The biggest cat fight in town will commence Oct. 12 at The Roundabout Theatre Company's American Airlines Theatre, where a new revival of Clare Booth Luce's The Women begins previews for a Nov. 8 opening.
As previously reported, Kristen Johnston will star as the ultra bitchy Sylvia Fowler in Luce's comedy about marriage, divorce, sex and competition within a coven of cosmopolitan Manhattan females. Johnston will face off against Cynthia Nixon, who plays the virtuous and suffering wife, Mary Haines; Nixon must also contend with the husband-stealing devices of shop girl Crystal, played by Jennifer Tilly.
Also in the cast are Rue McClanahan as the joyful divorcee Countess De Lage, Amy Ryan as Peggy, Mary Louise Wilson as Mrs. Morehead, Lynne Collins as Miriam, Jennifer Coolidge as Edith and Lisa Emery as Nancy. Scott Elliott directs.
The dames will all be draped in costumes by ready-to-wear celebrity, and sometime cabaret artist, Isaac Mizrahi.
Nixon, who plays Miranda on TV's "Sex and the City," is a frequent stage presence. Her most recent role was in Douglas Carter Beane's The Country Club Off-Broadway. Emery was in Off-Broadway's Dinner With Friends. Tilly is known for a series of slinky performances in films such as "Bullets Over Broadway" and "Bound." Wilson starred in such productions as Full Gallop (as Diana Vreeland) and Cabaret. McClanahan, while taking an occasional stage turn, is best known from the sitcoms "Maude" and "The Golden Girls." Ryan starred in both Saved and Crimes of the Heart last season. As for Johnston, since the termination of her long-running sitcom, "Third Rock from the Sun," the Emmy Award-winner has returned to the theatre in a big way. In addition to The Women, she spent this past summer in The Smell of the Kill, a black comedy by Michele Lowe at the Berkshire Theatre Festival. The play may eventually land in New York City.
Sylvia Fowler is the most vindictive gossip in the nasty flock of vultures that peoples Luce's comedy, which has no male roles. The role was played by Ilka Chase in the original 1936 Broadway staging (it ran 657 performances) and Rosalind Russell filled the part in the 1939 George Cukor film (which also had Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford). In the play, Sylvia sends innocent Mary to her gossipy manicurist, Olga, knowing Olga will talk about the affair Mary's husband is having. In Reno, for a residency and a quick divorce, Mary communes with other divorcees.
The Women had a 1973 Broadway revival at the 46th Street Theatre starring Kim Hunter, Myrna Loy, Alexis Smith and Dorothy Loudon. A color M-G-M version, with songs, was called "The Opposite Sex."
Designers are Mizrahi (costumes), Derek McLane (sets), Brian MacDevitt (lighting) and Douglas J. Cuomo (sound).
Clare Booth (1903-1987) was a playwright, journalist, novelist, first U.S. Congresswoman from Connecticut and Ambassador to Italy. She was born in New York City. In 1935, after a divorce, she married Henry Luce, co founder of Time Magazine and later Life Magazine. In 1941 Clare Boothe Luce agreed to run for political office, filling the seat held by her late stepfather. She won the election and in 1949 was re-elected. At the request of President Eisenhower, she was named Ambassador to Italy in 1946. She was a member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan. Her life was the basis of the satiric Down Powell novel, "A Time to Be Born."
Director Elliott is founding and artistic director of The New Group Theater Company. His Broadway credits include the Tony Award-nominated Present Laughter and Three Sisters.
Costume designer Mizrahi was born in Brooklyn and attended the High School of Performing Arts as an acting major and studied fashion at Parsons School of Design. In 1987, Mizrahi opened his own clothing business and is a three time CFDA Designer of the Year award winner. In 1998 he closed the ready to wear company but still designs a shoe collection, a collection of coats and a collection of fine jewelry. Mizrahi has designed costumes for movies, theatre, dance and opera in collaboration with Mark Morris, Twyla Tharp, Bill T. Jones and Mikhail Baryshnikov. In 1995, he was the subject of the highly acclaimed documentary, "Unzipped," directed by Douglas Keeve. He recently appeared Off-Broadway in his one-man show, Les Mizrahi, produced by the Drama Department.
On Oct. 28, an all-star cast will come together in a production of The Women for a special one-off charity performance at the Old Vic Theatre in London.
The cast will include Diana Rigg, Zoe Wanamaker, Helena Bonham Carter, and Joan Collins. The production is being directed by Jude Kelly of the West Yorkshire Playhouse, and proceeds will go to the cancer charities CancerBACUP and Cancerkin.