Previews begin Sept. 23 for the premiere of Beth Henley's latest play, Impossible Marriage, staged at the Roundabout Theatre's off Broadway space, the Laura Pels.
Lois Smith and Jon Tenney co-star with Holly Hunter in the production. Smith, whose credits include Tony-nominated turns in Buried Child and The Grapes of Wrath, will play Hunter's mother; and Tenney, who was featured in The Heiress and The Substance of Fire, is Hunter's husband.
Henley is the author of The Miss Firecracker Contest and the Pulitzer-winning Crimes Of The Heart. Her new comedy tells of a woman (the sister of the Hunter character) married to a man "over twice her age, balding, overweight and rumored to be a philanderer." Also in the cast are Christopher McCann, Jon Tenney, Gretchen Cleevely, Daniel London and Alan Mandell.
According to the Boneau/Bryan-Brown press office, Henley was the first playwright ever commissioned by the Roundabout; their link goes back to 1985 and the company's "New Play Initiative."
Holly Hunter is best known for her film work in Raising Arizona, Michael, The Piano and Broadcast News. She also starred in Henley's The Wake Of Jamey Foster on Broadway in 1982 and in the film version of Miss Firecracker. Stephen Wadsworth directs Marriage, which officially opens Oct. 15, 1998 and runs to Jan. 10, 1999. Designing Impossible Marriage are Tom Lynch (set), Martin Pakledinaz (costumes), Peter Kaczorowski (lighting) and Dan Wojnar (sound).
For tickest ($55) and information on Impossible Marriage at the Laura Pels Theatre, 1530 Broadway, call (212) 719-9300.
In other Roundabout news, joining Faith Prince and Martin Short in the theatre's upcoming Broadway revival of Little Me are two veterans of Off-Broadway's Forbidden Broadway revue, Michael McGrath and Christine Pedi.
McGrath was showcased in the Broadway musical Swinging on a Star and was a well-received Groucho in Off-Broadway's The Cocoanuts. He was also an original cast-member of Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know.
Also in the show are soap opera actor Michael Park and Charles Busch veteran Ruth Williamson (The Green Heart), alongside Brooks Ashmanskas, Peter Benson, Michael Arnold, Jeffrey Hankinson, Ned Hannah, Denis Jones, Michael McEachron, Roxanne Barlow, Caroline Liadakus, Susan Misner, Cynthia Onrubia, Joey Pizzi, Josh Prince and Courtney Young.
Prince (The King and I) co-stars with Short (The Goodbye Girl) in this revival, beginning previews Sept. 30 on the mainstage. According to Roundabout Artistic Director Todd Haimes, Prince will play Belle Poitrine. Though Belle is the central character, the wildly different men she meets in her highly eventful life are played by same actor (Short), making it a tour-de-force for a male comedy performer.
Weeks ago, Martin Short told Playbill On-Line's Harry Haun, "I've never worked before with Faith, but I'm a big fan of hers. I like the idea of being on stage with someone who's actually better than you are. I think that's the way to do it."
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.
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.
In other Roundabout new season news, for the past two years, 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, the show has now been confirmed by the company's spokesperson as being on the Laura Pels schedule for early 1999. Variety reported (June 3) that Roundabout was 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), but that apparently won't happen.
Timewise, Pinter's drama of a faltering marriage looks like it will fall between Impossible Marriage 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 Broadway 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 play out. "It's very up in the air and may or may not happen, though, of course, we hope it does."
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, Roundabout Theatre's Broadway Stage Right space 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, tentatively opening Feb. 25, 1999.
The ubiquitous Michael Mayer (Side Man, A View From The Bridge, Stupid Kids, Triumph of Love and 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. No further casting has been announced (as of Aug. 20).
The final Pels show (May 1999) will be the New York premiere of Richard Greenberg's new play, Hurrah at Last, according to William Morris' George Lane, who reps Greenberg. As at South Coast Repertory, where the play premiered this spring, David Warren will direct.
Hurrah at Last is set on Christmas Eve in a posh Manhattan loft and has been described as a play that "demonstrates how we manage to avoid homicides with our families over a holiday period."
The South Coast Rep production starred Judith Blazer (Titanic), Peter Frechette (Greenberg's Eastern Standard and Night and Her Stars), Ileen Getz and Bradley Whitford.
Greenberg, who resides in NY, is the author of numerous plays including Eastern Standard, Night and Her Stars, and Three Days of Rain -- which had its world premiere in 1997 at South Coast Rep and went on to an acclaimed run at the Manhattan Theatre Club.
Hurrah's director, Warren, staged Night and Her Stars and more recently directed Misalliance at NY's Roundabout Theatre and the world premiere of Barry Manilow's Harmony at the La Jolla Playhouse in CA.
Finally, next May will end the 1998-99 Roundabout season with a mainstage 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 Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, Vieux Carre and The Seven Descents of Myrtle.
As for the following season (1999-00), Dear World, Jerry Herman's musicalization of The Madwoman of Chaillot, is being considered for a 30th-anniversary spin. One of the original Jerry's Girls, Chita Rivera, has been pegged to star, though any kind of staging plans are still in the rumor stage.
Director Scott Ellis pulled together a workshop to that effect and put the project into rehearsal Mar. 30 for a staged-reading presentation two weeks later. David Thomson, who worked with Ellis on And the World Goes 'Round and Steel Pier, is revising the musical's book, which Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee adapted from the famous Jean Giradoux play.
The original Broadway production, directed and choreographed by Joe Layton and produced by Alexander H. Cohen, opened Feb. 6, 1969, at the Mark Hellinger Theatre and ran only 132 performances -- but this was enough for Angela Lansbury to win the second of her four Tony Awards.
The show reunited La Lansbury with her Mame authors, but it suffered from comparison--although Herman's score is still hailed as one of his most melodic; some of the songs have gone on to become cult favorites and evergreens ("And I Was Beautiful," "I Don't Want To Know," "I've Never Said I Love You," "Kiss Her Now," "One Person," the title tune, et al).
A dream cast, almost all Tony winners, is being assembled to support Rivera's Countess Aurelia. Debra (Ah, Wilderness!) Monk and Madeline (The Sisters Rosensweig) Kahn will play Gabrielle and Constance, the other two madwomen originated by Jane Connell and Carmen Matthews, and Audra (Ragtime) MacDonald is doing the Pamela Hall part of Nina. In Milo O'Shea's role of Sewerman is Alfred Molina, who is currently delivering his first Tony-eligible performance in Art.
"We're just going to work on it the first two weeks in April," says Ellis. "Then, we'll do the reading and see how it feels, see what we have."
Rivera told Playbill On-Line (Mar. 12), "We'll bring it in [to NY] but not until we get it perfect."
Current Roundabout productions include Cabaret, which is mulling a move to the Studio 54 dance club space, and Side Man, which played at the Roundabout mainstage through Sept. 13 and moves to the John Golden Theatre, Sept. 20.
For tickets and information on Roundabout shows call (212) 719-1300. Seven-play subscriptions run $231-$288, with discounted series for teachers and for kids ages 13-18.