PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: War Horse The Neighs Have It

By Harry Haun
15 Apr 2011


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Mariska Hargitay tried to stay demurely on the sidelines like the good wife while hubby Peter Hermann was being interviewed about his portrayal of a kind German doctor. Did Hermann the German make for an easy casting? "I think that it's always a great mystery what ends up getting you the role. You just never know."

Tell that to Leenya Rideout who plays Joey as a foal or T. Ryder Smith who plays Albert's uncle. "I guess I only do boy-and-his-horse shows," he said, "this and Equus, and if they do Three Men on a Horse on Broadway, I'm in." [They're doing it now, in fact, Off-Broadway in a production by TACT/The Actors Company Theatre, on Theatre Row to April 23.]

Theatregoer Lorenzo Pisoni, who played Nugget, the lead horse, in Broadway's last Equus and is now doing for Shakespeare in the Park, took note of the horse-puppetry here. "It's a different thing than what we did, but it's incredible," he said. "This is the second time I've seen it." As for his young master taking up another kind of hoofing, it didn't surprise him. "Daniel [Radcliffe] was always singing backstage."



The play's fight director, Tom Shaw, who, like B.H. Barry, slogs on with this lost art, admitted that he had his hands full with World War I combat. His spring plate is full, coming to this assignment from A Free Man of Color and The House of Blue Leaves. Now, he's girding his loins for some Shakespeare in the Park.

An unexpected recruit for this play, wig master Paul Huntley, revealed he provided facial hair for the troops — and, knowing him, extra mane for the horses.

Larry Villa and his wife came in from Clinton, IA, to see son Zach make his Broadway debut. "See" isn't quite the right word, but they knew where he was. There are three different teams of horses, usually three-man units each, and they are democratically rotated. "He plays the main horse tomorrow night, not tonight," explained Dad. "Tonight, he was one of the wounded horses and one of the wounded soldiers. He does a lot of different things in this show." When his son arrived at the party, he confirmed that he'd be Star Horse the following night — "but I'm in the back. Don't tell anybody I'm a horse's ass." Your secret is safe with me.

Since retiring from Mrs. Warren's Profession in November, Cherry Jones has been catching up on theatre, she was happy to say. "Yesterday, I saw the Andre Gregory-Wally Shawn Master Builder on East 10th Street, and it is magnificent. It'll have to move, so as many people who should see it will see it. Julie Haggerty is in it, and so is Lisa Joyce, who was Sister Jane in the tour of Doubt. She's really unbelievable in this."

Slipping in under everybody's radar, under the mighty cloak of the National, was a startlingly svelte Simon Russell Beale, who returns in August to play a mini-cab driver with some pretty heavy fare in a 2005 play by Simon Stephens called Bluebird. Next, in November, he said, he'll be returning to the National Theatre in London to play Stalin in Collaborators, the debut play of John Hodge, the author of "Trainspotting" and "Shallow Grave." It imagines a meeting between the Soviet dictator and playwright Mikhail Bulgakov.

Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Nicholas Hytner, co-artistic head of the National Theatre and twice a Tony-winning director on these shores (Carousel and The History Boys), said Collaborators and its new Cherry Orchard would make the cut for next season's "National Theatre Live Broadcasts" which are beamed abroad.

Also brandishing her British roots was "Sex and the City"-transplant Kim Cattrall, who finally expects to be on Broadway in November, reprising the Private Lives hit she did for director Richard Eyre on the West End a year ago — but Amanda's Elyot, Matthew Macfadyen, isn't coming with her. "He just got a new baby," she explained. A new American cast looks likely.

While waiting for hubby Maxwell Caulfield to join the party late from Cactus Flower, Juliet Mills scratched the scoop she gave me three parties ago. It now develops that she won't be doing the new Alan Ayckbourn, after all — the 73th play for the 73-year-old playwright, which will be surfacing in December as part of 59E59's Brits Off-Broadway series. "It meant returning to England for an eight-month commitment so I turned it down," the actress relayed. "I loved the play, though — and all of Alan's work. In fact, Max and I toured 20 towns in 20 weeks last year in Alan's Bedroom Farce."

Broadway's Boswell, Rick McKay, expects to Christmas-release the second of his film-documentary trilogy on The Great White Way — "Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age" — and rattled off its stars like a tobacco auctioneer: "Glenn Close, Robert Redford, Liza Minnelli, Al Pacino, Vanessa Redgrave, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, the entire original casts of Chicago and A Chorus Line — and more unknown, anonymous dancers than stars. I wanted to tell their stories, too."

Composer-conductor Andre Previn was singing the praises of the production at his table — "remarkable, absolutely remarkable."

Mixing among the visiting Brits like Mamma Mia! producer Judy Craymer and Noel Coward flame-keeper Barry Day were homies like Elaine Stritch, TV's Regis Philbin and wife Joy, producer-actress Tamara Tunie and hubby-singer Gregory Generet, Das Barbecu wordsmith Jim Luigs and producer Liz McCann.

A lot of Lincoln Center Theater alums were in attendance: director-choreographer Graciela Daniele and lighting designer Jules Fisher, its Abe Lincoln in Illinois (Sam Waterston), prolific playwright A.R. "Pete" Gurney Jr. with his Molly, South Pacific director Bartlett Sher and Austin Pendleton, currently the book writer of the Mitzi Newhouse's Candida musical, A Minister's Wife.

Richard Easton must have found the evening vaguely déjà vu, having survived the Somme Valley slaughter once, when it was fought below Beaumont in the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre in Frank McGuinness' 2003 Observe the Sons of the Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, and now having to review that tragic scene again through the eyes of a horse in the field.

Director-choreographer Susan Stroman currently has designs on the Newhouse for a musical Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens are writing for her. "It still needs a name," she allowed, "but we'll know a lot more in June when we do a workshop. It'll be great to be back in the building."

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