Broadway's That Championship Season Recoups Investment
By Kenneth Jones
The Broadway revival of Jason Miller's That Championship Season recouped its $2.75 million investment, a spokesman for the play confirmed. The limited run of the starry male-bonding drama that marked the Broadway debut of Kiefer Sutherland ended on schedule May 29.
Producer Robert Cole told Variety that the willingness of the cast to do promotional appearances helped boost the box office toward recoupment. The production, directed by Gregory Mosher, did not get enthusiastic reviews.
Miller's 1972 drama about a team of high school basketball players who reunite to hash out the past on the anniversary of their winning game, won the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama 40 years ago. This revival played the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.
The production began previews Feb. 9 and officially opened March 6. It played 28 preview performances and 97 regular performances.
In addition to Sutherland, the cast also includes Brian Cox, Jim Gaffigan, Chris Noth and Jason Patric (whose late father wrote the play). Cox (Rock 'n' Roll, Art) portrayed the bilious, charming retired basketball coach in the Scranton, PA-set drama.
When asked whether he had been looking for a property in which to make his Broadway debut, Sutherland previously told Playbill.com, "Well, yes and no. I mean, it's always something in the back of your head, if an opportunity comes around, you certainly are open to taking it. I hadn't read the play in a very, very long time, and I was taken, when I looked at it again, by a number of things. Very rarely will you find a play — certainly I don't know of one — that has five parts so beautifully balanced. That's something: To be part of an ensemble like that was very attractive to me. And I find the play unbelievably relevant. There are lines of dialogue that, literally, you would think, … he sat down and wrote … yesterday, whether it's talking about a defeated army coming home from war, constant references to the recession and lack of jobs and this and that. There were aspects of '71, '72, that really do reflect unbelievably strongly to 2011. Coach has a wonderful line in reference to progress — 'Nothing changes but the day.' This play is an absolutely affirmation to that," he laughed, "for all of those reasons. And then the cast and Gregory Mosher — there are so many reasons that you would have to do this play, at least for me, and they all kind of came at once."
Mosher received a 2010 Tony nomination for his direction of the revival of A View From the Bridge.
That Championship Season premiered at the Public Theater on May 2, 1972, starring Charles Durning, Richard A. Dysart, Walter McGinn, Michael McGuire and Paul Sorvino, under the direction of A.J. Antoon. The production, with the original cast intact, transferred to Broadway's Booth Theatre on Sept. 11, 1972 and ran through April 1974. Playwright Miller later directed the 1983 film. The Broadway production won the Pulitzer Prize, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play and the Tony Award for Best Play.
The revival was produced by Robert Cole, Frederick Zollo, Shelter Island Enterprises, The Shubert Organization, James MacGilvray, Orin Wolf, The Weinstein Company, Second Chance Productions, Brannon Wiles and Scott M. Delman/Lucky VIII.
According to producers, "On the anniversary of their victory in the Pennsylvania state championship game, four members of the starting lineup of a small-town Catholic high school basketball team gather with their coach to re-live their youthful glory. As the night progresses, the long buried grudges and secrets of the once-confident players surface, threatening not just their solidarity, but the meaning of their victory. With savage humor, That Championship Season probes the darkest aspects of the American dream of success at all costs."
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