Hal Holbrook's Mark Twain Tonight to Return to Broadway in 2005

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17 Nov 2004

Hal Holbrook
Hal Holbrook
Photo by Aubrey Reuben
Actor Hal Holbrook will return to Broadway in 2005 in his most famous guise— author and humorist Mark Twain.

Mark Twain Tonight!, the show that launched Holbrook and perhaps hundreds of solo-show imitators, will arrive at a Broadway theatre to be announced in June 2005. As he did in 1966 and again in 1977, Emanuel Azenberg will produce. No official dates or announcement have been released.

Mark Twain Tonight! opened Off-Broadway at the 41st Theatre in 1959, and soon became a hit. Holbrook, who was a mere 34 at the time, then toured the show around the country and the world. It arrived on Broadway on March 22, 1966, where it played 85 performances. Holbrook won that year's Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play. The following year, the show was taped for a CBS special. The show drew a reported 30 million viewers and won an Emmy Award for Holbrook.

Since then, Holbrook—ever associated with the person of Twain, despite a varied career on stage and film—has periodically revived the show. Azenberg brought it back to Broadway in 1977, where it had a brief life.

Ironically, Holbrook is now age-appropriate for the part. He reportedly first played Twain when he was 29. He is now 79, a few years older than Twain is supposed to be in the work. The actor has impersonated the famous creator of "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn" more than 2,000 times.



Mark Twain Tonight! is widely acknowledged as the play that birthed a flood of solo biographical shows. Among them are: Give 'Em Hell, Harry, concerning Harry Truman, Will Rogers' USA, about the title humorist, and Bully, about Theodore Roosevelt, all starring James Whitmore; The Belle of Amherst, about Emily Dickinson, and Lucifer's Child, about Isak Dinesen, both starring Julie Harris; Mister Lincoln, starring Roy Doltrice as the president; Tru, starring Robert Morse as novelist Truman Capote; Lillian, with Zoe Caldwell as Lillian Hellmann; Barrymore, featuring Christopher Plummer as John of the famed acting family; Clarence Darrow, starring Henry Fonda as the trailblazing lawyer; and, more recently, 2002's The Mystery of Charles Dickens, starring Simon Callow.

Playwright William Luce, in particular, has made a living off the genre, penning The Belle of Amherst, Lucifer's Child, Barrymore and Lillian.

None of the productions has matched Twain in terms of popularity or longevity.