While many devout theatre lovers may want to mark this day in their journals, you can bet that Roundabout artistic director Todd Haimes certainly will.
More so than most opening nights, the raising of tonight's curtain at the American Airlines Theatre warrants a special notation in theatre history books: When the show starts, the Roundabout Theatre Company will have cleared such hurdles as the reconstruction and restoration of a landmarked Broadway theatre as well as the management of a $27 million fundraising campaign and the securing of a valuable corporate sponsorship.
July 27 marks the opening of Roundabout's permanent home, the American Airlines Theatre, as well as the revival of the Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman play, The Man Who Came to Dinner. Having started previews June 30, Dinner runs through Oct. 26.
Tony Award-winning director Jerry Zaks helms the 1939 comedy, about a famous -- and famously cranky -- critic who causes misery in a provincial household where he is forced to convalesce after breaking his hip. The Lane character of Sheridan Whiteside was modeled after the critic Alexander Woollcott. The Sheldon character is a thinly veiled Gertrude Lawrence. Lewis J. Stadlen and Hank Stratton are also at the Dinner table. Stadlen plays the part of Banjo, patterned after Woollcott pal, Harpo Marx. Stratton will play Bert Jefferson. Byron Jennings plays Noel Coward stand-in Beverly Carlton.
Roundabout's teaming of director Jerry Zaks with actor Nathan Lane is noteworthy: Zaks won a Tony Award for directing the Guys and Dolls revival that earned Nathan Lane a Tony nomination for his portrayal of Nathan Detroit. Zaks also helmed Lane's Tony Award-winning performance in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Originally launched on Broadway on October 16, 1939, The Man Who Came to Dinner ran for two years with Monty Woolley starring as Sheridan Whiteside. Woolley also starred in a 1942 film version. Woollcott himself later starred in a touring production of the show. A 1967 Broadway musical adaptation, titled Sherry, preceded a 1972 Hallmark Hall of Fame television version with Orson Welles as Whiteside.
A Roundabout alum, Nathan Lane starred in the company's production of She Stoops to Conquer. His Broadway credits include Love! Valour! Compassion!, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Present Laughter, On Borrowed Time, Merlin, The Wind in the Willows, and Some Americans Abroad. In addition to numerous Off-Broadway roles, Lane has appeared in several films including "The Birdcage," "The Lion King" and "Frankie and Johnny." A high-profile revival of Dinner several seasons ago in Chicago starred John Mahoney ("Frasier," The House of Blue Leaves) at Steppenwolf Theatre.
Jean Smart earned a Drama Desk nomination and a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Last Summer at Bluefish Cove. She has also appeared in Marvin's Room, The End of the Day, Fit to Be Tied, Laughing Wild with Christopher Durang and It Had to Be You with her husband, Richard Gilliland. On television, Smart is popular for her role in "Designing Women" and for appearing on "Frasier."
The historic nature of the show was not lost on the production team, which comprises costume designer William Ivey Long, lighting designer Paul Gallo and set designer Tony Walton. As Roundabout's artistic director Todd Haimes points out, Walton paid "homage" to the reopening of the former Selwyn by designing his sets as an extension of the luxurious new decor in the American Airlines Theatre.
Tickets range from $55- $65. Roundabout's American Airlines Theatre is located at 227 W. 42 Street. For tickets call Roundabout Ticket Services at (212) 719-1300.