Benanti and Cerveris Withdraw from Naked Genius Reading; Johnston Will Be Gypsy Rose Lee

By Adam Hetrick
May 27, 2010

Kristen Johnston will replace Tony Award-winning actress Laura Benanti in the Mint Theater Company's June 14 reading of Gypsy Rose Lee's The Naked Genius.



Benanti, who earned a Tony Award for her performance in Gypsy, has withdrawn from the evening following a recent surgery. In addition, Benanti's In the Next Room co-star, Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris, who was also announced to appear, is no longer part of the event.

Johnston most recently starred as a demanding diva in the Mint's extended Off-Broadway production of So Help Me God last season and will now inhabit the legendary stripper, Gypsy Rose Lee, in the 8 PM benefit reading.

The Mint reveals that the reading will feature "the original, unadulterated script" of The Naked Genius. Eleanor Reissa will direct.

Additional casting will be announced shortly.

According to the Mint, "The Naked Genius, tells the story of a burlesque performer named Gypsy Rose Lee — author of a recently published memoir entitled 'I'll Bare All.' The cast of characters includes her manager, her mother, her publisher, four Chihuahuas and Ramona the Baby Chimp. It's a sweet farce about the struggle Gypsy faces between her desire for respectability and her burlesque roots."

Originally titled The Ghost in the Woodpile, the play's original producer renamed the production The Naked Genius and cast Joan Blondell (much to Lee's public displeasure) in the role of Honey Bee Carroll. Lee had written the part for herself. George S. Kaufman staged the play that ran for 36 performances at the Plymouth Theatre on Broadway.

Lee's son, Erik Preminger, and Anne Kaufman (whose father directed the original production of the play) will serve as co-chairs of the benefit that will begin with dinner at 6 PM at Caroline's on Broadway.

For tickets phone (212) 315-0231 or visit MintTheater.