STAGE TO SCREENS: 10 Million Miles' Winningham and Sudduth; "Show Business" Opens

By Michael Buckley
06 May 2007

Following are some comments on Sudduth's stage appearances:

The Grapes of Wrath: "When I auditioned, [director] Frank Galati was out of town. I knocked on Randy Arney's door. [Arney was Steppenwolf's artistic director from 1987 to 1996.] I asked, 'Is there any way I can do a monologue?' He said, 'Do you know one?' I did Lopakhin's monologue from Cherry Orchard. He said, 'That was great; I'll tell Frank.' When I came back, they had cast me [in multiple roles].

"There were three different lives of Grapes. We did it ten weeks at Steppenwolf, then at the LaJolla Playhouse, and in London, and finally on Broadway, where we won the Tony as Best Play. Members of the cast always refer to the last rehearsal in Evanston, Illinois, [prior to the West End] as our favorite."

The Iceman Cometh: "A wonderful experience, on every level. I was the daytime bartender, opposite that great cast [including Kevin Spacey, Robert Sean Leonard, Tony Danza, and Michael Emerson]."



Twelfth Night: "I played Fabian, with the great Brian Murray and Max Wright. Those two guys are phenomenal! And Helen Hunt was phenomenal! Nick Hytner created a truly magnificent Shakespeare landscape, which I'll never forget."

On the Waterfront: "It was a study in theatre pathology, an ill-conceived production. Mitch Maxwell, who produced it, had no idea how complicated it was. Terry Kinney resigned [as director]; James Galdolfini was fired he was probably angling to get fired; Jerry Grayson, a great New York actor, had a heart attack onstage. It was a wild ride."

Writer's Block: "Just fantastic. You pinch yourself every day just to be in a room with [writer-director] Woody Allen. It was the first time he was directing a play. He was hilarious. If audiences weren't laughing appropriately, he'd come backstage at intermission. 'They don't deserve this play. They're rubes you can tell from the haircuts and shoes.'"

Marisol: "That was [playwright] Jose Rivera, and [director] Michael Greif. I played all these extremely troubled guys, one of whom becomes pregnant and gives birth to a still-born child. Another wild ride."

The Big Funk: "It was Joe Papp's last show at the Public, and the first time that John [Patrick] Shanley directed his own work. My first audition was with Shanley. I had a bad tooth [which required root canal] and he asked me to come back the next day to audition for Joe Papp. The next day I was in so much pain, but I got the part. Joe Papp came up to me at the table read: 'Oh, this is that great actor who does such terrible auditions.'

"During rehearsals, I was messing around, entertaining the cast, and doing some of my lines with a British accent. Shanley came by and said, 'That's it. That's what I want you to do.' In the published text, the character is identified as British. The script called for me to cover Jeanne Tripplehorn's entire head with Vaseline."

Sudduth credits the 1998 film "Ronin" with "getting me other kinds of work. [Director] John Frankenheimer wanted me; the producers wanted a name Tom Arnold or Randy Quaid. The deal was finally closed and they had to fly me to Paris on the Concorde. Kudos to John Frankenheimer."

A native of Wareham, MA, Sudduth moved to Danville, VA, when he was ten. His half-brother, Kohl Sudduth, "is a terrific actor." Sudduth's initial goal was to be a doctor, but he discovered, "I didn't have a passion for it." After getting a masters in theatre (University of Virginia), Sudduth worked as an actor in Chicago and eventually joined the Steppenwolf Company.

A singer-songwriter, Skipp Sudduth has an acoustic rock band called "Minus Ted," and (like Winningham) has recorded three CDs: "Hope and Damage," "Really Really," and "Hope and Damage Revisited." He can soon be seen in an upcoming movie, "Drunkboat," which co-stars John Malkovich, John Goodman, and Dana Delany.

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In May 2005, I attended a screening of a superb documentary, "Show Business: The Road to Broadway," produced and directed by Dori Berinstein. The film focuses on four musicals from the 2003-04 season: Avenue Q, Wicked, Taboo, and Caroline, or Change, chronicling them from their beginnings through Tony night. On May 11, the film, distributed by Regent Releasing and Liberation Entertainment, opens in New York City.

Berinstein claims that she shot approximately 400 hours for the 102-minute feature. "The rest," she jokes, "will be on the DVD." The only show of that season not included was The Boy from Oz. Explains Berinstein, "It was the one show to which we were not given access." She was inspired by the celebrated William Goldman book, "The Season," which covered all the 1967-68 Broadway shows. "I wanted to bring [Goldman's idea] to life."

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the movies, Michael Riedel is ready for his close-up. The New York Post columnist is one of five Broadway-scene commentators (including Patrick Pacheco, and critics Linda Winer, Jacques LeSourd and Charles Isherwood) who gather on four occasions to discuss (and dissect) different shows. At their first meeting, Riedel gleefully anticipates "more bombs, something to write about...that's what I'm looking forward to." Later, he comments on Wicked ("I saw it in San Francisco. It has a lot of problems") and inquires, "Who is the audience for Avenue Q?"

Among the commentators are composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz, critics Ben Brantley and John Lahr, songwriters Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, Tonya Pinkins, Alan Cumming (who co-produced the film), William Goldman, Boy George and Rosie O'Donnell.

Theatregoers, especially fans of musicals, will delight in Dori Berinstein's "Show Business: The Road to Broadway."