltzer, Zachary Oberzan and Aaron Vexler. Though Beale has received a lot of praise in the U.S., this will be his Broadway debut; his previous visits (in Hamlet, Uncle Vanya, Twelfth Night) were in limited runs at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
The lead producers are Boyett Ostar Productions (which has a deal with the National allowing them first dibs on New York transfers) and the Nederlander Organization.
This version of Jumpers began previews at London's National Theatre June 7, 2003. It transferred to the Piccadilly Theatre Nov. 14 prior to an official opening Nov. 20. The West End mounting closed March 6.
Jumpers was first produced at the Old Vic in 1972 with Diana Rigg and Michael Hordern.
The original 1974 Broadway production of Jumpers ran for 48 performances and starred Brian Bedford as George and Jill Clayburgh as Dotty.
The production features set designs by Vicki Mortimer, costumes by Nicky Gillibrand, lighting by Paule Constable, aerial choreography by Aidan Treays, music by Corin Buckeridge, sound design by John Leonard for Aura and video design by Dick Straker & Sven Ortel for Mesmer.