The 39 Steps, Broadway's Madcap Caper, Reopens at Cort May 8

By Kenneth Jones
May 8, 2008

The tireless four performers who created a thickly populated world of intrigue in The 39 Steps earlier this year for The Roundabout Theatre Company resurfaced April 29 at Broadway's Cort Theatre for an open-ended run. The official opening of the commercial transfer is May 8.



At every performance there are 39 seats available at $39. The troupers re-launched their show in previews one day after receiving three Drama Desk Award nominations including one for Unique Theatrical Experience.

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Charles Edwards, Arnie Burton, Cliff Saunders and Jennifer Ferrin in The 39 Steps.
photo by Joan Marcus
The gleefully silly stage version of the classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller takes refuge at the intimate Cort, where The Homecoming recently played.

The quick-change comedy spoof left the American Airlines Theatre after its 8 PM March 29 performance.

Roundabout extended its run of the Olivier Award-winning lark by one week, to March 29. Audiences and critics embraced the Broadway premiere, which offered specific references to a handful of Hitchcock pictures even those that came after Hitch's 1935 movie "The 39 Steps." (Yes, there is a shower curtain gag that recalls "Psycho.")

Following a Boston engagement presented by the Huntington Theatre Company, the production began Broadway previews at Roundabout American Airlines on Jan. 4 toward a Jan. 15 opening.

Maria Aitken, director of the original hit London production (which is still running), also staged this U.S. version, which boasts original star Charles Edwards, who played the role of starchily handsome Richard Hannay in the London cast.

At the Cort, Edwards is again joined by Jennifer Ferrin (in the female roles of Annabella, Pamela and Margaret) with Arnie Burton and Cliff Saunders in an array of roles (often, more than one at a time) ranging from train passengers to secret agents to innkeepers to a bog yes, they play inanimate objects. (This same cast starred in the 2007 Boston run. The company also includes understudies Claire Brownell, Cameron Fulmar and Mark Shanahan.)

The 39 Steps is produced by Bob Boyett, Harriet Newman Leve/Ron Nicynski, Stewart F. Lane/Bonnie Comley, Manocherian Golden Prods., Olympus Theatricals/Douglas Denoff, Pam Laudenslager/Pat Addiss, Roundabout Theatre Company (Todd Haimes, artistic director; Harold Wolpert, managing director; Julia Levy, executive director), Huntington Theatre Company (Nicholas Martin, artistic director; Michael Maso, managing director) and Edward Snape for Fiery Angel Ltd.

Patrick Barlow's stage adaptation of The 39 Steps is based on an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon and the novel penned by John Buchan in 1915. The work is perhaps most widely known as a 1935 Hitchcock film, but the tale was also seen in movie re-makes.

With a nod to the entire Hitchcock oeuvre, four players take on all the characters involved in this "whodunit, part espionage thriller and part slapstick comedy," as the high-impact, low-tech work is billed.

The 39 Steps begins as "Richard Hannay is lured into a world of intrigue by a mysterious woman claiming to be a spy," according to production notes. "When she winds up dead in his flat, he flees London with the police hot on his trail."

The design team includes Peter McKintosh (scenic and costume), Kevin Adams (lighting) and Mic Pool (sound). Adams and Pool snagged Drama Desk nominations for their work.

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The 39 Steps was originally presented onstage by North Country Theatre in April 1996 at the Georgian Theatre, Richmond, North Yorkshire. The show played London's Tricycle Theatre in 2006 and then transferred to the West End's Criterion Theatre and earned the 2007 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.

Performances are Tuesday at 7 PM, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 PM, with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, Sunday at 3 PM.

For tickets to The 39 Steps, call (212) 239-6200 or visit www.telecharge.com or the Cort Theatre box office, 138 W. 48th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.

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Here's how the producers bill the show: "Mix Alfred Hitchcock's cinematic masterpiece with a juicy spy novel. Then, add the manic dash of vintage Monty Python and you have The 39 Steps equal parts hilarious whodunit, espionage thriller and quick-change comedy, adapted for the stage from Hitchcock's famous 1935 film and John Buchan's 1915 novel. Seeking a frivolous night out at the theatre, Richard Hannay is lured into a world of intrigue by a mysterious woman claiming to be a spy. When she winds up dead in his flat, he flees London with the police hot on his trail."

Dialect coach is Stephen Gabis. Original movement was created by Toby Sedgwick. Additional movement created by Christopher Bayes. Production management is by Aurora Productions. Production stage manager is Nevin Hedley.

For more information visit www.39StepsonBroadway.com.