Rappaport Wraps in NJ March 24 and Looks Ahead to Broadway Come Summer

By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson
March 24, 2002

The Judd Hirsch-Ben Vereen revival of Herb Gardner's I'm Not Rappaport will play its final not-for-profit theatre performance March 24 at Paper Mill: The State Theatre of New Jersey prior to making its commercial bow on Broadway in July.

The Judd Hirsch-Ben Vereen revival of Herb Gardner's I'm Not Rappaport will play its final not-for-profit theatre performance March 24 at Paper Mill: The State Theatre of New Jersey prior to making its commercial bow on Broadway in July.

Producers Elliott Martin and Lewis Allen are bringing the play to Broadway come summer, though official dates and the venue have not been announced. A source close to the show said March 22 that the play is still being aimed at Broadway for July. The Booth Theatre was the original hope of the producers when they said they would bring the show in before the May 1 Tony Award eligibility cutoff date. The opened-ended Just Between Friends: Bea Arthur On Broadway is the current Booth tenant. The Arthur show was to be a limited run but was extended due to ticket demand and the fact that Rappaport producers Martin and Allen decided not to fast-track their show to Broadway after Paper Mill.

"This business of rushing to open two days before the cutoff of the Tony Awards is kind of hysterical," Martin previously told Playbill On-Line. "Waiting until summer was a more propitious thing to do."

There is a tradition for a post-Tony Awards opening for Rappaport. It opened Off-Broadway June 5, 1985, and moved to Broadway — the Booth Theatre, in fact — in November 1985, waiting six months before snagging the Best Play Tony Award in 1986. Judd Hirsch starred.

Sullivan and Hirsch reunite as collaborators on the seriocomic 1985 play (originally seen in 1984 at Seattle Repertory Theatre) about two seniors who meet in Central Park in 1982 and confront a changing world — embodied by drug dealers, punks, an angry daughter and an ex-boss. Hirsch won the 1986 Tony Award for playing crusty socialist Nat. Vereen, who plays Midge, is known for his Tony Award-winning turn in Pippin, plus his recent work in Fosse on Broadway.

Talking about how Vereen came to be cast, Sullivan said, "I know Herb and I had talked about Ben several times. Herb had seen Ben do it in San Francisco. I had not. It was a separate production. And Herb had good memories of that. So we got together and read the first act. I thought that was a really good actor there.... Ben is very detailed. It's all very psychologically based. You wouldn't know at all that there is a song and dance man there. He's completely submerged into the character."

Also recreating their 1985 work are designers Tony Walton (set) and Tony-winner for Rappaport Pat Collins (lighting).

Director Sullivan won the Best Director Tony Award in 2001 for Broadway's Proof.. The Rappaport cast includes Anthony Arkin (Danforth), Mimi Lieber (Clara), Steven Boyer (Gilley), Jeb Brown (Cowboy), Tanya Clarke (Laurie).

Sound designers are Duncan Robert Edwards and David F. Shapiro. Theresa Snider-Stein is costume designer.

The staging by Daniel Sullivan has played three nonprofit regional venues since Jan. 1: Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami, Ford's Theater in Washington, DC, and Paper Mill. The final weekend at Paper Mill is largely sold out, a spokesman said.