The Best Man Elects Donna Hanover, Jefferson Mays and Dakin Matthews to Broadway; Schoenfeld Is Platform
By Kenneth Jones
Donna Hanover, the ex-wife of former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, is among newly named performers joining the cast of the upcoming Broadway production of Gore Vidal's The Best Man at the newly announced Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. The former TV journalist, who has acted in Off-Broadway plays (including the recent Picked at the Vineyard), will portray a journalist covering a presidential election.
Also announced Dec. 28 were Tony Award winner Jefferson Mays (I Am My Own Wife) as a businessman, and the respected bicoastal classical actor Dakin Matthews (Broadway's recent Julius Caesar, A Man for All Seasons) as a senator. Previews begin March 6 toward an April 1 opening.
The drama about a U.S. presidential election, directed by Michael Wilson (The Orphans' Home Cycle, Dividing the Estate), will begin rehearsals on Jan. 30.
The starry cast includes Candice Bergen, Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones, John Larroquette, Eric McCormack and Michael McKean.
Jones (Fences, The Great White Hope, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Driving Miss Daisy) will play the former President of the United States. His endorsement of candidates is part of the plot of the political drama. Charles Durning played former president Hockstader in the 2000 revival.
McCormack spent five seasons with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival where his roles included Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Tusenbach in Three Sisters and Orleans in Henry V. He made his Broadway debut starring as Harold Hill in The Music Man, and returned to New York for the American premiere of Neil LaBute's Some Girl(s), for Off-Broadway's MCC Theatre. Next year, he will be both star and a producer on the new TNT drama, "Perception."
The role of Senator Cantwell was played by Cliff Robertson in the film adaptation and Chris Noth in the 2000 Broadway revival of The Best Man.
The design team will be led by Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning scenic designer Derek McLane (33 Variations, Anything Goes), Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning lighting designer Kenneth Posner (The Coast of Utopia, Part 2 – Shipwreck) and five-time Tony Award-nominated costume designer Ann Roth (The Book of Mormon).
Here's how the work is billed by the producers: "A play about power, ambition, political secrets, ruthlessness and the race for the presidency, Gore Vidal's The Best Man was Vidal's second play following the success of his international comedy hit, Visit to a Small Planet. The Best Man will make its return to Broadway in its first major revival since its critically acclaimed run in 2000 which received a Tony Award nomination and won a Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Play Revival. Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, and Darren Bagert (Infinity Stages), the producers of that production, will be reuniting to present the work…"
The play last appeared on Broadway in September 2000 starring Elizabeth Ashley, Charles Durning, Christine Ebersole, Spalding Gray, Michael Learned, Chris Noth, Mark Blum, Jonathan Hadary, and Jordan Lage. The production was honored with the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Revival of a Play.
The Best Man originally ran on Broadway in 1960 and was nominated for six Tony Awards including Best Play. Melvyn Douglas, portraying candidate William Russell, a former secretary of state, won the Tony Award for outstanding actor. The production ran for 521 performances.
McCormack (who'll play presidential contender Joseph Cantwell) is the Emmy Award winner of TV's "Will & Grace" who appeared in Broadway's The Music Man.
Bergen (who'll play Alice Russell, the wife of candidate William Russell) appeared on Broadway in the mid-1980s in Hurlyburly. She is best known for starring in the TV series "Murphy Brown" (1988-1998), for which she won five Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards; and as Shirley Schmidt on "Boston Legal" (2004-2008), for which she was nominated for two Emmys, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Her film appearances include "The Group," "The Sand Pebbles," "Carnal Knowledge," "The Wind and the Lion," "Gandhi," "Rich and Famous" and "Starting Over," for which she was Oscar-nominated.
Lansbury (who'll play Mrs. Gamadge, a women's rights lobbyist) is known for TV's "Murder, She Wrote" and for her Broadway appearances in Mame, Dear World, Sweeney Todd, 1974's Gypsy, 2009's A Little Night Music, 2009's Blithe Spirit, Deuce, A Taste of Honey and Anyone Can Whistle. Her films include "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," "The Manchurian Candidate" and "Gaslight."
Larroquette (who'll play candidate William Russell) is currently starring as J.B. Biggley in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, for which he won 2011 Tony and Drama Desk Awards. He's a five-time Emmy Award-winning actor, best known as Assistant District Attorney Dan Fielding on NBC's "Night Court," which earned him four Emmy Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. He also starred in the NBC comedy series "The John Larroquette Show," was a series regular on "Boston Legal" and won his fifth Emmy Award for a guest-starring role on "The Practice."
McKean (who'll play campaign manager Dick Jensen) is internationally known for playing Lenny on TV's "Laverne & Shirley," and for his work in the film mockumentaries "This Is Spinal Tap," "A Mighty Wind" and "Best In Show." He is currently appearing in The Public Theater's production of King Lear. He won the 2008 Drama Desk Award for his performance in Broadway's The Homecoming (Outstanding Ensemble Performance). Other Broadway credits include Superior Donuts. The Pajama Game, Hairspray and Accomplice (Theatre World Award). He co-wrote the Grammy-winning theme to "A Mighty Wind" (with Chris Guest and Eugene Levy) and the Oscar-nominated "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" with his wife Annette O'Toole.
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