The new Broadway production of Macbeth, starring Kelsey Grammer and Diane Venora, will have its first New York City preview on June 9. Macbeth began its out-of-town, Boston run on May 18. The Shakespeare tragedy continued at the Colonial Theatre through June 4, and then traveled to Broadway's Music Box Theatre. The play will officially open on Broadway June 15.
Kelsey Grammer, speaking backstage at the Tony Awards ceremony, discussed his upcoming turn as the Thane of Glamis for the first time since opening in the play in Boston. Asked why he chose to return to the stage in The Scottish Play, he said, "Well, I did it 20 years ago, and I've always wanted to do it again. When I did it, I was 25, I was too green. It's been on my mind to do it again for some years now."
Asked whether he was afraid of the New York theatre critics' judgement, he said, "Of course I am. I think I'm presented quite the biggest target the New York theatre has seen in some time." The tragedy was originally announced to play a Jujamcyn house in New York City (the Music Box is co-owned by the Shuberts and the Irving Berlin estate), but Waiting in the Wings, which closed May 28, stayed just a little too long at the O'Neill for Macbeth to make a timely move, and The Wild Party was (however temporarily) rejuvenated at the Virginia by a slew of Tony nominations. Amadeus, the previous Music Box tenant, closed May 14, shortly after Tony nominations were revealed on May 8.
The limited run on Macbeth will last eight weeks only. Also featured in the cast, directed by Terry Hands, are Michael Gross as Ross, Stephen Markle as Banquo, Kate Forbes as Lady Macduff, Peter Gerety as Seyton, Peter Michael Goetz as Duncan, Bruce A. Young as Macduff, John Ahlin and Mark Mineart as the two Murderers, Ty Burrell as Lennox, Austin Lysy as Donalbain, Sam Breslin Wright as Malcolm, Jacob Pitts as Fleance and Starla Benford, Kelly Hutchinson and Myra Lucretia Taylor as the three Witches.
The design team will include Timothy O'Brien (sets and costumes), Terry Hands (lighting) and Tom Morse (sound). Hands also directs. *
As first reported on Playbill On-Line on March 15, Grammer will play the Scottish king. Diane Venora will play Lady Macbeth.
"He's always been interested in doing some Shakespeare," said a production spokesperson when asked about the unusual assignment for the man known to millions as the snobbish, fussy, epicurean psychiatrist Frasier Crane.
Grammer's career over the past two decades has been mostly in television, first in "Cheers," then its spin-off, "Frasier." He perhaps got the idea to play Macbeth years ago, when he appeared in the Broadway Macbeth starring Glenda Jackson and Christopher Plummer. More recently, in March of 1999, he participated in an L.A. Concert production of Sweeney Todd. The Reprise! presentation also featured Christine Baranski, Davis Gaines, Dale Kristien and Melissa Manchester. Grammer was trained at Juillard.
Venora recently played Gertrude in the Public Theater mounting of Hamlet starring Liev Schreiber, though few theatregoers saw her performance. Shortly into the run, she was felled by a bronchial ailment. Thereafter, she seldom joined the cast.
Macbeth was last produced in New York 1999 by Theatre For a New Audience. That staging featured Bill Camp as Macbeth and Elizabeth Marvel as his wife (both are currently in Lydie Breeze at New York Theatre Workshop). Several season prior, Alec Baldwin and Angela Bassett played the leads in a Public Theater mounting. The tragic tale of a Scottish general whose overreaching, murderous ambition earns him first the throne and then a bloody end, "The Scottish Play" (as superstitious actors call it) is famously thought to be cursed and has a checkered production history. Two warring 1840s New York productions of Macbeth, starring American Edwin Forrest and Britisher William Macready, resulted in the infamous Astor Place Riot in which dozens lost their lives.
Emanuel Azenberg and SFX Theatrical will produce Macbeth.
--By Robert Simonson Macbeth opened to mixed reviews in Boston.
Grammer's costar in Macbeth is Diane Venora. The Shakespeare tragedy is due at the Music Box Theatre later this month.