PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: The Royal Family A Blast of Troupers!

By Harry Haun
09 Oct 2009

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Roberts, who will turn 70 on Oct. 22, showed up for the party, ran the press gauntlet and gave every impression of not being fatigued. "Yes, I did have a good time tonight," he admitted, and the outpouring of love and concern from the audience was not lost on him at all. "I was thrilled, of course. It was like I hoped it would be. I didn't anticipate it or expect it, but it was there, and I was very grateful it was there."

He brings a lightness to the character, who is the only sane person on the premises. The character, he relayed, was drawn from past associations in the theatre. "He's real. He's based on a lot of different people I've worked for over the past 50 years. There's a little of David Merrick in him and little of Alex Cohen, a lot of people I've worked for. I think it's written in there. He has been with this family for 50 years, and you get attached like you would over the years." There may even be an affair with Fanny in the closet. "Well, we don't know. We speculate about that. Certainly, he adores her, and she adores him. Rosemary is divine, just divine. They're all great."

Rogers gallops flamboyantly through his free-wheeling role, and you can catch some John Barrymore rasp in his line-readings. "I've seen lots of Barrymore movies," he said. "I'm a fan, but Tony Cavendish is Tony Cavendish, not necessarily Barrymore."

He didn't catch Fredric March's Oscar-nominated rendition of Tony in the George Cukor flick — deliberately: "I wanted to stay away from that because I like Fredric March so much I thought I might copy him — and I didn't want to copy outright. I'd rather steal from things that I have in my memory as opposed to straight-up theft."

Pine said he didn't mind his Ralph Bellamy also-ran position in the plot — this time rivaling Theatre rather than another man. "I always liked Ralph Bellamy and rooted for him, even though I knew Cary Grant had the inside track," he confessed.

The special chemistry he and Maxwell have on stage comes from a long-standing friendship. They have been neighbors in the same midtown high-rise for a good decade. "My wife teaches her son piano, and every time she would come into my apartment for her kid, I'd say, 'I'd like to do a play with you.' I finally got my wish."

Glover said he reveled in the role of an actor who is only just related to greatness. "It's heaven, just heaven," he said of the undertalented Herbert. "I understand him. He's not as gifted as some of his family members, but he's got dignity. Joe Maher, a brilliant actor, did the role in '76. I think a lot of us were very intimidated about that production, but we had Doug Hughes at the helm, and he's a genius."

Hughes knows of what he directs. His Tony-winning Da was Barnard Hughes. His mother, Helen Stenborg, is co-starring in Vigil at the DR2. And even his sister, Laura, is an actress. "I'm the only one who's not an actor, but I love actors. The reason I'm a director is that I want to be with actors. I am proud. I loved showing up for work every day. I loved working on it in previews. I loved going through the stage door to meet these people every afternoon. I think I have a line on what it's like to grow up in the theatre, yes."

Among the first nighters were publicist Shirley Herz and Mary Louise Wilson — both from the previous Royal Family (Herz the press rep and Wilson the previous Kitty) and both Tony winners — Julie Gilbert, the great-niece of Edna Ferber, and Anne Kaufman Schneider, daughter of George S. Kaufman,

Also in attendance: Frances Sternhagen, Cherry Jones, Kate Jennings Grant, Penny Fuller, Charles Busch, director Frank Dunlop, Rachel Dratch, Jackie Hoffman, playwright Alfred Uhry and his Miss Daisy (Dana Ivey), lyricist-director Richard Maltby Jr. with sis, Terrence McNally, Kate Mulgrew, Shawn Elliott and Donna Murphy, Alison Pill, Marian Seldes, Tony-winning composer Maury Yeston (who penned the Cavendishes' incidental music), Joel Grey with Blair Brown, Julie Gold, Paul Rudnick, White Christmas's director (Walter Bobbie) and adapter (David Ives).

"I had the time of my life tonight," exclaimed Tovah Feldshuh, who was Tony-nominated for Yentl the same year Harris was nominated for The Royal Family (they both lost to Irene Worth for Sweet Bird of Youth). "I'm ecstatic. Look: these actors were wonderful, and this production was wonderful, and any of us who have seen both have the two periods of our life running simultaneously as we watch it. We're in '75 and we're in 2009 at the same time."