Back in September 2000, two of theatre's most famous siblings, Vanessa and Corin Redgrave, caused a box-office stir on the West End by appearing with a stellar cast in The Cherry Orchard. Staged by artistic director Trevor Nunn, Anton Chekhov's final masterpiece costarred Roger Allam, Eve Best, Charlotte Emerson, William Gaunt, Michael Bryant, Maxine Peake and Suzanne Bertish at the Royal National Theatre. Performances began Sept. 15, 2000 for an opening Sept. 21 at the small Cottesloe space. The production then reopened at the Olivier Feb. 3, 2001 and ran there till March 31.
Variety reported (April 27) that producers Carole Shorenstein Hays and Manny Kladitis wanted to bring The Cherry Orchard to Broadway in November or December for a five-month run, with Vanessa Redgrave again starring. Hays and Manny Kladitis teamed for the $2 million staging, with Hays hoping to keep the entire UK cast (and thus allow director Nunn to rehearse in England). However, Variety now reports (Aug. 16) that plans to bring the show to the National Actors Theatre have fallen through, with Actors' Equity balking at the producers' plans to run Cherry Orchard in rep with the Redgraves dueting in Oscar Wilde's De Profundis. (Equity requires that both shows do the same nuber of performances; Kladitis wanted to plant six Orchards for every two Profundises.)
Alan Eisenberg, Equity's executive director, told Variety he worried that allowing both shows to come through might set a problematic prescedent. Also, "in the spring, there will be a great crunch for Broadway theatres, and it seems a realistic possibility that it would take employment away from American actors who could otherwise use that theatre."
. In the UK staging of Cherry Orchard, the Redgraves played brother and sister Leonid and Lyubov, members of the Gaev family who face bankruptcy and the loss of their estate. Even so, they refuse to sell their largest asset, their famous cherry orchard. The old world is giving way to the new, but the Gaevs seem not to have noticed the bewildering changes in the Russian way of life. The fate of the beautiful orchard becomes a symbol of the fate of all of the characters on the brink of a new world.
The Redgraves last appeared together in 1999's revival of Noel Coward's Song at Twilight at the Gielgud Theatre, but they have worked together before both on and off the stage. In 1994, they formed Moving Theatre, which co-produced the world premiere of Tennessee Williams' prison drama Not About Nightingales at the National in 1998. That proved to be a hit for Corin who starred as Boss Whalen at the National and on Broadway, receiving Best Actor nominations at the Olivier, Tony and Drama Desk Awards. In 2000, Vanessa Redgrave starred as a female Prospero in The Tempest at Shakespeare's Globe. Her other recent theatre credits include Antony and Cleopatra, which she also directed, in New York, and John Gabriel Borkman at the National.
Their UK co-stars were also distinguished. Roger Allam won an Olivier for Best Supporting Actor for Money, an NT Ensemble production. His other recent credits include Albert Speer, Troilus and Cressida and Summerfolk, all at the National, and Art in the West End. Eve Best, appeared in The Heiress at the National and won the 1999 Evening Standard and Critics' Circle Best Newcomer Awards for her starring role opposite Jude Law in 'Tis Pity She's a Whore at the Young Vic. Charlotte Emerson played the title role in the Birmingham Rep production of Baby Doll, which transferred from the National to the West End. National veteran Michael Bryant's recent credits include Peter Pan and Summerfolk, for which he was also nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Olivier. TV stars William Gaunt (Next of Kin) and Maxine Peake (Dinnerladies) have recently appeared on stage in, respectively, The Mysteries at the National and Miss Julie at the Haymarket. And Suzanne Bertish's credits include The Oedipus Plays at the National.
The National's production of The Cherry Orchard was a new version by David Lan whose adaptation of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya was staged at the Young Vic in 1998. It is designed by Maria Bjornson, with lighting by Hugh Vanstone and sound by Paul Groothuis. Director Nunn is scheduled to re-stage Oklahoma! on Broadway this spring.