Weisslers Set April 24 for Bway Opening of Miracle Worker; Swank Stars

News   Weisslers Set April 24 for Bway Opening of Miracle Worker; Swank Stars Producers Barry and Fran Weissler are targeting April 24, 2003, for the Music Box Broadway opening of their revival of The Miracle Worker, with the previously announced Hilary Swank as the plucky Annie Sullivan, teacher of Helen Keller.

Producers Barry and Fran Weissler are targeting April 24, 2003, for the Music Box Broadway opening of their revival of The Miracle Worker, with the previously announced Hilary Swank as the plucky Annie Sullivan, teacher of Helen Keller.

The production of William Gibson's shocking and inspirational drama will play a test run at Charlotte Repertory Theatre in North Carolina March 8-30, Rep artistic director Michael Bush previously told Playbill On Line. Broadway previews will follow.

As previously reported here, Marianne Elliott, an artistic director at London's Royal Exchange who recently helmed the Donmar Warehouse's staging of The Little Foxes, will direct The Miracle Worker. Swank won the Best Actress Academy Award for "Boys Don't Cry."

Poster art for the show in Charlotte has an image of Swank within a smeared handprint, and the words "NOTHING is beyond REACH."

* The complete cast has not been announced (nor has the first preview date), but it's thought that Skye Bartusiak — who starred with Swank in "The Affair of the Necklace," although her scenes were cut prior to the movie's debut — will play Helen Keller.

North Carolina performances of the Gibson play about the childhood of deaf and blind Keller go up at the 434-seat Booth Playhouse, in the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

Designers are Lez Brotherston (set and costumes) and Paul Gallo (lights). The troupe will rehearse in New York City and travel to Charlotte before returning to Manhattan in time for Tony Award eligibility.

The Charlotte run is "terrific" for the resident NC not-for profit, Rep producing artistic director Michael Bush told Playbill On-Line. "It's part of what I wanted to do when I decided to come down to Charlotte," said former New Yorker Bush, currently in his first full season in Charlotte. "I wanted to raise the Rep to a national profile. I'm glad to say that's happened so quickly."

The Miracle Worker, which still shocks a modern audiences for the physicality and violence from the actress playing Helen, won six Tony Awards, including one for Best Play in 1959. Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke were the original stars, and repeated their roles on film.

"It's very violent," Bush said, "and in talking to Marianne, I don't think we're going to shy away from it."

Bancroft and Duke both won Oscars for their performances. Duke later played Annie in a TV film of the work, with Melissa Gilbert as Helen. A theatrical sequel, Monday After the Miracle, showed Helen and Annie as adults, dealing with very different issues.

The NC staging replaces the announced Rep show, Jar the Floor, which gets bumped to 2003-2004. Single tickets for the Rep run are now on sale. For information about Charlotte Repertory Theatre, call (704) 372-1000 or visit www.charlotterep.org.

— By Kenneth Jones