Holiday Feast: Lincoln Center Opens Dinner at Eight Dec. 19
By Robert Simonson
The Lincoln Center Theater revival of Dinner at Eight will officially open at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre on Dec. 19, after an eventful preview period which began Nov. 23 and saw the replacement of an actress.
Previews for the feast were to have begun Nov. 21, but in order to give the troupe more on-stage rehearsal, the start date was bumped to the evening of Nov. 23. Soon after, Marian Seldes stepped into the production, taking over for an ailing Dorothy Loudon, who left on her doctor's recommendation.
Sloane Shelton played the role of vivacious theatrical doyenne Carlotta Vance after Loudon played one performance (Nov. 23) and continued until Seldes was ready on Dec. 3. Shelton then returned to the role of the cook, Mrs. Wendel.
The Nov. 24 performance of the play was canceled after Loudon took ill with chronic labyrinthitis, a viral infection of the inner ear which affects one's balance, according to a Lincoln Center Theater spokesperson.
In 1999, Seldes memorably stepped into another LCT Gerald Gutierrez revival, Ring 'Round the Moon, taking over for an ailing Irene Worth. Seldes, embraced as one the American theatre's most style-rich actresses, has appeared in Edward Albee's The Play About the Baby and Three Tall Women in New York City. Earlier this year, for New York Theatre Workshop, she starred as an aging actress in the late Harry Kondoleon's Play Yourself.
Loudon won the Tony Award for Best Actress in the musical Annie and was twice nommed beyond that 1977 hit, for Ballroom and The Fig Leaves Are Falling. She appeared in the Broadway debut of Michael Frayn's Noises Off.
Also in the cast for George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's 1932 comedy are Emily Skinner, Byron Jennings, Christine Ebersole, Joe Grifasi, James Rebhorn, Ann McDonough, Joanne Camp, Rhys Coiro, Kevin Conway, John Dossett, Enid Graham, Simon Jutras, Karl Kenzler, Anne Lange, Mark Lotito, Charlotte Maier, Deborah Mayo, Peter Maloney and Brian Reddy and Sloane Shelton.
The soapy comedy-drama (later a famous M-G-M picture) tells overlapping stories of guests invited to and preparing for dinner at Millicent and Oliver Jordan's. She's neurotic, he's losing his fortune, and their daughter is having an affair with a depressed, faded matinee idol who is just a trigger pull away from oblivion.
The 1933 film starred Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, John Barrymore, Marie Dressler, Billie Burke and Lionel Barrymore under George Cukor's direction. The original Broadway production featured Constance Collier, Sam Levene, Ann Andrews, Malcolm Duncan. Kaufman himself directed the 232-performance run. A 1967 revival at the Alvin Theatre was directed by Tyrone Guthrie and starred Darren McGavin, Walter Pidgeon, June Havoc and Arlene Francis.
As for specific roles, Ebersole will play hostess Millicent Jordan, Rebhorn is her husband, Seldes plays haughty society doyenne Carlotta Vance, Jennings is faded matinee idol Larry Renault, Skinner is brassy, pampered Kitty Packard, Conway her brutish husband, Dossett and Camp are Dr. J. Wayner and Lucy Talbot, McDonough is Hattie Loomis, Shelton is Mrs. Wendel, Soule is Paula Jordan, Graham is Dora, Grifasi is Max Kane, Jutras is Gustave and Lotito is Ricci.
Skinner recently returned from DC, where she starred in Merrily We Roll Along at the Kennedy Center. Before that, she had a long stint in the Broadway musical The Full Monty.
Jennings recently starred in the Off-Broadway Steve Martin adaptation of The Underpants. Other credits include Noises Off, another Kaufman comedy, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and Waste.
Ebersole won her Tony for her bitter, fading stage star in the still-running Broadway revival of 42nd Street. She remained with the show for a year, with a break in the middle. The award capped a flurry of stage activity for the actress, including a performance in The Best Man on Broadway and a celebrated nightclub act.
Grifasi has appeared in many Broadway and Off Broadway efforts, including The Play's the Thing, The Loop and Filumena. Rebhorn recently starred in the Roundabout Theatre Company production of Arthur Miller's The Man Who Had All the Luck. McDonough's credits include Abe Lincoln in Illinois and Mastergate. Graham was a Tony nominee for Honour, and played the young heiress in Broadway's Fortune's Fool last season.
The show marks director Gerald Gutierrez's return to Lincoln Center after a longish absence. Gutierrez was a mainstay at LCT in the '90s, putting up award winning productions such as The Heiress, A Delicate Balance, Abe Lincoln in Illinois and The Most Happy Fella. He also helmed Ivanov and Ring Round the Moon for LCT. He was replaced out of town as director of the recent Broadway production of A Moon for the Misbegotten and briefly left the theatre entirely. Recently, he staged Boys and Girls at Playwrights Horizons.
Kaufman and Ferber also wrote The Royal Family, which recently received high profile mountings in Chicago and London.
Tickets run $55 to $70. LCT is located at 150 West 65th Street in Manhattan. Call 212-239-6200.
A musical version of Dinner at Eight has been read in New York in recent seasons, and will have another reading in early 2003. Composer Ben Schaechter, librettist Julie Gilbert (who is Ferber's great niece) and lyricist Frank Evans penned the musical, whose opening number is called "Invited."
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