Bway's Cuckoo's Nest Loses its Feathers, July 29

By David Lefkowitz
and Robert Simonson
21 Jun 2001

Perhaps the moral is that even winning a Tony Award or two isn't a guarantee of box office longevity. While Proof and The Producers continue as strong sellers, and 42nd Street undoubtedly received a boost from its Best Revival Tony win, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, while doing pretty well at the box office, has decided not to stick it out till the Sept. 16 extension date announced five days after its Tony win. Instead, the revival of Dale Wasserman's drama will end July 29.



Perhaps the moral is that even winning a Tony Award or two isn't a guarantee of box office longevity. While Proof and The Producers continue as strong sellers, and 42nd Street undoubtedly received a boost from its Best Revival Tony win, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, while doing pretty well at the box office, has decided not to stick it out till the Sept. 16 extension date announced five days after its Tony win. Instead, the revival of Dale Wasserman's drama will end July 29.

Production spokesperson Richard Kornberg noted that the closing wasn't simply a matter of the summer doldrums. The show's box office has been healthy, but it was discovered after the last extension that not all the cast members were available through mid-September. Having to recast and re-rehearse would "entail a large cost," which would be especially risky going into a tough theatre month like August. "It's better to leave on a high in July," said Kornberg.

The Steppenwolf Theatre Company production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was originally scheduled for 99 performances, through June 17. It then extended to July 29.

Asked why the show was closing when it was generally grossing more than $350K per week, producer Michael Leavitt told Broadway.com, "Why not leave while we're on top?" He also held the door open for the concept of limited stagings of Nest in other cities. "Since most of the out of-town reviews were real raves," spokesperson Kornberg told PBOL, "we've been getting calls since early on from many out-of-town venues. So the producers are investigating, especially since Fox [Theatricals] is based outside New York, in Chicago/St. Louis, anyway."

Wasserman's adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel is just the latest victim of the summer theatre doldrums, which have claimed not only the Tony-less A Class Act, Bells Are Ringing and Jane Eyre but The Invention of Love, which, despite Actor wins for both Robert Sean Leonard and Richard Easton, will close June 30; Follies, which ends July 15 despite a Best Musical nomination, and King Hedley II, which will shutter July 1, even though Viola Davis won for Featured Actress in a Play.

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The Broadway cast of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest matches that of the London and Chicago mountings, with Gary Sinise playing McMurphy (the Jack Nicholson role in the 1975 film) and Amy Morton playing Nurse Ratched. Also repeating their roles are Rick Snyder, K. Todd Freeman (The Song of Jacob Zulu) as patient friendly doctor, and Mariann Mayberry, all Steppenwolf ensemble members.

Rounding out the large cast are returning performers Ross Lehman, Tim Sampson, Eric Johner, Sarah Charipar, Stephanie Childers, Misha Kuznetsov, Danton Stone, Jeanine Morick, Bill Noble, Ron O.J. Parson, Christine Stolte, John Watson, Sr. and Afram Bill Williams.

The design team includes Robert Brill (sets), Laura Bauer (costumes), Kevin Rigdon (lights) and Rob Milburn (sound).

Sinise founded Steppenwolf with Kinney and Jeff Perry in Chicago in the mid-70s. He starred in dozens of the company's productions, including famous stagings of Balm in Gilead, True West and The Grapes of Wrath. In the last several years, he has turned into the Oscar-nominated film star of "Forrest Gump," "Apollo 13," "Ransom" and "Reindeer Games." This is his first New York stage acting credit since 1990's Grapes of Wrath. He was nominated for a 2001 Tony Award, but lost out to Richard Easton of The Invention of Love.

The last show Steppenwolf brought to Broadway was Sam Shepard's Buried Child, starring Lois Smith and James Gammon. Other noteworthy Steppenwolf-New York transfers include Orphans, Balm in Gilead and The Song of Jacob Zulu.