Al Pacino Leads The Merchant of Venice, Opening on Broadway Nov. 13
By Adam Hetrick
After a heralded run this summer as part of Shakespeare in the Park, the Public Theater production of The Merchant of Venice, starring Academy Award-winning actor Al Pacino, officially opens on Broadway Nov. 13 at the Broadhurst Theatre.
The Broadway production marks Pacino's third time inhabiting the role of the unflinching Jewish moneylender. He also appeared as Shylock in Michael Radford's screen adaptation of Merchant to acclaim in 2004. Tony Award-winning director Daniel Sullivan (Proof) stages the dark take on the tale of greed, love, faith and vengeance, which brings a brutal pathos to Shakespeare's comedy.
Merchant began performances Oct. 19 and will play a limited 78-performance engagement through Jan. 9, 2011. The Public Theater, Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel produce the Broadway outing.
The Broadway company, which reunites members of the Shakespeare in the Park run and new cast members, celebrated their Broadway engagement Nov. 7; however, members of the press were not invited to review the production until Lily Rabe (The American Plan, Heartbreak House, Steel Magnolias), who stars as Portia, returned to the production. Rabe had been absent from the play in the days leading up to the death of her mother, Academy Award-nominated actress Jill Clayburgh. Rabe resumed performances Nov. 6.
Theatre fans hoping to see how the critics weigh-in on Pacino's Shylock will have to wait for Nov. 15 or 16 to read reviews. Producers are asking that the press delay publishing their reviews until those dates in order to avoid conflicts with the opening of the Broadway holiday musical Elf on Nov. 14.
In addition to Pacino and Rabe, also returning from the Shakespeare in the Park run are Jesse L. Martin (Rent) as Gratiano, Byron Jennings (Inherit the Wind) as Antonio, Heather Lind as Jessica, Gerry Bamman (Mrs. Farnsworth) as the Duke of Venice, Matthew Rauch (Still Life) as Solanio and Richard Topol (Awake and Sing!) as Tubal.
New for the Broadway engagement are Tony Award nominee Christopher Fitzgerald (Finian's Rainbow, Wicked) as Launcelot Gobbo, Marsha Stephanie Blake (Joe Turner's Come and Gone) as Nerissa, David Harbour (The Coast of Utopia) as Bassanio, Peter Francis James (On Golden Pond) as Salerio, Isaiah Johnson as Prince of Morocco, Charles Kimbrough (Accent on Youth) as Prince of Arragon and Seth Numrich (On the Levee) as Lorenzo.
Returning ensemble members include Happy Anderson, Liza J. Bennett, Bryce Gill, Jade Hawk, Bethany Heinrich, Tia James, Kelsey Kurz, Brian Macdonald and Dorien Makhloghi. The Broadway run also includes new ensemble members Glenn Fleshler, Luke Forbes, Herb Foster, Thomas M. Hammond, Curt Hostetter, Dorien Makhloghi, Kim Martin-Cotten and Baylen Thomas.
The Broadway run of Merchant reunites the Shakespeare in the Park creative team, including Mark Wendland (scenic design), Jess Goldstein (costume design), Kenneth Posner (lighting design) and Acme Sound Partners (sound design). Dan Moses Schreier penned original music for Merchant of Venice.
Here's how the Public bills the Shakespeare classic: "The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare’s most thrilling and controversial plays, rich with love and betrayal, forgiveness and revenge. The Jewish moneylender Shylock makes a loan to Antonio, a Christian merchant. Their loan contract, steeped in prejudice and centered on the play's infamous 'pound of flesh,' sweeps the two men and everyone in their worlds into chaos. Only the insightful Portia can imagine a way forward, but for her and those she loves, even 'the quality of mercy' has its limits."
Pacino earned a Tony Award for his Broadway debut in Does a Tiger Wear Necktie? and was also honored with a Tony Award for The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel. Pacino starred in the 1996 production of Hughie, which he also directed. In addition to his stage roles in Camino Real, King Richard III, American Buffalo and Chinese Coffee, he is well known for the films "Scent of a Woman" (Academy Award), "The Godfather," "Scarface," "Dog Day Afternoon," "Frankie and Johnny," "Glengarry Glen Ross," "Ocean's Thirteen" and "Angels in America."
For tickets phone (212) 239-6200 or visit Telecharge.com. The Broadhurst Theatre is located at 235 W. 44th Street.
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