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, 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 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), but no official casting information has been announced as of July 20.
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. Timewise, Pinter's drama of a faltering marriage looks like it will fall 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 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." *
In other Roundabout news, Dear World, Jerry Herman's musicalization of The Madwoman of Chaillot, is being considered for a 30th-anniversary spin, but that would come in the 1999-00 season. One of the original Jerry's Girls, Chita Rivera, has been pegged to star.
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."
In further Roundabout news, the company began its 1998-99 season June 2 with Side Man, a transfer from Off-Broadway. The show officially reopened on Broadway June 25 and runs to Sept. 6, recently extended past its Aug. 30 previous closing date.
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 traveled to Broadway, though Wendy Makkena (The Water Children) replaced Edie Falco, who is shooting an HBO film.
Fall at the Roundabout will bring Martin Short in the musical, Little Me. Reports have surfaced that Faith Prince (The King and I) will co-star, but a Boneau/Bryan-Brown spokesperson told Playbill On-Line (July 20), Short was the only confirmed casting.
That said, 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.
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. No further casting has been announced (as of July 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. `lays by Williams include A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, Vieux Carre and The Seven Descents of Myrtle.
As for current Roundabout shows, Cabaret runs at the Kit Kat Klub, A View From The Bridge plays at the Neil Simon Theatre (with new lead Tony Danza starting July 21), and George Bernard Shaw's You Never Can Tell began previews at the Laura Pels space May 27, opened June 21 and runs through Aug. 23.
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 $231-$288, with discounted series for teachers and for kids ages 13-18.