Newman has cited health issues as the determining factor in his decision. In a statement, Newman said, "I'm very sorry I can't be part of this Westport Country Playhouse production, but I leave Of Mice and Men in Mark Lamos' very capable hands with the full support of my wife, Joanne Woodward, and Anne Keefe as Playhouse artistic directors."
The October production – running Oct. 7-25 – was to mark Newman's professional directorial stage debut. No additional details were provided for Newman's decision.
Press notes for the 1937-set Of Mice and Men state, "George dreams of owning land and being his own boss. His mentally challenged partner, Lennie, simply dreams of playing with rabbits. Having encountered problems at their last job, George and Lennie are forced to flee to a new farm for work, until Lennie's simple-minded strength gets them into trouble."
While casting is underway, Westport has announced a design team that includes Tony Award winner Michael Yeargan ( Light in the Piazza, South Pacific) as scenic designer, Jane Greenwood as costume designer, and John Gromada, who has composed the original score and will serve as sound designer.
The former artistic director of Hartford Stage, Lamos has directed the Broadway productions of Our Country's Good, Cymbeline, Seascape, The Rivals, The Gershwin's Fascinating Rhythm and The Deep Blue Sea. Newman made his Broadway debut in the original 1954 production of William Inge's Picnic. Among his Broadway credits are The Desperate Hours, Sweet Bird of Youth, Baby Want a Kiss, and the 2002 Westport transfer of Our Town. He earned an Academy Award for the film "The Color of Money." His screen appearances include "Road to Perdition," "The Sting," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "Cool Hand Luke," and the screen adaptations of Sweet Bird of Youth and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Subscription tickets for the Westport Country Playhouse's 2008 season are currently on sale. Tickets are available by calling (203) 227-4177 or by visiting www.westportplayhouse.org.
In its 78-season history, the Westport Country Playhouse — located in Westport, CT — has produced more than 700 plays, 35 of which have transferred to Broadway.