"We're closing on Good Friday, but we're all hoping for a resurrection shortly thereafter," Michael Mastro said at a Q&A that followed his show at the Classic Stage Company.
True to those words from an actor with a sense of melodrama, Warren Leight's Side Man has indeed risen. And it has risen much higher than its producers (Peter Manning and Weissberger Theatre Group's Jay Harris) originally had anticipated: Performances will resume on Broadway June 2 at the Roundabout's Main Stage Right for an opening June 25. The production thus qualifies for Tony consideration next year.
On the basis of its brief New York bow at CSC, Side Man was a Best Play nominee for the Outer Circle Critics Award and for the upcoming Drama Desk Awards as well. (Mayer won at OCC for his direction.) Also gaining acclaim was lead actress Edie Falco, a Drama Desk nominee and Theatre World Award winner for her role as a distraught, alcoholic wife and mother. Falco will not travel uptown with the show due to an HBO film commitment. Taking her place will be Wendy Makkena, who recently repeated her Off-Broadway role in The Water Children at that play's West Coast premiere.
The rest of the much-applauded original cast Michael Mastro (who was also in Water Children), Frank Woods, Kevin Geer, Angelica Torn, Robert Sella and Joe Taylor -- will make the big move uptown with the play.
Since Side Man's opening (to raves), negotiations to move the play into an extended run were intense. "I think the Irish-English negotiations were easier," cracked relieved author Leight. The play deals with a dying breed of 1950s-vintage jazz musicians -- in particular, the chaotically dysfunctional family of one of these musicians. Leight has admitted that much of the material in the play mirrors to his own childhood.
Two factors contributed to the Roundabout's sudden switch to Side Man: One, the poorly reviewed liftoff of the Burt Bacharach-Hal David revue, What the World Needs Now, which opened at San Diego's Old Globe and had been pegged for Roundabout's June 3 - Aug. 16 slot. Two, Michael Mayer, who directed Side Man and Roundabout's all-time top-grosser, A View From the Bridge, which has since spilled over into an open-ended run at the Neil Simon.
Mayer was also represented on Broadway this season with the prestigious, but short-lived, Triumph of Love. He is currently directing Stupid Kids at the WPA and a Manhattan Theatre Club workshop of Thoroughly Modern Millie. Leight believes Mayer had a lot to do with the move: "When the debates were going on as to whether this was a good deal for us, I said, 'Well, Michael knows how to direct in that space. It's a beautiful space, in Michael's hands. It can be complicated for other guys, but Michael knows that audience and that space.'
"Everybody says, 'God, it was brilliant strategy [to wait for Roundabout].' But the truth is, the offer came in a day before we were closing with an Off-Broadway house, and then there were fights for three days. It could not have been luckier. After two years of groveling with no effect, then someone said to me, 'Doesn't this give you faith in the universe, that what you think is random is really destiny?' I said, 'No. Honestly, I think this is just as random as anything else in the last few years.'"
The Roundabout mounting will be co-produced with Peter Manning and Weissberger Theatre Group. Said Jay Harris (of WTG), "We were fully financed and all set to move...when this fabulous opportunity dropped into our lap. We are thrilled to be moving intact to Broadway."