Simon's Dinner Party Has Bway Previews Oct. 3, Opens Oct. 19; Maxwell to Dine

News   Simon's Dinner Party Has Bway Previews Oct. 3, Opens Oct. 19; Maxwell to Dine The Music Box has been confirmed as the intimate Broadway setting for Neil Simon's new play, The Dinner Party, beginning previews Oct. 3 and opening Oct. 19.

John Ritter, Henry Winkler and Len Cariou.
John Ritter, Henry Winkler and Len Cariou. (Photo by Photo by Carol Rosegg)

The Music Box has been confirmed as the intimate Broadway setting for Neil Simon's new play, The Dinner Party, beginning previews Oct. 3 and opening Oct. 19.

Actress Jan Maxwell has also been announced to join the starry cast that played a hit summer tryout in Washington DC.

The jewelbox Music Box, originally built by Irving Berlin, is said to be the perfect size for Simon's humane, humorous rumination on marriage and relationships, which takes place in the private dining room of a Paris restaurant.

All but one in the cast of the recent DC staging, at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theatre, will repeat their duties on Broadway. Henry Winkler, Len Cariou, John Ritter starred in DC as the guests who attend a private dinner party in a chic Paris restaurant. One by one, guests arrive to face an evening of surprises. Answers for the men unfold when ex-wives begin showing up in what has been described as a play by turns hilarious and emotionally honest. John Rando makes his Broadway directing debut.

Emanuel Azenberg, Ira Pittelman, Eric Krebs, Scott Nederlander, ShowOnDemand.com and Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum/Gordon Davidson are producing. The Broadway company includes DC cast members Veanne Cox (The Food Chain, Company) and Penny Fuller (Applause), with newcomer to-the-cast Jan Maxwell (The Sound of Music, Dancing at Lughnasa) rounding out the troupe (she takes over for Anette Michelle Sanders, who took over for Rita Wilson in the earlier Mark Taper world premiere in Los Angeles).

Ritter (of TV's "Three's Company") and Winkler (of TV's "Happy Days") starred in the play's Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum world premiere in Los Angeles in December 1999. Cox also appeared in L.A.

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On July 16, the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theatre saw the final performance of the John Rando-helmed staging that began in late 1999 at the Mark Taper Forum. The Kennedy Center run, slightly recast since L.A., was produced by The Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum.

Designers are John Lee Beatty (set), Jane Greenwood (costumes), Brian MacDevitt (lighting) and Jon Gottlieb (sound).

The Dinner Party opened June 22 at the Kennedy Center following previews that began June 17.

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Simon's 31st play is set in Paris at an upscale gourmet restaurant where a party is being thrown by a well-known divorce lawyer. Two tuxedoed strangers meet, and are joined by a third, confused guest. Ex-wives soon enter.

Lloyd Rose of The Washington Post, in her review, said it was "Neil Simon in new, dangerous territory" and called the work "laugh out loud funny" and "Simon's emotionally richest play." John Rando's direction "gracefully glides the evening to its sweet yet mournful ending."

The Dinner Party had its world premiere Dec. 2, 1999, at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. The comedy on marital and romantic themes, set in a private dining room of a chic Parisian restaurant, continued to Jan. 16, and rewrites by the author were said to have continued through the week of Christmas last year.

The L.A. cast included Frances Conroy (The Little Foxes), Cox, Edward Herrmann (Psychopathia Sexualis), Ritter, Los Angeles actress Sanders and Winkler.

Simon's Hotel Suite (a clutch of one-acts) is currently at Off Broadway's Gramercy Theatre. Other Simon works include Broadway Bound, Biloxi Blues, Brighton Beach Memoirs and Lost in Yonkers.Brighton Beach Memoirs will get a Coconut Grove Playhouse revival in Miami before coming to Broadway in 2001.

Tickets to The Dinner Party will be available by phone beginning Sept. 10 at (212) 239-6200. The Music Box box office, 239 W. 45th Street, opens Sept. 11.