The fourth show of the season for the Walnut Street Theatre's Independence Studio On 3 will be the Off-Broadway hit, Visiting Mr. Green. Previews began April 25 for an official opening April 26 and a run through May 21. (The run is two weeks longer than a usual Studio booking, owing to the show’s commercial popularity.)
Jeff Baron’s comedy-drama (which, in New York, was a vehicle for Eli Wallach and then Hal Linden) tells of a yuppie who accidentally hits an old Jewish man with his car. As penance, the young exec has to look in on Mr. Green and make sure he's properly taken care of. A friendship develops -- that is, until the young man's sexual orientation becomes an ideological barrier.
Walnut Street veteran Donald Ewer plays the title character, while John Lumia plays Ross Gardiner. Directed by Frank Anzalone, the piece features sets by Conrad Maust, costumes by Mark Mariani, lighting by Troy Martin O’Shea and sound design by Scott Smith.
For tickets ($15-$25) and information on Visiting Mr. Green at Walnut Street's Independence Studio On 3, 825 Walnut Street, call (215) 574 3550. No word yet (as of April 26) on the line-up for next season’s Studio On 3 productions.
* In other Walnut news, the theatre recently passed the 50,000 subscriber mark -- the highest level of subscribership in the company's 17-year history as a regional venue.
According to a Walnut press office release, the Mainstage is subscribed to at 78 percent capacity, while the Independence Studio on 3 space is 85 percent subscriber-filled. The theatre credits its recent hit mounting of Kopit & Yeston's musical Phantom will spurring sales and interest in the venue, while Neil Simon's Hotel Suite and the musical Grand Hotel were also strong draws.
Founded in 1809, the Walnut Street Theatre is the oldest still-in operation playhouse in America. The Walnut was a Shubert tour and pre Broadway venue from the 1940s-1970s. In 1963, the building was declared a National Historic Landmark. In 1983, the not-for-profit Walnut Street Theatre Company was formed by current artistic director Bernard Havard. Future plans include constructing a flexible 350-seat space.
As for the Walnut Street mainstage season, it's a roster of plain janes and outcasts, featured in Buddy, The Heiress, Phantom, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and La Cage aux Folles.
Though the five productions have no specific connection, each centers on an outsider either forcing his way into the spotlight or finding contentment in being left alone and living differently from others.
Opening the season, Sept. 7-Oct. 24 (officially opening Sept. 15), was Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, followed by Phantom (Nov. 9 Jan. 9, 2000). Alfred Uhry's Tony-winning The Last Night of Ballyhoo came next (Jan. 18-March 5).
Now on the mainstage, the Walnut has the Goetzes -- Ruth and Augustus, that is, authors of The Heiress, based on Henry James' novel "Washington Square." A 1995 Broadway staging of the show starring Cherry Jones won the Tony Award for Best Revival. The Heiress, running March 14-April 30, tells of a painfully shy young woman who falls in love with a dashing bounder.
Finishing the season, May 16-July 2, are Georges and Albin (Dan Schiff and Jamie Torsellini), the loving couple at the heart of La Cage aux Folles. The two are openly, contentedly gay (Georges runs a nightclub, Albin cross-dresses for the nightly revues), but they're suddenly forced to hide their sexual leanings when Georges' straight son wants to marry into a prudish family. Harvey Fierstein penned the libretto and Jerry Herman the score for this Tony winning musical.
Subscriptions to the Walnut season range from $40 (students/seniors) to $202. For tickets and information call (215) 574-3550.
-- By David Lefkowitz