The Presidents, a stage comedy starring Rich Little that hails to nine Oval Office chiefs, from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush, will be taped before an audience in March 2002 and is in negotiations for a summer PBS broadcast prior to a fall national tour.
Bill Castellino will direct, as he did when the play by Ron Nessen (who was Gerald R. Ford's press secretary) and Loren Paul Caplin premiered at the Cherry County Playhouse in Michigan in August 2000. The play starring famed impressionist Little and four other performers subsequently played The Helen Hayes Center in Nyack, NY (Sept. 23-Oct. 8, 2000), and TheatreFest in Montclair, NJ (June 2001). Following the November 2000 presidential election, the play went through changes, and Bush was added to the mix.
Castellino will serve as producer of the stage production. High Five Entertainment of Nashville will produce the video production. Negotiations are under way for PBS to broadcast the production, Castellino told Playbill On-Line. The work had a recent Washington, DC, reading for PBS affiliates and Castellino said in light of national events, the work came off as "a celebration of overcoming adversity." At turns comic and dramatic, with a boisterous theatricality, the play explores a parade of personalities and events since 1960.
Columbia Artists is in charge of booking the planned fall national 2002 tour.
In The Presidents, Little plays nine U.S. chiefs, starting with John F. Kennedy up through George W. Bush, and assumes the voices of other national figures and celebrities. Unlike the one-man stand-up shows Little is known for, from TV and Las Vegas, the actor-comedian is accompanied by an actress playing all the First Ladies, plus a trio of actors playing second bananas, celebrities, family members, cabinet members and others. The unit set is the Oval Office in the White House. Before serving under President Ford, author Nessen was an NBC News correspondent during the Johnson administration. Co-author Caplin is a screenwriter who teaches screenwriting and creative writing at Columbia, New York University and The New School.
Designers for the 2002 staging are Michael Anania (set), Paul Miller (lights), Dale DiBernardo (costumes), Tony Meola (sound) and Michael Maddi (makeup).
Castellino recently directed and choreographed Lizzie Borden at Goodspeed Musicals' Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT.
— By Kenneth Jones