By Kenneth Jones
and David Lefkowitz
26 Jul 2002
The Broadway premiere of Terrence McNally's 1987 romance, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, with Edie Falco and Stanley Tucci, begins previews at the Belasco Theatre July 26, prior to an Aug. 8 opening.
The Araca Group, the team behind Broadway's Urinetown, is producing (with parners) the limited-run staging of the two-character ode to romance in the working class. The play, kissed by music by Debussey, focuses on the tentative relationship between a waitress and a short-order cook. Joe Mantello (who helmed McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion!) directs. John Lee Beatty is designing the set. The limited engagement plays only to Dec. 29.
The three Araca partners, Matthew Rego, Michael Rego and Hank Unger, were planning to bring the play to Broadway in the spring, but the stars' schedules did not allow for it. The historic Belasco's most recent tenant was The Mystery of Charles Dickens starring Simon Callow. The production's producers are The Araca Group, Jean Doumanian Productions, USA Ostar Theatricals, in association with Jam Theatricals and Ray and Kit Sawyer.
Tucci rose quickly through the Off-Broadway ranks (Scapin) to become a film star ("Big Night"). Just before "The Sopranos" made her an offer she couldn't refuse, Falco created the role of Terry in the Tony Award-winning Side Man. Tucci is currently seen on the feature film, "Road to Perdition," and Falco is sun-tanned in the John Sayles picture, "Sunshine State."
The standbys for Falco (Frankie) and Tucci (Johnny) are Lisa Leguillou and Tim Cummings.
A reading of Frankie and Johnny, with Falco and Tucci, was held in fall 2001. Designers include Brian MacDevitt (lighting), Scott Lahr (sound) and Laura Bauer (costumes).
Recent years have seen author McNally concentrate on gay themes (Corpus Christi, L!V!C!, The Lisbon Traviata) and libretti for big Broadway musicals (Ragtime, The Full Monty), but this earlier hit was a somewhat old-fashioned love story: Middle-aged boy meets plain-jane girl and, despite mutual wounds that haven't healed, romance ensues.
Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune originally played the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1987, and starred Kenneth Welsh and a pre-"Misery" Kathy Bates. Later couples would include Carol Kane and Bruce "Hill Street Blues" Weitz, and Bonnie Franklin and Tony Musante. The show would run 533 performances. The 1991 movie version, "Frankie and Johnny," was well-received, though some critics noted that stars Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer were a tad too glamorous to play a short-order cook and a waitress.
McNally's latest musical, A Man of No Importance, his collaboration with songwriters Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, bows Off-Broadway in September at Lincoln Center Theatre's Mitzi Newhouse.
The Belasco Theatre is at 111 W. 44th Street, east of Times Square. For ticket information, call (212) 239-6200.