By Matthew Blank
09 Apr 2012
Lansbury made her Broadway debut in 1957's Hotel Paradiso. She worked consistently on Broadway through the 1960s and 1970s, taking on such roles as Cora Hoover Hooper in Anyone Can Whistle, Rose in Gypsy, Mame Dennis in Mame, Anna in The King and I and Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd.
Following a nearly 25-year hiatus, she returned to the Great White Way in the 2007 production of Terrence McNally's Deuce. Lansbury is now back onstage as Mrs. Sue-Ellen Gamadge in the Gore Vidal's election-time comedy The Best Man.
Michael Wilson (Dividing the Estate, The Orphans' Home Cycle) directs an ensemble that includes two-time Tony Award winner James Earl Jones (Fences, The Great White Hope) as a dying former U.S. president ready to give his endorsement (but to whom?); Tony and Emmy Award winner John Larroquette as candidate William Russell (a former Secretary of State with a troubled marriage, a hint of mental illness); Emmy and Golden Globe winner Candice Bergen ("Murphy Brown") as Russell's wife; Emmy Award winner Eric McCormack as ruthless candidate Sen. Joseph Cantwell (who is billed as "naked ambition"); Tony Award winner Jefferson Mays (I Am My Own Wife) as a former Army colleague of the senator; Tony nominee Kerry Butler (Xanadu, Hairspray) as Cantwell's Southern spitfire wife; Drama Desk Award winner Michael McKean (The Pajama Game, Superior Donuts) as Russell's campaign manager; and five-time Tony Award winner Angela Lansbury (Mame, Sweeney Todd, Gypsy, Dear World) as Sue-Ellen, who has the ear of women voters.
The company also includes Curtis Billings, Corey Brill (as Cantwell's campaign manager), Tony Carlin, Donna Hanover (as a journalist), Sherman Howard, Olja Hrustic, Bill Kux (as a psychiatrist), James Lecesne, Dakin Matthews (as a senator), Angelica Page, Fred Parker Jr. and Amy Tribbey.
The auditorium of the Schoenfeld is festooned with red, white and blue bunting, placards and signs that suggest the world of the political convention, being held in Philadelphia. A TV journalist (played by Sherman Howard) in the house-left box provides commentary and exposition. Director Wilson also uses projections and live video to make this star package an even more eye-popping experience.
Here's how the producers bill The Best Man: "A play about power, ambition, political secrets, ruthlessness and the race for the presidency, Gore Vidal's The Best Man is set at the national convention where two candidates are vying for their party's nomination during the primary season. It's an inside look at the dirt-digging, double-dealing, triple-crossing chicanery of presidential electioneering and what could be more fun in a presidential campaign season than these theatrical fireworks."
John Gromada composes music for the production. The design team includes Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning scenic designer Derek McLane, Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning lighting designer Kenneth Posner, five-time Tony Award-nominated costume designer Ann Roth, hair designer Josh Marquette,and projection designer Peter Nigrini. Matthew Farrell is production stage manager.
The Best Man originally ran on Broadway in 1960 and was nominated for six Tony Awards including Best Play. Melvyn Douglas, portraying candidate William Russell, a former secretary of state, won the Tony Award for outstanding actor. The production ran for 521 performances.
The play last appeared on Broadway in September 2000 starring Elizabeth Ashley, Charles Durning, Christine Ebersole, Spalding Gray, Michael Learned, Chris Noth, Mark Blum, Jonathan Hadary and Jordan Lage. The production was honored with the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Revival of a Play.
Visit www.thebestmanonbroadway.com for information.
Tickets are also available by visiting Telecharge.com or by calling (212) 239-6200.