Perhaps it's an actors' truism, but every nerd wants to play Cary Grant, every Jew wants to play Jesus, every salt-of-the-earth wants to play Hitler, and every pin-up wants to play a rocket scientist. No surprise then, that rugged Marlboro man Tom Selleck has always wanted to play the iconoclastic, slovenly and free-spirited Murray Burns in A Thousand Clowns.
He’ll have to wait a little longer to bring that character to New York, however. Though a new revival of Herb Gardner’s comedy was supposed to have a couple of regional stops in late winter and reach Broadway by April 16, 2001, producers Jeffrey Richards, Raymond J. Greenwald, Louise Levathes and Theatre Previews at Duke have scotched that timeframe, owing to a lack of available Broadway houses at the home stretch of this season. Therefore, instead of starting rehearsals right after New Year’s, the production will begin rehearsals April 10, 2001 in Raleigh Durham, NC and play there May 15-June 3, 2001. The show, directed by John Rando (The Dinner Party), will then travel to Chicago’s Shubert Theatre, opening June 5, 2001, and to Boston’s Wang Center, June 19-July 1, 2001. The target date for Broadway previews is now July 3, 2001, with a theatre still to be announced. The Durham-to-Chicago-to-Boston itinerary replaces a previously-announced Durham-Chicago-Boston-Philadelphia course.
[Editor's Note: As of Feb. 1, 2001, Clowns had not yet announced further casting, though the tour and Broadway dates were reconfirmed by spokespersons for the production.]
The producing team released a statement about the delay, noting that “despite the support and interest of the major theatre organizations, there was no theatre available for our fifteen week, New York limited engagement in the spring. To go into rehearsal and play out of town at this time, without having a New York venue for a limited engagement, would be imprudent. Tom Selleck’s dedication to the play and the production is unwavering.”
Selleck has made his fame and fortune as TV's "Magnum P.I.," as well as a movie career that's included "Three Men and a Baby" and "Her Alibi" along with a high-profile, guest-starring TV gig on “Friends.” Casting is still pending for other parts in A Thousand Clowns, including the pivotal role of Nick, the young nephew Murray’s is raising in his own, decidedly unfatherly, way. Martin Pakledinaz will design costumes for the play, with Allen Moyer providing the set.
In its February story about plans for Clowns, the New York Times noted (Feb. 25) that Selleck had talked to Gardner about doing the show back in 1996, but that was just when the Roundabout Theatre Company had put their Broadway production together, one that starred Judd Hirsch and Marin Hinkle.
Asked why he'd be interested in the role of a man who shirks work in favor of an easy, careless lifestyle, Selleck, 55, told the Times, "I'm 6'4". I was always being asked to do the other guy, the guy who always gets the girl."
Zannie Voss, managing director of Theater Previews at Duke, told Variety (July 31 issue) that she'd been approached by several producers with commercial projects, but Clowns was "really the standout." Duke mounted the Broadway-eyed Birdy and Eleanor: An American Love Story last season.
- By David Lefkowitz