The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) program "Stage on Screen" series will broadcast a live stage performance of the Roundabout Theatre Company production of The Man Who Came to Dinner on Oct. 7. The stage show will close the next day, Oct. 8.
Hosted by Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson, the program airs in New York City 8 PM Oct. 7 on Channel 13. Having Neeson and Richardson as hosts is appropriate and touching: appropriate in that the acting couple were steadfast supporters of Roundabout's $27 million reconstruction of the former Selwyn Theatre (now the American Airlines Theatre); and touching because a serious motorcycle accident prohibited Neeson from attending the theatre's opening last summer.
Nathan Lane stars as Sheridan Whiteside and Jean Smart (OB's Fit to be Tied, Last Summer at Bluefish Cove) stars as Lorraine Sheldon.
Tony Award-winning director Jerry Zaks helms the 1939 comedy, about a famous -- and famously cranky -- critic who causes misery in a provincial household where he is forced to convalesce after breaking his hip. The Lane character of Sheridan Whiteside was modeled after the critic Alexander Woollcott. The Sheldon character is a thinly veiled Gertrude Lawrence. Lewis J. Stadlen and Hank Stratton are also at the Dinner table. Stadlen plays the part of Banjo, patterned after Woollcott pal, Harpo Marx. Stratton will play Bert Jefferson. Byron Jennings plays Noel Coward stand-in Beverly Carlton.
Roundabout's teaming of director Jerry Zaks with actor Nathan Lane is noteworthy: Zaks won a Tony Award for directing the Guys and Dolls revival that earned Nathan Lane a Tony nomination for his portrayal of Nathan Detroit. Zaks also helmed Lane's Tony Award-winning performance in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Originally launched on Broadway on October 16, 1939, The Man Who Came to Dinner ran for two years with Monty Woolley starring as Sheridan Whiteside. Woolley also starred in a 1942 film version. Woollcott himself later starred in a touring production of the show. A 1967 Broadway musical adaptation, titled Sherry, preceded a 1972 Hallmark Hall of Fame television version with Orson Welles as Whiteside.
As reported earlier, a PBS source told Playbill On-Line that other plays are already scheduled for the series including regional productions of A.R. Gurney's Far East as well as Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, Anna Deavere Smith’s one-woman show based on the 1992 Rodney King beating, trial, controversial verdicts and subsequent riots.