Tony Winner Elizabeth Ashley Joins Cast of The Best Man
By Kenneth Jones
Tony Award winner Elizabeth Ashley, of Broadway's Dividing the Estate, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof and Barefoot in the Park, succeeds Angela Lansbury in the role of an influential women's advocate in the Broadway production of Gore Vidal's The Best Man on July 24. Lansbury shed the role of Mrs. Sue-Ellen Gamadge on July 22, at the end of her contract.
Ashley is returning to a role she knows: She played Sue-Ellen in the 2000 Broadway revival of the political drama set during a 1960 presidential convention. Ashley won the 1962 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for Take Her, She's Mine. Among her recent roles is playing a tough, music-loving Southern aunt in the HBO series "Treme." She was Maggie in the 1974 Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams' Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, and has had a long association with the playwright's work. She originated the role of Dr. Livingstone in Agnes of God.
For her work in the Michael Wilson-directed revival of The Best Man, octagenarian Lansbury was nominated for featured actress awards by the Outer Critics Circle and the Drama Desk. Lansbury is a five-time Tony Award winner for her work in Blithe Spirit, Sweeney Todd, Gypsy, Dear World and Mame. She was also nominated for her turns in the revival of A Little Night Music and Terrence McNally's play Deuce.
The Best Man's recent cast additions include Cybill Shepherd and Kristin Davis (in their Broadway debuts) and John Stamos. The newcomers replaced, respectively, Candice Bergen as a presidential candidate's troubled wife, Kerry Butler as the spitfire Southern wife of another candidate and Eric McCormack as a heartless and oily candidate.
Original cast members James Earl Jones, John Larroquette, Jefferson Mays and recent cast addition Mark Blum remain with the production through its final performance at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Sept. 9. Performances for the limited engagement began March 6.
The production was nominated for a 2012 Tony Award as Best Revival of a Play, with an additional nomination for James Earl Jones as Best Leading Actor.
The company also includes Curtis Billings, Corey Brill, Tony Carlin, Donna Hanover, Sherman Howard, Olja Hrustic, Bill Kux, James Lecesne, Dakin Matthews, Anjelica Page, Fred Parker, Jr. and Amy Tribbey.
The 1960 play "is set at the national convention where two candidates are vying for their party's nomination during the primary season." Expect "an inside look at the dirt-digging, double-dealing, triple-crossing chicanery of presidential electioneering and what could be more fun in a presidential campaign season than these theatrical fireworks."
The Best Man was originally scheduled to play through July 8, and has been extended twice. The Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre is at 236 W. 45th Street. Tickets can be purchased at Telecharge.com or by calling (212) 239-6200.
For more information, visit thebestmanonbroadway.com.
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