"Little Miss Sunshine" Will Be Helen Keller in Miracle Worker; Pill Will Be Title Character

By Kenneth Jones
28 Oct 2009

Abigail Breslin (top) and Alison Pill
Abigail Breslin (top) and Alison Pill
Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Academy Award nominee Abigail Breslin, of "Little Miss Sunshine," will play Helen Keller, and Tony Award nominee Alison Pill, of The Lieutenant of Inishmore and Off-Broadway's Blackbird, will play Annie Sullivan in Broadway's new production of The Miracle Worker.

Producer David Richenthal announced the casting and theatre on Oct. 28. Kate Whoriskey (Ruined) will direct the William Gibson play, to begin an in-the-round staging at Circle in the Square Theatre (235 West 50th Street) on Feb. 12, 2010, followed by an opening night of March 3 2010.

Additional casting will be announced shortly.

"Set in the South in the 1880s, The Miracle Worker tells the story of real-life Medal of Freedom winner Helen Keller, born blind and deaf, and the extraordinary teacher who taught her to communicate with the world, Annie Sullivan," according to production notes.

Young film star Breslin will make her Broadway debut in the role of Helen Keller. She appeared at age five in M. Night Shyamalan's 2002 film, "Signs," and received an Academy Award nomination for her critically-acclaimed title role performance in the film comedy "Little Miss Sunshine," for which she was Oscar-nominated in the Supporting Actress category. Breslin's other film credits include "Raising Helen," "No Reservations," "Definitely Maybe," "Nim's Island," "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl," "My Sister's Keeper" and the current release "Zombieland."

Pill returns to the stage following starring on Broadway in Mauritius and in the Off-Broadway hits reasons to be pretty and Blackbird, for which she received Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League Award nominations. She was nominated for a Tony Award as Featured Actress in a Play for her Broadway debut in The Lieutenant of Inishmore. She recently appeared in the feature film "Milk," and in the HBO series, "In Treatment."

Whoriskey most recently staged the acclaimed and much-extended world premiere of Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize winning play Ruined at the Goodman Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club. She directed the Goodman's Heartbreak House, The Rose Tattoo and the world premiere of Drowning Crow, plus Antigone at South Coast Repertory, where she also directed the world premiere of Nottage's Intimate Apparel. She staged the world premiere of Nottage's Fabulation at Playwrights Horizons.

Richenthal (Death of a Salesman, Long Days Journey Into Night, The Crucible and I Am My Own Wife) is the lead producer of Broadway's current revival of Finian's Rainbow.

The inspiring 1959 play based on the young life of the internationally-known Keller famously starred Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke, on stage and film. This is being billed as the 50th anniversary production of the play.

In 2003, Fran and Barry Weissler launched a Broadway-aimed Miracle Worker in North Carolina. Oscar winner Hilary Swank starred. The producers opted to close the show after its Charlotte run.

The Miracle Worker, which still shocks modern audiences for the physicality and violence from the actresses playing Helen and Annie, won six Tony Awards, including one for Best Play in 1960. Anne Bancroft (who won the Best Actress Tony) and Patty Duke were the original stars, and repeated their roles on film.

Bancroft and Duke both won Oscars for their performances. Duke later played Annie in a TV film of the work, with Melissa Gilbert as Helen. A theatrical sequel, Monday After the Miracle, showed Helen and Annie as adults, dealing with very different issues.

Playwright William Gibson died in 2008. Gibson's Miracle Worker was originally presented as a TV drama for "Playhouse 90." His plays include Two for the Seesaw, A Cry of Players, Golda, The Butterfingers Angel, Handy Dandy and Goodly Creatures. He is the author of a novel, "The Cobweb," as well as the musical version of Clifford Odets' Golden Boy. His books include "The Seesaw Log," "A Mass for the Dead," "A Season in Heaven" and a volume of poetry entitled "Winter Crook," plus "Shakespeare's Game," a critical study.

For more information, visit www.miracleworkeronbroadway.com.