By Kenneth Jones
01 Sep 2001
The Broadway staging of Neil Simon's hit marriage-and-divorce comedy, The Dinner Party, folds its napkins Sept. 1 after 366 performances and 20 previews at the Music Box Theatre.
The John Rando-directed comedy began at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles (with a slightly different cast) in 1999 2000 and moved on to the Kennedy Center in summer 2000 where it was a sold-out hit before being plucked for a Broadway run. Broadway producers are Emanuel Azenberg, Ira Pittelman, Eric Krebs, Scott Nederlander, ShowOnDemand.com and Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum/Gordon Davidson.
John Ritter and Henry Winkler, TV stars with box office appeal, helped make the French-set comedy a hit. It opened on Broadway Oct. 19, 2000. Jan Maxwell, Veanne Cox, Len Cariou, Penny Fuller also starred. Larry Miller and Jon Lovitz have since replaced Ritter and Winkler, and Carolyn McCormick stepped into Maxwell's role this summer. Fuller was Tony Award-nominated for playing the hostess of the sadness-tinged comic play.
The work concerns men who gather as guests at a mysterious formal dinner party, in a private room at a Parisian restaurant. They don't know their host, but all is eventually revealed when their ex-wives begin arriving.
The comedy will have its regional debut at Miami's Coconut Grove Playhouse Oct. 30-Nov. 25, using the Broadway set designed by John Lee Beatty, and the staging moves to Paper Mill in Millburn, NJ, Jan. 9-Feb. 10, 2002. Casting has not been announced for the regional premieres. Rando will direct.
The next tenant at the Music Box Theatre will be the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Assassins, beginning previews Nov. 1.
Simon will not be away from Broadway for long. His new play, 45 Seconds From Broadway, about a theatre-district diner within a block of the famed street, opens at the Richard Rodgers Theatre Nov. 11 following previews that begin Oct. 16.
The Dinner Party's seriocomic tone and smallish cast size makes it a likely candidate for a large life in regional theatres.
Designers for the Broadway staging included Jane Greenwood (costumes), Brian MacDevitt (lighting) and Jon Gottlieb (sound).