The Playbill Vault Celebrates Tony Nominee Jane Fonda
By Megan Dekic
Two-time Tony Award nominee Jane Fonda celebrates her birthday Dec. 21. To mark the special day, the Playbill Vault looks back at her Broadway career.
Fonda made her Broadway debut in 1960 in There Was a Little Girl, Daniel Taradash's adaptation of the Christopher Davis novel "Lost Summer." Fonda played Toni Newton, an 18-year-old who is the victim of a rape and must deal with the ensuing psychological trauma. The cast included Whitfield Connor, Ruth Matteson and Dean Jones.
The play opened Feb. 29, 1960, at the Cort Theatre, where it ran for 16 performances. The New York Times' Brooks Atkinson praised 22-year-old Fonda's work: "As the wretched heroine of an unsavory melodrama, she gives an alert, many-sided performance that is professionally mature and suggests that she has found a career that suits her." Fonda received a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play.
Her next Broadway role came in Arthur Laurents' Invitation to a March, a modern twist on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. The plot involved a young bride-to-be who falls asleep whenever her betrothed brings up their all too predictable future. Celeste Holm, Eileen Heckart, Madeleine Sherwood and Richard Derr starred in the production. Stephen Sondheim provided incidental music.
Invitation to a March opened at the Music Box Theatre Oct. 29, 1960, and ran for 113 performances. The play marked Laurents' Broadway directorial debut.
After a stint in the 1962 flop The Fun Couple, Fonda appeared in the Actors Studio's production of Eugene O'Neill's Pulitzer Prize winner Strange Interlude. José Quintero directed a cast that included Geraldine Page, Pat Hingle and Ben Gazzara.
The production opened Mar. 11, 1963, at the Hudson Theatre. The New York Times deemed it "a brilliant production of gargantuan drama," and critic Howard Taubman wrote that with this revival, the Actors Studio had taken what "may turn out to be a giant step forward for the good of the theater in America."
In 2009, Fonda returned to Broadway after a 46-year absence in Moisés Kaufman's 33 Variations. In this play with music, a musicologist attempts to solve a centuries-old mystery about composer Ludwig von Beethoven. Fonda led a cast that featured Samantha Mathis, Colin Hanks, and Zach Grenier.
The play opened March 9, 2009, at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, where it ran for a limited engagement of 85 performances. The production was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Play and Best Leading Actress in a Play for Fonda.
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