The Merchant of Venice, With Al Pacino, Ends Broadway Run Feb. 20
By Adam Hetrick
Academy Award winner Al Pacino and the cast of the acclaimed Public Theater revival of The Merchant of Venice conclude their extended Broadway run Feb. 20 at the Broadhurst Theatre.
Pacino stars as Shylock opposite Lily Rabe as Portia in Daniel Sullivan's revival of the classic, which began Broadway previews Oct. 19, 2010, after a run as part of Shakespeare in the Park's repertory programming last summer. Merchant of Venice officially opened to critical praise Nov. 13.
Pacino's casting and strong critical response put Merchant's weekly box-office grosses consistently over $1 million during its run. The production recouped its $3.45 million investment after ten weeks of performances.
The Merchant of Venice went on hiatus Jan. 9-Feb. 1 in order to allow Pacino to fulfill prior film commitments. Performances will continue through Feb. 20.
While much of the Broadway cast returned for the extension, Rent actor Jesse L. Martin (who played Gratiano) and Seth Numrich (Lorenzo) departed the production for other projects. Numrich is leading the Broadway production of War Horse for Lincoln Center Theater.
David Aaron Baker (Why Torture Is Wrong at the Public) stepped into the role of Gratiano, while understudy Thomas Michael Hammond moved up to the role of Lorenzo. Actor Brian Sgambati (Prelude to a Kiss at the Huntington) joined the ensemble for the extension.
The Merchant cast also includes Shakespeare in the Park company members 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 and Charles Kimbrough (Accent on Youth) as Prince of Arragon.
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."
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