By David Lefkowitz
and Harry Haun
06 May 1997
It was the last show of the Broadway season, and it may well outlast a few other contenders. London Assurance, a revival of Dion Boucicault's 19th-century mistaken identity romp, opened April 30 at the Roundabout Theatre to strong reviews, especially for lead (and Broadway favorite) Brian Bedford. The favorable response, plus Tony nominations for Best Play Revival, Actor (Bedford) and Featured Actress (Helen Carey), have led the producers to extend the limited-run show an extra week, from original closing date June 22, to June 29.
London Assurance is the final show eligible for the 1997 Tony Awards, scheduled to be given June 1 at Radio City Music Hall. Tony winner Bedford, in his first New York appearance since his January 1997 induction into the Theatre Hall of Fame, stars in the vintage farce as aging London widower, Sir Harcourt Courtly, who goes courting in Gloucestershire and winds up wooing the young heiress whom his son also fancies.
Rainn Wilson, who appeared in The Tempest on Broadway, plays the son, and Kathryn Meisle (last seen in The Rehearsal at the Roundabout) is the object of the father/son affections. Helen Carey essays the role of the aggressive charmer who manages to turn this triangle into a smooth-fitting rectangle.
Contributing to the fun: Christopher Evan Welch of Scapin, David Schramm (Roy on TV's "Wings") and John Christopher Jones from Picasso at the Lapin Agile and more recently A Month in the Country at the Roundabout. John Horton, Ken Jennings, Robert Neill, Rita Pietropinto and Andrew Weems round out the cast.
Designers for London Assurance are Derek McLane (sets), Catherine Zuber (costumes), Blake Burba (lighting) and Mark Bennett (sound).
Director Joe Dowling began rehearsals March 18. The show started previewing April 16 for an opening on April 30, the deadline day for Tony Award eligibility. The show is set to run through June 29.
Bedford's last Tony bid was for a Roundabout show, The Moliere Comed and he won the award for Moliere's TheSchool for Wives; he got Tony-nominated for Shakespeare (Timon of Athens) and for Two Shakespearean Actors.
At the annual Tony Nominations Brunch, given at Sardi's Restaurant May 14, actress Carey told Playbill On-Line she approached her rambunctious character through the character's name: Lady Gay Spanker. "Well, the name had a different meaning at the time of the play. `Gay' just meant happy; a `spanker' was a kind of spirited horse. I definitely used that horse metaphor, because the character deals a lot better with horses and dogs than with humans."
Director Dowling is the Guthrie Theatre's artistic director. His last Broadway assignment was the Roundabout's Philadelphia, Here I Come!.
Other plays by Irish playwright Boucicault include The Corsican Brothers (1852) and Jessie Brown (1858). He most likely London Assurance before his 21st birthday, and the show premiered March 4, 1841 at Covent Garden where it ran for three months.
London Assurance was last on Broadway in 1974, opening in December of that year and starring Donald Sinden, Roger Rees and Polly Adams.
For tickets ($55) and information on London Assurance at the Roundabout call (212) 869-8400.