James Earl Jones Serves as Ringmaster of Family Circus in You Can't Take It With You

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16 Aug 2014

Scott Ellis
Photo by Monica Simoes

Ellis was not this production's first pilot. "The truth is Michael Wilson was involved at the beginning and Michael's schedule got mixed up," explained Ellis. The producers called him up. "They said. 'Michael can't do it, would you be interested?'"

This will be Ellis' first stab at a Kaufman and Hart play, and it will be Broadway's first staging in more than 30 years. The most recent rendition was director Ellis Rabb's 1983 production, which starred Jason Robards, Jr., Elizabeth Wilson, James Coco, Colleen Dewhurst and Maureen Anderman and has taken on the air of legend in the ensuing years.

"It's pretty spectacular," said Ellis, who has seen a tape of the production.

A lot has changed, of course, since 1936, when George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart concocted the farce, which put forth a kind of live-and-let-live, gentle collectivism as the cure for all life's ills during The Great Depression. The Vanderhof household doesn't much care what's going on outside their door, as long as everyone inside is content and feels cared for.

In today's very different political climate, however, Grandpa could be viewed differently. What with his anti-government refusal to pay taxes and the fireworks being manufactured in the basement, he's as close to the right-wing Libertarianism as he is to left wing, quasi-socialism.

Nielsen is not so sure. "This play is about collectivism," she said. "It is socialism. It is 'take care of each other.'"


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