Wise Guys will begin its month-long, Off-Broadway, preparatory workshop at New York Theatre Workshop on Oct. 29. The East Village theatre will provide a testing ground for the new Broadway-bound, Stephen Sondheim-John Weidman musical until Nov. 20. Nathan Lane and Victor Garber will play the lead roles of eccentric brothers Addison and Wilson Mizner.
Other cast members include Candy Buckley, as Mama Mizner, Michael Hall, as Paris Singer, as well as Lauren Ward, Kevin Chamberlin, Christopher Fitzgerald and Nancy Opel. Also in the cast are Brooks Ashmanskas, Jessica Boevers, Jessica Molaskey, William Parry, Clarke Thorell and Ray Wills.
Sondheim's vaudeville-style musical biography will cover 40 years in the lives of the Mizner brothers, from the 1890s to the 1930s. Wise Guys, first conceived of by Sondheim some four decades ago, was commissioned by the Kennedy Center in D.C. and was originally scheduled to open in fall 1996. Since then, it had been repeatedly postponed.
Tickets for the workshop production will be available only to renewing New York Theatre Workshop members (newly joined members are out of luck). No public tickets will be available.
Lane and Garber are stage talents well known to theatre audiences. Both Tony-nominated actors (Lane has won), Lane most recently appeared at City Center in the Encores! production of Do, Re, Mi, while Garber's most recent New York role was Art. Candy Buckley, who will play the role formerly intended for Debra Monk, has been seen in such off-Broadway efforts as Communicating Doors, Defying Gravity and View of the Dome.
Lauren Ward made a splash Off-Broadway several seasons back in the musical Violet at Playwrights Horizons. Since then, she has appeared in 1776 on Broadway and in Cy Coleman's Exactly Like You at the York Theatre Company.
Christopher Fitzgerald formerly played the apostle Thomas in Terrence McNally's Corpus Christi. Chamberlin has been seen in such recent musicals, on Broadway and Off, as Triumph of Love, As Thousands Cheer and The Zeigfeld Follies of 1936.
Both Sondheim and Weidman are currently represented by other works on the New York theatre scene. The Sondheim revue, Putting It Together, starring Carol Burnett, starts previews on Broadway Oct. 30. And Weidman's hit collaboration with choreographer Susan Stroman, Contact, is now playing to capacity audiences at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse and will transfer to the bigger Vivian Beaumont in March 2000.
Producers have announced a Broadway opening date of April 27, though a theatre is yet to be announced.
--By Robert Simonson