PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: 700 Sundays — Life With, and Without, Father

By Harry Haun
14 Nov 2013

Bryna McCann and Des McAnuff
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

By his estimate, 700 Sundays has been in the works five years longer than the title: "We started talking about this right after I did Tommy — about 20 years ago. We had a meeting here in New York where he said he was thinking about doing a one-man show and wanted me to think about developing it with him. We got together a couple of times after that, and then — coincidentally — about the time his mom got sick — I ran into him in Los Angeles when he was on his way to Seattle, which is all a part of the show. It was right after 9/11, and we talked about it again. About a year after that, we reached out to each other, and we've been working on it ever since."

The show is in a constant state of change, he said. "While it is structured very carefully, Billy is comfortable improvising in front of an audience, so it's always a line that is always shifting and changing. Every performance is fresh and new."

Director Christopher Ashley, the artistic chief of the La Jolla Playhouse where 700 Sundays was developed, was in town for the New York premiere of Little Miss Sunshine, which also started there, and to get a couple of Joe DiPietro projects off the ground: "One is a reading of an Old Hollywood murder mystery-comedy based on fact, The Unfortunate Murder of William Desmond Taylor, and we might have some juicy cast names in it for its very first reading. Then we're also doing preparations for a page-to-stage of his new musical with David Bryan called Chasing the Song at the La Jolla Playhouse this spring. It takes place in The Brill Building back when it was a musical mecca." Bryan and DiPietro's last team-effort was the Tony-winning Best Musical of 2010, Memphis, which Ashley is now reading for a London launch.



London is also an option for 700 Sundays, according to Crystal, "and I may even record it this time." Once the show was frozen, it was published by Warner Books.

His latest book, just published by Holt, is "Still Foolin 'Em" and already on the bestseller lists. Does that mean it might become fodder for his next show?

"Yes, I think there's definitely a possibility," he confessed, "but I don't think it's as much of a Broadway thing. I started out the book thinking, 'Well, I'll go and I'll do standup, and I'll write things about turning 65 and what's it's like for a man in this country with ageism. It started out that way, and that's how the book got sold, but then it started to flesh itself out into how did it lead up to being 65? What about my teens, my 20's, my 30's, my 40's, my 50's, avoiding things that are in 700 Sundays."

A one-man show is pretty heavy lifting, and some pretty heavy lifting preceded this revival. "I am older than when I did it before, but I'm in really good shape," Crystal said. "The legs are great. I work on my posture and my wind... I've been working out for weeks. I always stay in good shape. This is particularly good shape."

Crystal-gazers in attendance: A.D. Miles, head writer on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon"; Rachel Dratch, who's currently passing for a middle-school principal on ABC's "The Middles"; Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman; Rebecca Holt of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; comedian David Steinberg; long-stemmed and personable Brooke Shields; and a couple of "Real Housewives."

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Billy Crystal
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN