Simon's 45 Seconds Out of the Woods and Coping With No Copeland

News   Simon's 45 Seconds Out of the Woods and Coping With No Copeland With preview dates fast approaching, the new Neil Simon play nonetheless has undergone two last-minute cast changes, with Carol Woods and Joan Copeland both leaving 45 Seconds from Broadway. Taking over for Woods is Lynda Gravatt, making her Broadway debut. She appeared Off-Broadway in The Old Settler and If Memory Serves and is a regular on Showtime Networks' "The Hoop Life."

With preview dates fast approaching, the new Neil Simon play nonetheless has undergone two last-minute cast changes, with Carol Woods and Joan Copeland both leaving 45 Seconds from Broadway. Taking over for Woods is Lynda Gravatt, making her Broadway debut. She appeared Off-Broadway in The Old Settler and If Memory Serves and is a regular on Showtime Networks' "The Hoop Life."

Over the Columbus Day weekend, the show lost a second cast-member: Joan Copeland, whose role has been taken over by Rebecca Schull (Golda, Herzl, TV's "Wings"). There's no official word yet on why Woods (Follies, Smokey Joe's Cafe) and Copeland left the production, though a Bill Evans office spokesperson told Playbill On-Line (Oct. 9) the show's first preview date has not changed.

45 Seconds from Broadway begins previews Oct. 16 at Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre. Marian Seldes, Alix Korey, Lewis J. Stadlen, Kevin Carroll, Judy Blazer, Bill Moor, Julie Lund and Dennis Creaghan all took part in an April 24 reading of the show at Off Broadway's Duke Theatre, and all are in the Broadway cast, as are Louis Zorich, David Margulies, Schull and Gravatt. Jerry Zaks directs the comedy, which officially opens Nov. 11. Emanuel Azenberg, Ira Pittelman, James L. Nederlander, Scott Nederlander and Kevin McCollum comprise the producing team, according to spokepersons at the Bill Evans press office.

Seldes most recently finished a run in Edward Albee's The Play About the Baby. This spring she received (in addition to several award nominations) an OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence. Stadlen last graced Broadway as Banjo in the Roundabout Theatre Company's The Man Who Came to Dinner. He acted in the Broadway premiere of Simon's Laughter on the 23rd Floor, which was also directed by Zaks. Copeland has performed in plays ranging from The Torchbearers at the Drama Dept. to Over the River and Through the Woods Off Broadway. Korey garnered a wealth of notice for her turn as a lesbian in the musical The Wild Party at Manhattan Theatre Club and recently appeared in Suburb at the York Theatre Company. Julie Lund is best remembered as one of the slightly insane inhabitants of Christopher Durang's summer beach house in Betty's Summer Vacation, which played Playwrights Horizons two seasons ago. Blazer's credits include Titanic and the current Sundance Festival Funny Girl Utah. Margulies appeared in Conversations with My Father and a Guthrie Theatre mounting of The Price.

45 Seconds from Broadway (a reference to the old George M. Cohan song "45 Minutes from Broadway") pays homage to Time Square's Edison Cafe, known in theatrical circles as "The Polish Tearoom." Director Zaks would seem to be the right man for the job, since 45 Seconds looks to be a heartfelt comic valentine along the lines of Laughter on the 23rd Floor, which paid veiled tribute to Simon's early years writing for Sid Caesar's "Show of Shows." If all goes according to schedule, 45 Seconds will be the first Simon play in many years to open cold on Broadway. Over the past decade, Simon comedies has tried out in the regions only to experience short runs on Broadway, or opened and closed Off-Broadway. The Dinner Party reversed the playwright's fluctuating fortunes, becoming Simon's first Broadway hit in some time. The comedy earned back its investment and ends a season-long run at the Music Box Theatre Sept. 1.

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The Edison Cafe, located on W. 47th Street on the ground floor of the Edison Hotel, has long been a haunt for theatre types. Little more than a fancy diner (albeit with a highly decorative, salmon colored ceiling), it is prized for its casual atmosphere, inexpensive prices and Matzoh ball soup. The walls are covered with theatre posters and a corner table near the front door is always reserved for high-powered lunch meetings held by the Shubert Organization. August Wilson is know to frequent the place when he is in town.

As previously reported, the play will feature characters based on the cafe's owners, Harry and Frances Edelstein, comedian Jackie Mason, and various producers, actors, stage managers and the like.

Other Simon works include Biloxi Blues, Broadway Bound, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Rumors, God's Favorite, Lost in Yonkers, Come Blow Your Horn, Fools and the books for Little Me and The Goodbye Girl.