It was previously announced that Lane, not known as an author, was trying his hand at rewriting the piece, which was originally adapted by Burt Shevelove from Aristophanes' 405 B.C. play. Lane will also star in the piece, his first stage role since creating Max Bialystock in The Producers.
Composer-lyricist Sondheim and librettist Shevelove wrote the show for a production staged in the Yale swimming pool in 1974. That cast included newcomers Christopher Durang, Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver, among others. The ancient play focuses on a debate between Aeschylus and Euripides, to determine who is the greater artist. The winner of the contest returned to Earth with Dionysus to save civilization.
In Sondheim and Shevelove's version, the story is updated with a debate between William Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw and has traditionally required elaborate special effects, a large cast of actors skilled in both acting and swimming and an exhibition pool in which they perform.
Lincoln Center atistic director Andre Bishop told the industry paper, Variety, "Nathan has done some reworking of the book. He has fleshed out the script." Bishop also added, "Sondheim might write some more songs for this version, to make it more of a full evening."
The Chicago troupe, Pegasus Players, recently announced that it would stage the work (in an unrelated production) April 8-May 25, 2004—just before the Lincoln Center production, which will play the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. Lincoln Center Theater formally announced two other previously reported shows for its Beaumont Theatre, both monumental Shakespeare plays. Kevin Kline, Richard Easton, Ethan Hawke, Billy Crudup, and Dana Ivey will star in Lincoln Center Theater's ambitious fall production of Shakespeare's Henry IV epic. Previews begin Oct. 28. Opening is Nov. 20. Jack O'Brien is directing. No new casting was revealed.
The show, which melds Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2 (both circa 1597) into one experience, will run roughly four hours.
The works focuses on the familial, royal and political conflicts surrounding Henry Bolingbroke, the king, who usurped the crown from Richard II (all detailed in Shakespeare's Richard II). Prince Hal, the king's son, is callow and hangs out with a group of jolly reprobates led by Falstaff, while privately vowing to himself that he will one day mend his ways and assume the throne. Meanwhile, that throne is beset upon from all sides. The greatest threat comes from Henry Percy, son of the Earl of Northumberland, and known as Hotspur. He joins forces with leaders in Scotland and Wales in a rash attempt to unseat Henry. The conflict eventually leads to a battle to the death between Hal and Hotspur.
Kline will be the fat knight, Falstaff, and Easton the title monarch. Crudup, last seen on Broadway in The Elephant Man, will play bonny Prince Hal. Hawke, who acted Off-Broadway in 2001 in Sam Shepard's The Late Henry Moss, is cast in the plum role of fiery rebel, Hotspur. Ivey, recently in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, is Mistress Quickly and Lady Northumberland.
O'Brien previously directed the work at The Globe Theatres. O'Brien is white-hot of late, having helmed The Full Monty, The Invention of Love, Hairspray and Imaginary Friends.
The other LCT work by the Bard is equally imposing. As previously reported by Playbill On-Line, Christopher Plummer will star in the title role of King Lear. The cast will include major Canadian performers, including Tony Award winner Brent Carver as Edgar. Performances begin February 11. Opening night is March 4.
Jonathan Miller directs the staging with Tony winner Plummer, re creating work they did for the renowned Stratford Festival in summer 2002. Some cast members from that staging will return to this New York production. The cast will include James Blendick, Domini Blythe, Benedict Campbell, Ian Deakin, Claire Jullien (as Cordelia), Barry MacGregor, Lucy Peacock, Stephen Russell and Brian Tree, all well-known names in Canada. Carver was Tony-nommed for playing Leo in the musical Parade at Lincoln Center Theater. He won the Tony Award for playing Molina in Kiss of the Spider Woman, the musical.
This will mark Stratford's first major presence in New York City since fall 1998, when the troupe brought Much Ado About Nothing and The Miser to City Center. Stratford regular Brian Bedford is up for a 2003 Tony Award for Roundabout Theatre Company's Tartuffe.
Lincoln Center Theater's production of King Lear will have sets by Ralph Funicello, costumes by Clare Mitchell, lighting by Robert Thomson and original music composed by Berthold Carrière. The run is being billed as a limited engagement, and the performance schedule has not yet been announced. Plummer had previously indicated in published reports that he would not play the strenuous role eight performances a week.
The 2003-04 season of new plays at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater will be announced later this summer.
Memberships for the season go on sale June 6. Lincoln Center Theater memberships, are available by calling (212) 239-6277 or at the Lincoln Center Theater box office (150 West 65 Street).