Showbiz Comedy Accent on Youth, With David Hyde Pierce, Opens

News   Showbiz Comedy Accent on Youth, With David Hyde Pierce, Opens The first Broadway revival of Samson Raphaelson's Accent on Youth, the 1934 romantic comedy set in the world of the Broadway theatre, opens April 29 after previews from April 7 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Tony Award winner David Hyde Pierce (Curtains, Spamalot, "Frasier") stars in the Manhattan Theatre Club production.
Accent on Youth stars Mary Catherine Garrison and David Hyde Pierce.
Accent on Youth stars Mary Catherine Garrison and David Hyde Pierce. Photo by Joan Marcus

Tony Award winner Daniel Sullivan (Rabbit Hole, Sight Unseen, Proof) directs a cast that also includes Lisa Banes (High Society, Arcadia), Rosie Benton (Saturn Returns), Curt Bouril (A Man for All Seasons), David Furr (Cymbeline), Mary Catherine Garrison (Top Girls, Rabbit Hole), Byron Jennings (Is He Dead?, Sight Unseen), Tony nominee Charles Kimbrough (Company, Sunday in the Park With George, "Murphy Brown") and John Wernke (The American Plan).

MTC bills Accent on Youth as "a rollicking salute to love's possibilities, both on stage and off." In it, "successful playwright Steven Gaye (Pierce) is about to abandon his latest script, when his young secretary (Garrison) offers him new inspiration. With her as his muse, he stages the show on Broadway, only to learn, to his dismay, that the show's young leading man (Furr) is being inspired by her too."

Playwright Raphaelson was born in New York City in 1894. Of his eight plays produced on Broadway, the first, The Jazz Singer (1925), ran 303 performances and was made into the first talking motion picture starring Al Jolson. Among his stage comedies included in publications of "The Ten Best Plays" of their seasons were the hits Accent on Youth (1934) and Skylark (1939) starring Gertrude Lawrence. In the 1930s and '40s in Hollywood, Raphaelson wrote numerous screenplays for the director Ernst Lubitsch, including "Trouble in Paradise" and "The Shop Around the Corner" and for Alfred Hitchcock, "Suspicion." Raphaelson taught playwrights at the University of Illinois and screenwriters at Columbia University. He wrote "The Human Nature of Playwriting," a chronicle of one course. Raphaelson continued to teach until his death in 1983, at age 89.

In Accent on Youth, Garrison portrays Linda Brown, a mousy secretary who, through three years of exposure to her boss, successful and worldly playwright Steven Gaye, is transformed into a stage star and object of male desires. How this affects fiftysomething Steven Gaye gives Hyde Pierce the chance to convey not throwaway gags or Cowardesque zingers, but rueful rumination. As with the works of Raphaelson's contemporary, Noel Coward, Accent on Youth is about theatre people defining themselves outside of normal society — and then chafing up against what they create.

Garrison told Playbill.com in a Brief Encounter interview, "She was a very innocent, very inexperienced person with no family, no real connections, who, via her experience with Steven Gay was introduced to new ways of thinking, new kinds of people, new ideas — this entire world she was unaware of before. So in a way, he was her conduit. Because of him, she was able to experience things that helped her discover who she was a person and ultimately grow up. There's some sort of love between them." There is a quality of showbiz fantasy about the world, Garrison conceded. "Yeah, [Steven Gaye lives] in an eight-room apartment with a view of the river," she said. "No playwright I know has that, I don't think. I feel like that world did exist, and I think that's why I'm so responsive to movies and anything from this period. New York used to be different. New York wasn't a really wealthy island. People could come here from everywhere and struggle together. It's a different kind of New York now."

The creative team for Accent on Youth includes John Lee Beatty (scenic design), Jane Greenwood (costume design), Brian MacDevitt (lighting design) and Obadiah Eaves (original music and sound design).

The company also includes the understudies Ross Bickell, Cynthia Darlow, Jack Koenig and Karen Walsh. Denise Yaney is stage manager.

For tickets visit Telecharge.com or call (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7250, or visit the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre box office (261 West 47th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue).

Tickets range in price from $56.50-$96.50.

For more information on Manhattan Theatre Club, visit www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com.

Mary Catherine Garrison and David Hyde Pierce
Mary Catherine Garrison and David Hyde Pierce