One of musical theatre's busiest stars, Raul Esparza, will give his singing pipes a rest when he takes the role of Gethin Price in the New Group's Off-Broadway revival of Trevor Griffith's Comedians, beginning performances Jan. 3, 2003, at the Beckett Theatre.
New Group artistic director Scott Elliott directs the production, already set to star Tony Award-winner Jim Dale.
Set in proletariat Manchester, England, Comedians delivers a slice of class conflict as a group of disparate funnymen struggle to make it through an after-hours course in comedy taught by former working comedian Eddie Waters (Dale). Their teacher's favorite, an angry young man (Esparza), uses their final exam — performing an act for an audience and agents — as a chance to inflict rage on his "betters" in a brutal routine. Comedians first introduced Jonathan Pryce to American audiences, netting the Welsh actor, later known for his musical turn in Miss Saigon, his first Tony Award.
Since his discovery as Che in the recent tour of Evita, Esparza has worked almost continually in musical theatre, though he did have a rich regional theatre life. He created the role of Riff Raff in the recent revival of The Rocky Horror Show and John in Off Broadway's tick, tick...BOOM!, then went on to play the Emcee twice in Broadway's Cabaret, while also working in workshops of Assassins and Urban Cowboy. In the Kennedy Center's Sondheim Celebratioon, he appeared in Merrily We Roll Along and Sunday in the Park With George.
Dale won his Tony for the lead role in Barnum and last appeared on Broadway as Dr. Pangloss/Voltaire in 1997's Candide. He performed the angry young man role, Gethin Price, in the 1977 Mark Taper Forum production of Comedians. Also in the cast are Max Baker (What the Butler Saw, Goose-Pimples), Ismail Bashey, James Beecher, Gordon Connell, Allan Corduner (Titanic, "Topsy Turvey"), William Duell (The Man Who Came to Dinner, 1776), Jamie Harris, David Lansbury (Hedda Gabler), David McCallum (Amadeus, "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.") and Marcus Powell.
Following previews, Comedians opens Jan. 15 for a run through Feb. 23, 2003. Performances Feb.5 through the 23 will be held at the Acorn Theatre, also located in the Theatre Row Complex. For more information on the New Group, call (212) 691-6730 or visit http://www.thenewgroup.org. For more information on Women's Project and Productions, call (212) 757-3900 or visit http://www.womensproject.org