Warren Leight's Side Man has indeed risen again -- and much higher than its producers (Peter Manning and Weissberger Theatre Group's Jay Harris) originally had anticipated. Performances resumed on Broadway June 2 at the Roundabout's Main Stage Right. as previews. The June 25 opening makes it the first show of the 1998-99 Broadway season.
On the basis of its brief New York bow at CSC, it was nominated as Best Play by the Outer Circle Critics for its annual awards. It will be eligible for the Tony Award in 1999. After the play's opening (to raves), negotiations to move the play into an extended run had been intense. "I think the Irish-English negotiations were easier," cracked a relieved Leight.
One of the season's most consistently acclaimed dramas, the play deals with a dying breed of 1950s-vintage jazz musicians -- in particular, the chaotically dysfunctional family of one of these musicians. Leight has admitted that much of the material in the play mirrors to his own childhood.
Most of the original cast -- Mastro, Frank Wood, Kevin Geer, Angelica Torn, Robert Sella and Joe Taylor -- will be making the big move uptown with the play. Wendy Makkena has replaced Edie Falco for Broadway.
The design team for Side Man includes Neil Patel (sets), Tom Broecker (costumes), Kenneth Posner (lights) and Ray Schilke (sound). Two factors contributed to the Roundabout's sudden switch to Side Man: One, the poorly reviewed liftoff of the Burt Bachrach-Hal David revue, What the World Needs Now, which opened at San Diego's Old Globe and had been pegged for Roundabout's June-Aug. slot. Two, Michael Mayer, who directed Side Man and Roundabout's all-time top-grosser, A View From the Bridge, which has since spilled over into an open-ended run at the Neil Simon. Mayer was also represented on Broadway this season with the prestigious, but short-lived, Triumph of Love. He is currently directing Stupid Kids at the WPA and a Manhattan Theatre Club workshop (produced by Fox Theatricals) of Thoroughly Modern Millie. Leight believes Mayer had a lot to do with the move: "When the debates were going on as to whether this was a good deal for us, I said, 'Well, Michael knows how to direct in that space. It's a beautiful space, in Michael's hands. It can be complicated for other guys, but Michael knows that audience and that space.'
"Everybody says, 'God, it was brilliant strategy [to wait for Roundabout].' But the truth is, the offer came in a day before we were closing with an Off Broadway house, and then there were fights for three days. It could not have been luckier. After two years of groveling with no effect, then someone said to me, 'Doesn't this give you faith in the universe, that what you think is random is really destiny?' I said, 'No. Honestly, I think this is just as random as anything else in the last few years.'"