PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Glengarry Glen Ross; Hey, Who Killed the Klieg Lights?

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09 Dec 2012

Bobby Cannavale as Ricky Roma in <I>Glengarry Glen Ross.</I>
Bobby Cannavale as Ricky Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross.
Photo by Scott Landis

Meet the first-nighters at the Broadway opening of Glengarry Glen Ross starring Al Pacino and directed by Daniel Sullivan.


"Well, do you see any photographers?" said Jeffrey Richards' mink-stoled senior-publicist, Irene Gandy, her arm sweeping expansively across the street front of the Schoenfeld where their revival of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross opened Dec. 8.

Now that she mentioned it, the area did seem bizarrely pure of paparazzi. "The opening night party for this was Nov. 11," she informed me for the first time. "It was for friends and family only." And fotogs, too, apparently. "This is the press opening."

The press I spied in attendance consisted of a Playbill editor I spotted from across a packed-to-capacity theatre and, when I happened to pass in front of a mirror, me.

This is really Richards' re-revival of Glengarry Glen Ross, having produced a very successful and star-splattered version eight years ago, directed with a powerhouse punch by Joe Mantello. Richards only publicized the original 1984 Broadway edition, which Gregory Mosher directed to a Tony nomination and a Pulitzer Prize.

Essentially, it's an ensemble piece set in the shark-eat-shark world of Chicago real-estate salesman in 1983 (when the play world-premiered at London's National Theatre, making this the 30th anniversary production). Mamet clerked in such an office in the '70s, setting up salesmen's appointments (and noting their imperfections, apparently).


Al Pacino as Shelly Levene.
photo by Scott Landis

Among a show of all hands, one hand is raised higher in the writing and the acting than the others — that of the blisteringly profane, hammer-hard, top-dog alpha salesman, Richard ("Ricky") Roma. The role has never been performed on Broadway without winning a Featured Actor Tony for the actor playing him (Joe Mantegna in 1984 and Liev Schreiber in 2005), both times catching considerable competitive heat in that category from the actor playing Shelly Levene, the washed-up remains of a one-time Roma (Robert Prosky in 1984 and Alan Alda in 2005).

True to form, Roma won Al Pacino a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination in the 1992 film version — but not the actual award. However, that performance is said to have cinched his Best Actor Oscar win that same year for "Scent of a Woman." It didn't hurt, and it may have helped him over an impasse. He and Geraldine Page — both of them Actors Studio giants — required an unprecedented eight nominations before they won; Peter O'Toole's eight nominations went unrewarded, though he did earn an honorary Oscar for his lifetime achievements.

The rub is that the film's Shelly Levene, Jack Lemmon, won a couple of Best Actor honors — from the National Board of Review and at the Venice Film Festival.


One doesn't know how well that sat with Pacino, but here he is back in Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway, playing Shelly as a star turn directly to the audience, often seemingly oblivious to the other actors on stage. Critics may carp, but the audience plainly reveled in the one-on-one. Since previews began Oct. 16, Glengarry Glen Ross has been topping the list of Broadway's top-grossing straight plays (i.e., non-musicals), and no one appears to have forgotten why they are at the Schoenfeld.


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