Marjorie Taub, the title character of Broadway's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, is so depressed about her Upper West Side life, she actually stoops.
Beginning July 31, Valerie Harper will start being the lady with the rounded shoulders and fine whine, replacing Linda Lavin, who created the role at Off-Broadway's Manhattan Theatre Club and then in the current commercial run. Lavin was nominated for a Best Actress Tony Award for her work. Her final performance in the play is July 29.
Harper was a stage actress before breaking into TV and memorably playing Rhoda Morgenstern in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and her own spinoff, "Rhoda." In 1998, she played author Pearl S. Buck in All Under Heaven, Off-Broadway.
The Tale at the Barrymore Theatre was nominated for a Best Play Tony, and Michele Lee was nommed for Best Featured Actress in a Play. Lee plays a childhood friend (named Lee), who shakes up Marjorie and her complacent husband in Busch's comedy, about searching for a sense of purpose and happiness after age 50. Tony Roberts is the allergist, Anil Kumar is the doorman and Shirl Bernheim is Majorie's prickly mother.
The whine began flowing freely on Broadway beginning Oct. 11, 2000, when Lavin began previews as a deeply discontented Upper West Side married lady, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The urban comedy — a sellout hit at Off-Broadway's MTC in the spring — officially opened on Broadway Nov. 2. MTC artistic director Lynne Meadow directed the production.
For the Broadway Allergist's Wife, MTC partners with producers Carol Shorenstein Hays, Daryl Roth, Stuart Thompson and Douglas S. Cramer. The cost to mount the show was $1.6 million, and the money has been recouped.
Tale was originally told Feb. 8-April 16, 2000 (it opened Feb. 29) at MTC's Stage II. Word of mouth, plus solid reviews, fueled a sellout.
Playwright Busch is the popular drag performer and scribe whose work includes Psycho Beach Party, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, The Green Heart and Die! Mommy! Die!
Lee was the strong-willed Karen on TV's "Knots Landing," appeared in the film, "How to Succeed Without Really Trying," and sang the songs of Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields in Broadway's Seesaw (earning a Tony Award nomination).
Lavin starred in TV's "Alice," but is also remembered for Broadway's Broadway Bound (she won the Best Actress Tony Award for playing Kate Jerome) and the most recent Broadway revival of Gypsy (after Tyne Daly). Show tune fans know her for a memorable secretary role in the cult Charles Strouse-Lee Adams musical, It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman.
Roberts appeared in Play It Again Sam, Sugar and Victor/Victoria on Broadway, and Woody Allen's film, "Annie Hall," among other pictures.
Bernheim appeared in the world premiere of Old Lady's Guide to Survival at The Humana Festival of New American Plays (and later Off-Broadway), and as Miss Lynch in Grease on Broadway and on tour. She is veteran of many American regional theaters.
Kumar made his Broadway debut in The Public Theater's Macbeth and was Dilip in the American premiere of Tom Stoppard's Indian Ink.
Broadway tickets are $30-$70. The Barrymore Theatre is at 243 W. 47th Street between Eighth Avenue and Broadway. Call (212) 239-6200 for information.