Michael McGrath, who, amid some rancorous negotiations with the producers, left Off-Broadway's The Cocoanuts to star in the Broadway revival of Once Upon A Mattress, has officially left that musical. He will be replaced in the role of the Jester by David Hibbard, who currently appears in the hit revue, Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back!.
There is some irony in the change, in that McGrath first came to the New York theatre world's attention for his Outer Critics Circle-nominated, comedic work in previous Forbidden Broadway revues. McGrath's featured turn in the commercial Broadway flop Swinging On A Star was followed by his return to Alessandrini-land in last season's Forbidden Hollywood (which immediately preceeded his role as Groucho in Cocoanuts). David Hibbard's previous work includes a three-year Broadway run as Rum Tum Tugger in Cats. Off Broadway, Hibbard has appeared in Chess and Leave It To Jane, while his regional credits include Sondheim's Marry Me A Little at the Olney Theatre.
According to a press release from the Boneau/Bryan-Brown office, Michael McGrath's departure from Mattress was "mutually agreed upon between the actor and the creative team of the musical." Neither BBB nor the staff of Dodger Productions would elaborate on the situation beyond that statement.
Jay Binder, casting agent for the show, wouldn't comment on the change either, but he did say that he's been following David Hibbard's career for a while now. "He's a wonderful talent. I watched him as Rum Tum Tugger and was fortunate enough to see him in Forbidden Broadway [Strikes Back!], which is one of the most enjoyable evenings I've spent at the theatre in years." As for Michael McGrath, Binder simply added, "he's one of the most talented people out there, and I know Gerald Gutierrez feels the same way."
The other star of Once Upon A Mattress remains Sarah Jessica Parker, as the princess. Other cast members include Mary Lou Rosato, David Aaron Baker, Heath Lamberts, Lewis Cleale, Tom Alan Robbins, Jane Krakowski and Lawrence Clayton. Two seasons ago, director Gerald Gutierrez won the Tony for his work on Broadway's The Heiress. The performance schedule for Once Upon A Mattress has not changed. Previews are still set to begin Monday, Nov. 18, with an opening slated for Dec. 19. For tickets and information on the show, which plays at the Broadhurst Theatre on West 44th St., call (212) 239-6200.