For the past two seasons, rumors have abounded that NY's Roundabout Theatre was looking to stage Ashes To Ashes by Harold Pinter. When the play didn't show up on the company's 1998-99 season brochure, the assumption was made that the show still wasn't germinating.
However, Variety reported (June 3) that Roundabout is in discussions with Miranda Richardson to be the female lead (a role played by Lindsay Duncan in the London staging, which co-starred Stephen Rea and was directed by Pinter).
Sources told Variety a deal might be struck as early as mid-June, though Richardson's representatives at William Morris wouldn't comment on the negotiations. The Off-Broadway Laura Pels space is apparently eyed for late 1998/early 1999 for Pinter's drama of a faltering marriage. That would put it between Beth Henley's Impossible Marriage, which begins in mid September, and Paula Vogel's The Mineola Twins, set to start in early January. (Twins had been slotted for the Laura Pels, but the season brochure now says "venue to be determined," meaning it might find its way to the mainstage between Little Me and The Lion In Winter.)
Ashes To Ashes opened at London's Royal Court Theatre, Sept. 1996. According to a story in Variety (June 30, 1997), because Pinter wanted to direct, and because the Roundabout then wanted original stars Rea (Someone Who'll Watch Over Me) and Duncan, setting a date in the 1997-98 season became impossible.
At the time, Roundabout spokesperson Erin Dunn told Playbill On-Line (July 3, 1997) several different scenarios could happen. "It's very up in the air and may or may not happen, though, of course, we hope it does." *
In other Roundabout news, recently distributed 1998-99 season brochures confirmed several long-speculated choices in the company's Broadway and Off-Broadway (Laura Pels) spaces.
Beginning the season June 2 is Side Man, a transfer from Off-Broadway. Opening June 25 and running through the end of August on the mainstage, Warren Leight's comedy/drama tells of a jazz talent who misses every opportunity of getting to the next level. His poor paychecks and devotion to the music eventually drive his neurotic wife over the edge.
Most of the acclaimed cast that appeared in the show at the CSC space downtown will travel to Broadway, though Wendy Makkena (The Water Children) has replaced Edie Falco, who will be shooting an HBO film.
Fall at the Roundabout will bring Martin Short in the musical, Little Me. Initially, the Roundabout was seeking director Walter Bobbie (Chicago) to stage the revival, but Little Me will instead be helmed by Rob Marshall, who co-directed the Roundabout's current -- and sensationally reviewed -- Cabaret revival.
Marshall told the NY Times, "[Little Me] is one of those plays that's rarely done because it has to be done for somebody. There has to be a star to build it around... We're fortunate that we still have Neil [Simon] and Cy [Coleman] with us, and they'll be working with us and tailoring it for Marty [Short]."
Short, comedy star of "SCTV," "Saturday Night Live" and the film Father of the Bride and Three Amigos, would play the roles originated by Sid Caesar and recreated in the 1980s by Victor Garber. Short's legit credits include The Goodbye Girl and Encores!' Promises, Promises.
Though the show's central character is a woman, "Belle Poitrine," all the wildly different men she meets in her highly eventful life are played by same actor, making it a tour-de-force for a male comedy performer.
Songs in Little Me, which starts previews Sept. 30 on the mainstage, include "I've Got Your Number," "Real Live Girl" and "Be A Performer."
Short made his Broadway debut in another Neil Simon musical, the short- lived 1993 The Goodbye Girl. Other Simon plays include Proposals, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, The Sunshine Boys and Fools.
As rumored, the Laura Pels Theatre will open its season with the world premiere of Beth Henley's Impossible Marriage. The author of The Miss Firecracker Contest and Crimes Of The Heart returns to New York with this comedy about a woman married to a man "over twice her age, balding, overweight and rumored to be a philanderer." The comedy/drama will star Holly Hunter, best known for her film-work in The Piano and Broadcast News. She also starred in Henley's The Wake Of Jamey Foster on Broadway in 1982.
Stephen Wadsworth directs Marriage, which starts previews Sept. 23.
Following Marriage at the Pels, Jan. 6, 1999, is Paula Vogel's The Mineola Twins. Roundabout spokesperson Erin Dunn confirmed that a reading of Twins was done in early winter, one that starred Annette Benning (Coastal Disturbances) and Jane Kazmarek (Kindertransport), though they are unlikely to be in the upcoming mounting. Vogel is the author of The Baltimore Waltz and How I Learned To Drive, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama Apr. 14.
Joe Mantello, who starred on Broadway in Angels in America and Off Broadway in Vogel's Baltimore Waltz, directs Mineola Twins. The show concerns identical twins who are exact opposites when it comes to personality. One is a shy all-American girl; the other is an "over-sexed, cigarette-smoking, jive talking" high school drop-out. The comedy then takes them through four decades of Long Island life."
After the new year, Stage Right will offer a revival of James Goldman's The Lion In Winter. The drama was announced for last season, but star Laurence Fishburne had scheduling problems, so the show will instead begin Feb. 3, 1999. The ubiquitous and aforementioned Michael Mayer (Side Man, A View From The Bridge, the upcoming You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown) will direct this romantic drama about Henry II's love/hate relationship with Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Finally, next May will end the 1998-99 Roundabout season with a revival of Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth. The 1959 drama charts the downfall of a pretty-boy who dreams of Hollywood success, until he encounters a former film star intent on consuming him. Previews start May 19, 1999. Other plays by Williams include A St ŸNamed Desire, The Glass Menagerie, Vieux Carre and The Seven Descents of Myrtle.
As for current Roundabout shows this season, Cabaret runs at the Kit Kat Klub, A View From The Bridge plays at the Neil Simon Theatre, and George Bernard Shaw's You Never Can Tell began previews at the Laura Pels space May 27. The show opens June 21 for a run through Sept. 13.
Robert Sean Leonard stars, alongside 1997 Tony nominee Helen Carey (London Assurance) and Simon Jones, who recently finished a brief run in The Herbal Bed. Jones' other New York credits include Privates on Parade and Private Lives.
Designing the comedy are Allen Moyer (set), Michael Krass (costumes), Frances Aronson (lights), and Mark Bennett (sound).
For tickets and information on Roundabout shows call (212) 719-1300. Seven-play subscriptions run from $231 $288, with discounted series for teachers and kids ages 13-18.
-- By David Lefkowitz