Rappaport Producer: 'I'm Not Closing'

By Kenneth Jones
28 Aug 2002

Judd Hirsch and Ben Vereen in I'm Not Rappaport.
Judd Hirsch and Ben Vereen in I'm Not Rappaport.
Photo by Photo by Carol Rosegg

I'm Not Rappaport, the Herb Gardner revival that is struggling to expand its audience in the days leading up to the historically lean weeks of September, is holding on tight, producing partner Roy Miller told Playbill On-Line Aug. 28.

I'm Not Rappaport, the Herb Gardner revival that is struggling to expand its audience in the days leading up to the historically lean weeks of September, is holding on tight, producing partner Roy Miller told Playbill On-Line Aug. 28.

The Broadway play—about two old men and their confrontations with each other and the outsiders in their lives, set in Central Park—has been running under a "provisional closing notice" for the past two weeks, which informs the cast the show could close at any moment. But Miller said the notice was not put up for a third week on Aug. 27 and he expects the show to weather September and be around in fall.

Judd Hirsch returns to his Tony Award-winning role as liberal and cranky Nat and Ben Vereen plays his foil, Midge. The play won the 1986 Tony Award for Best Play. An item in the New York Times reported Hirsch has put some of his own money into the show.



"The thing that keeps me going and keeps this show alive is to see this audience at the end of the show after any given performance," co-producer Miller said. "We have never not gotten a standing ovation. They are screaming for these guys like, as Ben says, they are rock stars with guitars."

The goal now is to pour fuel on the hot word of mouth and reignite interest. September is when the Jewish holidays impact sales and tourists go away. These are "sensitive weeks," Miller said, adding that the show will not be closing Sept. 1, a date when Noises Off, Private Lives and The Full Monty give up the ghost.

Rappaport ticket sales have slowly increased in recent weeks, and the show has gotten an infusion of cash and "support" from the marketing community, Miller said. The week of Aug. 19-25 Rappaport played to an average capacity of 48.4 percent at the Booth Theatre, taking a gross of $112,970 (of a $400,000 potential gross).

Given that New York has been preoccupied with the idea of "survival" over the past year, the play — about respecting the history of older people, who are survivors with much to offer — feels remarkably timely.

"It's such a New York show at an appropriate time," Miller said.

*

Lead producers Elliott Martin and Lewis Allen, and their partners, posted a "provisional closing notice" Tuesday Aug. 13, which gave the company notice that the play might close as early as Aug. 18. The show continued past Aug. 18 and another notice was posted Aug. 20. (Such a posting is in keeping with union rules; the show could close without such a posting, but the producers would have to pay more money to an unalerted troupe.)

The week of Aug. 5-11, I'm Not Rappaport grossed $96,520 (of a potential of more than $400,000), representing a capacity of 38.3 percent.

The New York Post reported Aug. 13 that the Paul Newman Our Town was likely to move into the Booth later in the 2002-03 season.

*

The Judd Hirsch-Ben Vereen revival of Herb Gardner's Central Park-set I'm Not Rappaport, directed by Daniel Sullivan, opened July 25 at the Booth Theatre, the same house it played when it won the 1986 Tony Award for Best Play.

Previews began there July 12, but this revival has its roots in a co-production in 2001-2002 shared by Coconut Grove Playhouse, Ford's Theatre and Paper Mill Playhouse.

Producers Elliott Martin and Lewis Allen brought the play to Broadway following the not-for-profit engagements. Their partners in the venture are Ronald Shapiro, Bud Yorkin, James Cushing, Roy Miller, Mari Nakachi, Tommy DeMaio and Zandu Productions.

The most recent run of the staging closed March 24 at Paper Mill: The State Theatre of New Jersey in Millburn, NJ.

*

The first Broadway Rappaport opened Off Broadway June 5, 1985, and moved to Broadway — to the Booth — in November 1985, waiting six months before snagging the Best Play Tony Award in 1986. Judd Hirsch also starred (and won a Tony for his work). For the new staging, Sullivan and Hirsch reunite as collaborators on the seriocomic play (originally seen in 1984 at Seattle Repertory Theatre) about two seniors who meet in Central Park in 1982 and confront a changing world — embodied by drug dealers, punks, an angry daughter and an ex-boss. Vereen is known for his Tony Award-winning turn in Pippin, plus his recent work in Fosse on Broadway.

Talking about how Vereen came to be cast, Sullivan said, "I know Herb and I had talked about Ben several times. Herb had seen Ben do it in San Francisco. I had not. It was a separate production. And Herb had good memories of that. So we got together and read the first act. I thought that was a really good actor there.... Ben is very detailed. It's all very psychologically based. You wouldn't know at all that there is a song-and-dance man there. He's completely submerged into the character."

Also re-creating their 1985-86 work are designers Tony Walton (set) and Tony winner for Rappaport Pat Collins (lighting).

Director Sullivan won the Best Director Tony Award in 2001 for Broadway's Proof.. The Rappaport cast includes Anthony Arkin (Danforth), Mimi Lieber (Clara), Steven Boyer (Gilley), Jeb Brown (Cowboy) and Tanya Clarke (Laurie), with David S. Howard, Adam Wade, Nurit Loppel, Michael Pemberton and Robert McClure standing by.

Sound designers are Duncan Robert Edwards and David F. Shapiro. Theresa Snider-Stein is costume designer.

Cleavon Little was Hirsch's original co-star; Little died in 1992. Water Matthau and Ossie Davis starred in the 1996 film version, directed by Gardner.

The Booth Theatre is at 222 W. 45th Street. For ticket information, call (212) 239-6200.