Goldblum and Ruehl Begin Perfomances in West End's Prisoner of Second Avenue
By Mark Shenton
Jeff Goldblum and Mercedes Ruehl begin performances June 30 in a new West End production of Neil Simon's The Prisoner of Second Avenue — being produced under the auspices of the Old Vic Company/Old Vic Productions plc and Sonia Friedman Productions — at London's Vaudeville Theatre.
The official opening is July 13. The production is directed by Terry Johnson, who recently won the Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical for his Broadway revival of La Cage aux Folles.
Goldblum previously appeared on the London stage at the Old Vic in spring 2008 in Matthew Warchus' acclaimed production of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow, co-starring Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey.
In a press statement, Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey commented, "This is such an exciting development for The Old Vic and brings so many strong relationships together. First, to stage a production in the West End, taking our work to a new space and connecting with a wider audience. Second, I have long wanted to present a Neil Simon play in London. I adore his writing and we've had a great relationship over the years. Third, I will be delighted to welcome Jeff Goldblum back to London. We had such a great experience together in Speed-the-Plow and I couldn't be happier that he's going to appear in this remarkable play. We're looking forward to collaborating with Sonia Friedman again after our great success together with The Norman Conquests in New York."
Of the casting of Ruehl, he said in a separate statement, "We're really excited to introduce one of Broadway's greatest stars to London audiences. Mercedes and I played brother and sister in Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers back in 1991, so it’s great to get to welcome her to The Old Vic family. She is a wonderful actress and she and Jeff are a great pairing. They are dedicated and hard working disciples of the art of stagecraft."
The actors have themselves also made statements. Goldblum comments, "I'm so grateful and thrilled about being back in London on the stage. My recent experience at The Old Vic was the best time I've ever had. To work with Kevin Spacey, my friend and a true genius, will be delicious. I'm also excited to be back with the entire group at The Old Vic - a sterling, nourishing and gorgeous family. And how delightful to be working with Terry Johnson. I've been in love with Neil Simon's work my whole life. He's not only a comic genius, as everyone knows, but sage in matters of the soul as well."
Ruehl adds, "I have wanted to work on the London stage for many years, but never dreamed I'd have the good luck to land there in the company of two old friends, Neil Simon and Kevin Spacey. In the early nineties we three collaborated on the Pulitzer Prize winning Lost in Yonkers, and it is a joy to reunite with these lions, if not in winter, in the early autumn of our lives. (Make that late summer.) As for Jeff Goldblum, he is one of the few American actors who is both an extraordinary screen actor and a true animal of the stage. Also, he is a very funny man; I can tell from the cell phone messages he's been leaving me."
Goldblum's other theatre credits include The Pillowman on Broadway. His films include "Jurassic Park," "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," "Independence Day," "The Prince of Egypt," "Annie Hall," "The Big Chill," "The Fly", "The Right Stuff," "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "The Tall Guy." He was nominated for an Academy Award for directing the live-action short film "Little Surprises," was nominated for an Emmy Award for his television appearance on "Will and Grace," and served on the jury of the 1999 Cannes Film Festival.
Ruehl began her career in regional theatre in the U.S, appearing in plays by Shakespeare, Moliere, Shaw, Chekhov and Euripides, and she went on to receive Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and the Helen Hayes awards for her role in the original New York production of Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers in 1991, later reprising her role in the film. Other Broadway credits include The American Plan, The Goat or Who Is Sylvia (Outer Critics Circle Award, Tony nomination), The Rose Tattoo, Shadowbox (Tony nomination) and I’m Not Rappaport. Off-Broadway credits include The Occupant, Woman Before A Glass (Obie Award). Film credits include an Oscar-winning appearance in "The Fisher King" as well as roles in "Married to the Mob," "Warriors," "Big," "Heartburn," "Slaves of New York," "Another You," "Last Action Hero," "What’s Cooking," "The Amati Girls," "For Rosanna" and "The Minus Man." TV credits include "Indictment: The McMartin Trial," HBO's "Gia," Hallmark's "The Lost Child," Court T.V.'s "Guilt by Association," Showtime's "North Shore Fish," and CBS' "Loving Leah" as well as the Lifetime television films "Mom At Sixteen" and "A Girl Like Me." She has also had recurring roles on "Frasier" and HBO's "Entourage."
Set in the 1970's, The Prisoner of Second Avenue is a black comedy depicting a New York couple, Mel (Goldblum) and Edna Edison (Ruehl), enduring the trials and tribulations of city life. Mel is made redundant and the stress of an economic crisis and urban life pushes him into having a nervous breakdown. The family gathers to offer support, with Edna stoically bearing the burden of his disintegration and self-pity.
The play premiered on Broadway in 1971 where it starred Peter Falk and Lee Grant. It was subsequently made into a film in 1975, starring Jack Lemon and Anne Bancroft. It was last seen in the West End in 1999 at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in a production that starred Richard Dreyfus and Marsha Mason.
It is booking through Sept. 11. To book tickets, contact the box office on 0844 412 4663, or visit www.nimaxtheatres.com.
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