By Robert Simonson
25 Aug 2005
|Photo by Michal Daniel|
The new Public Theater production—the first New York revival since the original—stars Rosario Dawson as Julia, Oscar Isaac as Proteus, Norm Lewis as Valentine and Renée Elise Goldsberry as the object of everyone's affection (and, lately, the tongue-in-cheek subtitle of Edward Albee's play The Goat), Silvia.
Dawson will play Mimi in the upcoming film of Rent. She is known for such films as "Kids," "The 25th Hour" and "He Got Game." Norm Lewis' most recent credit was Dessa Rose at Lincoln Center. Goldsberry has appeared in The Lion King, while Isaac is a recent graduate of Juilliard.
The musical will play until Sept. 11 and is directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall—her first major assignment since winning a Tony Award for her choreography of Wonderful Town.
The cast also features Tracee Beazer, Bridget Berger, John Cariani (Fiddler on the Roof), Kate Chapman, David Costabile (Caroline, or Change), Christine Digiallonardo, Shakiem Evans, Ruben Flores, Danielle Lee Greaves, Joanne Javien, Mel Johnson Jr., Megan Lawrence (Urinetown), Raymond J. Lee, Paolo Montalban, Dequina Moore, Maurice Murphy, Richard Ruiz, Stacey Sergeant, Don Stephenson (The Producers), Amber Stone, Will Swenson, JD Webster and Noah Weisberg.
The production came together in a radical and unorthodox way. Papp hired Shapiro to direct, Guare to adapt the script and MacDermot to write some incidental musical. He then went on an extended vacation, leaving the creators to their own devices. He returned to find a full-fledged musical, with three dozen new songs (drawn from a wide variety of musical styles) and a multi-ethnic cast. The locale of the play had been switched from Milan and Verona to New York City and Puerto Rico, and the 1971 text made references to contemporary issues such as Vietnam and psychoanalysis.
According to the book "It's a Hit," Joseph Papp attended a rehearsal and thought the show a disaster. However, when it opened, critics were enthusiastic. Verona transferred to the St. James Theatre where it ran for 613 performances. It won 1972 Tony Awards for Best Musical (beating out Follies), Best Book of a Musical (Guare's only Tony Award to date), and a nomination for Best Original Score.
Stockard Channing and Jeff Goldblum played bit roles in the Broadway staging. Channing later headed a national tour.
Although previous Public announcement said the script would be "reimagined," Guare has said he only altered 29 words of the text for the current production.
Guare suggested Marshall as director when Oskar Eustis, the Public's artistic director, called about producing the show. Marshall and Guare worked together on Kiss Me, Kate and, at Encores!, Babes in Arms.