By David Lefkowitz
04 Jan 1998
The Broadway revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum will close Jan. 4, 1998 after 36 previews and 715 performances at the St. James Theatre.
The revival, which saw Nathan Lane's return to Broadway, and then Whoopi Goldberg's gender-bending casting in the central role of Pseudolus, has starred David Alan Grier since mid summer. When Grier's recently extended contract ends Nov. 30, his role will be taken Dec. 2 through the closing by comedian Bob Amaral, who's been playing Lycus in the show.
There is precedent for a Lycus moving up to Pseudolus: Phil Silvers played Lycus in the movie version of the musical, then played Pseudolus in the 1972 Broadway revival.
The casting ends speculation on whether the show would close after Grier's departure (tickets have been selling at only 50-60 percent capacity), or if Whoopi Goldberg or original Pseudolus, Nathan Lane, would return for a limited engagement.
On Oct. 23, the New York Times reported that the George C. Wolfe (head of the NY Shakespeare Festival) is ready to bring his staging of the summer hit, On The Town, to the 1,623-seat St. James Theatre -- current home of Forum. The show's press reps had no information on the proposed move, though spokespersons at the Public Theatre confirmed the Times story and that Times reporter Rick Lyman had spoken directly to Wolfe.
Comedian Grier, of TV's "In Living Color," succeeded Whoopi Goldberg July 15, 1997, as Pseudolus in the Larry Gelbart/Stephen Sondheim spoof of ancient Rome. Grier, who made his mark in the recurring "Men on Film" movie critic parody skit ("Loved It! Hated It!"), has a long stage resume, having starred in the Jackie Robinson Broadway musical The First, and Off Broadway in A Soldier's Play. Other Grier credits include Dreamgirls and a Public Theatre production of The Merry Wives Of Windsor. He also appeared in the Encores! concert staging of One Touch Of Venus in New York.
Several names had come up as candidates to replace Grier, including Carol Burnett (apparently once close to taking the role, now out of the picture).
Appearing with Grier and Amaral are long-term cast members Jim Stanek & Jessica Boevers as the young lovers, and Cris Groenendal as Miles Gloriosus. Ross Lehman, who replaced Mark Linn-Baker, also continues as Hysterium. Robert Fitch recently took over the role of dirty old-man Senex from Dick Latessa, who has gone over to Neil Simon's Proposals. The revival's role was originated by Lewis J. Stadlen.
As for the Forum national tour, that won't begin until Sept. 1998, but producers have already chosen a lead: Rip Taylor.
He's best known as host of TV's "$1.98 Beauty Show" but has also done feature film cameos (Wayne's World) and previous stage work.
According to spokesperson Michael Vergoth (of Big League Touring), Forum auditions for other roles are projected for April 1998.
For tickets ($25-$75) and information on Broadway Forum call (212) 239-6200.