Kevin Kline and Meryl Steep are Romeo and Juliet in Starry Shakespeare Gala June 18 in Central Park
By Michael Gioia
Academy Award winners Kevin Kline and Meryl Steep — both veterans of The Public's Shakespeare in the Park — play star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, respectively, in the one-night-only gala staged reading of the Shakespeare classic June 18 at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.
Romeo and Juliet also features four-time Tony nominee Raúl Esparza (Leap of Faith, Twelfth Night) as Sampson, Apothecary and Watchman 1; Jesse L. Martin (The Merchant of Venice, Rent, The Government Inspector) as Gregory, Friar John and Watchman 2; Jerry Stiller (The Three Sisters, Much Ado About Nothing, The Ritz) as Peter; Tony nominee Christopher Walken (A Behanding in Spokane, James Joyce's The Dead, Othello) as Mercutio; Tony nominee Sam Waterston (Abe Lincoln in Illinois, As You Like It, A Walk in the Woods) as Benvolio; Tony winner Jeffrey Wright (Angels in America, Topdog / Underdog, Julius Caesar) as Tybalt; F. Murray Abraham (The Golem, Twelfth Night) as Friar Laurence; Tony winner Christine Baranski (Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rumors) as Nurse; Tony winner John Cullum (Shenandoah, Measure for Measure) as Capulet; Tony nominee David Harbour (The Merchant of Venice, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) as Abraham, Capulet Servant and Paris' Page; Tony winner Bill Irwin (King Lear, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) as Montague; Sandra Oh (Stop Kiss) as Lady Montague; Tony winner Phylicia Rashad (A Raisin in the Sun, Everybody’s Ruby) as Lady Capulet; and Tony nominee Michael Stuhlbarg (The Pillowman, Hamlet) as Paris. Sharon Washington (Coriolanus) reads the stage directions. Rounding out the cast are Tony nominees David Pittu (Lovemusik), Joe Morton (Raisin) and Stacy Keach (Indians).
The cast is joined on stage by live musicians playing original music by award-winning composer Jeanine Tesori.
Daniel Sullivan directs the performance that celebrates to the day The Public Theater's 50-year anniversary of producing Shakespeare in the outdoor venue. This is the Public's annual fundraising gala.
The Public Theater has produced Romeo and Juliet twice before at the Delacorte (1968 and 2007). Streep, who has performed five times at the Delacorte since 1976, and Kline, who has performed nine times since 1970, play the iconic teen-age roles for the first time in their careers, according to The Public. They last shared the Delacorte stage in a 2006 production of Mother Courage and Her Children.
Al Pacino, who starred in Sullivan's The Merchant of Venice at the Delacorte in 2010 (the production moved to Broadway), is honored for his body of work with The Public Theater in the special evening, which includes dinner, the Shakespeare performance and a post-show party. Pacino's work with The Public Theater goes back to the early 1970s.
Ticket prices start at $1,500. For information about tickets for The Public Theater's Anniversary Gala, call (212) 539-8547 or visit shakespeareinthepark.org.
The benefit event is being chaired by Public Theater board members Arielle Tepper Madover and Alexandra Shiva.
The Delacorte Theater in Central Park officially opened on June 18, 1962, with a production of The Merchant of Venice, directed by Public Theater founder Joe Papp and Gladys Vaughn and featuring George C. Scott and James Earl Jones.
Conceived by Papp as a way to make great theatre accessible to all, over the past 50 years more than five million people have attended more than 150 free productions of Shakespeare and other classical works and musicals at the Delacorte.
Kline is the Academy Award and Tony Award-winning actor who last appeared at the Delacorte in Mother Courage and Her Children in 2006. His other Public Theater credits include The Seagull; The Wars of the Roses cycle; Pirates of Penzance, which also transferred to Broadway earning him a Tony Award; Richard III; Henry V; Much Ado About Nothing; Hamlet; and Measure for Measure.
Streep last appeared on the Delacorte stage in 2006 in Mother Courage and Her Children. Her other Public Theater credits include the critically acclaimed production of The Seagull directed by Mike Nichols; Trelawny of the Wells; Henry V; Measure for Measure; The Cherry Orchard; The Taming of the Shrew; Taken in Marriage; and Alice at the Palace. Streep has been nominated for the Academy Award 17 times, and has won it three times, most recently for her role in "The Iron Lady."
Sullivan won the Tony Award for his direction of Proof. His current Broadway project is David Auburn's The Columnist.
The Public Theater is under the leadership of artistic director Oskar Eustis and executive director Patrick Willingham. Read more about The Public Theater's presence on Broadway in the Playbill Vault, the most comprehensive Broadway database on the internet.
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