PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Harvey Leads a Mary Chase

By Harry Haun
15 Jun 2012

Morgan Spector
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
The inmates haven't completely taken over the asylum. Still relatively in charge — and the straightest people on the premises — are the young doctor and nurse on duty, both oblivious they're falling in love. "It's like a slow burn between Miss Kelly and Dr. Sanderson — he doesn't quite come around until the end — and it's so much fun to play," insisted Holley Fain. "I love that she's looking for someone to see the good in her. I think she sees the positives in people, and she's kinda waiting for someone to do the same for her. Luckily, in the play, you get to see Elwood come along and kinda do that for her, and it changes her life completely — in a day."

Playing it straight on stage is a hard job, according to her love interest, Morgan Spector. "It's like in basketball — it's all assists," he said. Most recently, he was seen to good advantage Off-Broadway as a sexy Russkie in Russian Transport, and he was toying with the idea of reviving the accent. "Oh, yeah, I thought about throwing it in there in the seduction scene with the nurse because ladies love Russian. Actually, the romance was the trickiest thing about that part."

The most grounded character on stage may well be the funniest — Duane Wilson, the sanitarium orderly struggling to keep his very thick head above the craziness churning around him despite the changes of signals every ten minutes. Gruff, no-nonsense, dead-on, Rich Sommer makes a perfect landing on Broadway.

"I can't believe it," he said of his new career niche as a Broadway actor. "It's a very, very exciting thing to be a part of. I've thought about Broadway since I heard about Broadway so to be a part of it now, a part of the lineage — it's sorta mind-boggling."

He's not the first person to make his Broadway bow as this lovable lug. Jesse White gave a breakout performance of him in the original production, went on a prolific acting career and finally ended his days in commercials as The Maytag Repairman.

A delightfully ditzy bit is delivered by Angela Paton, showing cloudy concern that she can't quite make out this six-foot-three-and-a-half-inch rabbit Elwood's introduction to her. There's a quiet desperation around her eyes and smile.

She has had a brush with these eccentrics before. "Sixty years ago," she said, "I did Mrytle Mae in summer stock at the Chase Barn Playhouse. The seats were old opera seats provided by a New York Times opera reviewer named Chase — no relation to Mary Chase. That was the production I met my husband, Robert Goldsby. He has just written a book called 'Moliere on Stage: What's So Funny?'"

David Rockwell
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

David Rockwell's two sets — a stuffy, handsomely paneled library in a old house in Denver and a squeaky clean rest-home waiting-room — go into their scene-change dance with cleverly worked-out grace and precision. His next sets will be for Lucky Guy, Nora Ephron's play about Mike McAlary, the columnist for the New York Post and the New York Daily News. (George C. Wolfe is directing Tom Hanks' McAlary.) It may be recalled Rockwell recently duplicated The New York Times for the Atlantic's CQ/CX. "This is my 'Newsroom' year," he explained.

Debra Monk rates special thanks in a special box on the cast page. It seems that she recorded the voice that's "entertaining" the ladies club in the living room next to the library. In person, just back from the Chicago production of The Iceman Cometh, she was singing the praises of Nathan Lane's Hickey.

Parsons partisans included The Normal Heart contingent (Joe Mantello and Tony winners Ellen Barkin and John Benjamin Hickey) and the Texas contingent (Hickey, Julie White and Woody Harrelson). "The last season of 'The Big C' wraps on Sunday," Hickey noted. "After that, I'm an ocean of unemployment, so if you hear of anything . . ."

Harrison just put into rehearsal June 11 a play he co-wrote with Frankie Hyman and is directing, Bullet for Adolf, which starts previewing July 19 at New World Stages. "The interesting thing is that it's all actual people we met doing construction work in Houston during the summer of '83. After that summer, I wanted to make a play about them they were such good characters. We didn't have much of a plot. We had to fictionalize that a bit. We got it together and did it in Toronto a little over a year ago in the spring. For the New York production, we're bringing two people from the Toronto version — the two comedic geniuses: David Coomber and Brandon Coffey — and the rest is cast here."

Also in attendance: Bobby Cannavale, "The Good Wife" herself Julianna Margulies, "Mad Man" John Slattery, NBC Newsman David Gregory (son of Harvey rights-holder Don Gregory), Neil Simon and his Sugar, Elaine Joyce, comedienne-producer Jamie de Roy and her sugar, Tony Roberts, The Unsinkable Molly Brown revisionist Dick Scanlan, Café Carlyle-bound chanteuse and reformed bank-robber Laura Osnes, chronically employed Tovah Feldshuh (whose next role is real: Mother of the Groom at the Harvard Club on Aug. 5), John Kellogg Hodgman from "The Daily Show," Charles Randolph-Wright with Valisia Lekae, "30 Rock"/"Rock of Ages" brick Alec Baldwin and Hilaria Thomas, and Nolan Gerard Funk and Katie Holliday.

The opening-night party was held at the Liberty Theatre at Famous Dave's on West 42nd, awash in and obscured by the neons outside. There were two specialty cocktails: Rokk Vodka with orange juice ("Charlie's Concoction," presumably a specialty of the house at one of Elwood's local dives) and Rokk Apple Vodka With Cranberry Juice ("Formula 977," a needleful of which will eliminate tall white rabbits from Elwood's vision and give him pink elephants like the rest of us).

View highlights from the show: