Most Broadway shows would kill for an extra week of previews to hone the production before critics get a look at it, but not the upcoming revival of A Thousand Clowns. The show, which has been on the road since mid-May, is confident enough in its readiness for Broadway that producers recently pushed the opening date ahead: from July 17 to July 11. Previews began on Independence Day, July 4, at the Longacre Theatre.
Rugged Marlboro man Tom Selleck has reportedly always wanted to play the iconoclastic, slovenly and free spirited Murray Burns, the lead figure in A Thousand Clowns. [See PBOL feature on Selleck on the home page.] He got his chance this spring and summer. The new revival of Herb Gardner's comedy recently finished the last leg of its mini-tour before reaching Broadway for a limited run through Oct. 14. A Thousand Clowns started rehearsals April 10 and premiered at Duke University in Raleigh Durham, NC, May 15 for a run there that ended June 3. The next stop was Chicago's Shubert Theatre, June 5-17, followed by Boston's Shubert Theatre, June 19-July 1.
Clowns was supposed to come to Broadway this past season, but the timeframe was scotched owing to a lack of available Broadway houses. The 1,079-seat Longacre is a mid-sized house, comparable to the Music Box, Plymouth, Cort and Barrymore.
Co-starring with Selleck's Burns in Clowns are Barbara Garrick, as social-worker-turned-love-interest Sandra Markowitz and Nicolas King as young Nick Burns, the nephew Murray tries to raise in decidedly unfatherly way. Also in the cast are Mark Blum as Leo, Bradford Cover as Albert, and Robert LuPone (A Chorus Line, True West) as Arnold Burns. Designing the production are Allen Moyer (sets), Martin Pakledinaz (costumes), Brian MacDevitt (lighting) and Peter Fitzgerald (sound).
Selleck has made his fame and fortune as TV's "Magnum P.I.," as well as a movie career that's included "Three Men and a Baby" and "Her Alibi" along with a high-profile, guest-starring TV gig on “Friends.” In a story about plans for Clowns, the New York Times noted (Feb. 25, 2000) that Selleck had talked to Gardner about doing the show back in 1996, but that was just when the Roundabout Theatre Company had put their Broadway production together, one that starred Judd Hirsch and Marin Hinkle (now starring Off-Broadway in Blue Window).
Asked why he'd be interested in the role of a man who shirks work in favor of an easy, careless lifestyle, Selleck, 55, told the Times, "I'm 6'4". I was always being asked to do the other guy, the guy who always gets the girl."
A Thousand Clowns has an especially nostalgic tinge these days, since Murray Burns was originally played by the late Jason Robards, who repeated the role in the 1965 film.