The American Airlines Theatre was originally the Selwyn Theatre, built by brothers Arch and Edgar Selwyn, celebrated producers of the 1910s. George Keister was the architect, and the intimate theatre (1,051 seats) with one balcony was designed in the Italian Renaissance style.
The October 3, 1918, opening-night program boasted of the Selwyn as the most modern theatre in New York. This was the height of World War I, and the program also had this startling message on the back cover: “BUY LIBERTY BONDS. Every German or Austrian in the United States, unless known by years of association to be absolutely loyal, should be treated as a potential spy. Keep your eyes and ears open. Whenever any suspicious act or disloyal word comes to your notice, communicate at once with the Bureau of Investigation of the Department of Justice, 15 Park Row, New York. We are at war with the most merciless and inhumane nation in the world.”
Unfortunately, the opening production at the Selwyn was not memorable. The acclaimed actress and playwright Jane Cowl starred in Information Please, written by her and Jane Murfin. It was a flop. However, Cowl (famed for her portrayal of Juliet in Shakespeare’s tragedy) redeemed herself in the next play, The Crowded Hour.
In 1919, two popular actors, Holbrook Blinn and Alan Dinehart, starred in a socialist drama called The Challenge by Eugene Walter. It ran for 72 performances.
The Selwyn’s first hit was a World War I musical, Buddies, by George V. Hobart, music and lyrics by B. C. Hilliam. According to Gerald Bordman in his excellent volume American Musical Theatre, one song was partially written by Cole Porter. The musical took place in Normandy shortly after the Armistice. A shy Yank (Roland Young) is in love with a French girl named Julie (Peggy Wood) but is too bashful to woo her. She’s in love with him, but to arouse his interest, she flirts with his best buddy, Sonny (Donald Brian). It works. Critics raved about the three leads, and the musical ran for 259 performances, although the score was considered mediocre.
On August 17, 1920, a musical called Tickle Me opened at this theatre. It had book and lyrics by Otto Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Frank Mandel, and music by Herbert Stothart. The popular comic Frank Tinney starred in it and employed his usual bit about talking to the audience during the show. The plot revolved around a company of actors who travel to Tibet to shoot a film. The show ran for six months, which in those days was considered substantial.
The Circle, W. Somerset Maugham’s brilliant high comedy, proved popular at the Selwyn in 1921. Its distinguished cast included Leslie Carter, in her comeback; John Drew, who had also been away from the stage for several years; Estelle Winwood; and John Halliday. The plot involves a titled Englishwoman who had abandoned her husband and daughter and eloped with her lover. When the two elopers return to her estate years later, they discover that their son’s wife is about to abandon him and run off with her lover. The circle is completed when the young elopers borrow the old elopers’ car to take them to London. This high-society fluff ran for 175 performances.
In 1921 a tragic incident occurred involving this theatre. At the time, several of the theatres on Forty-second Street supplemented their income by showing silent movies. In May 1921 the theatre was screening the silent film of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Katharine Hepburn was visiting her aunt in New York with her young brother Tom and took him to see the film. In the movie there was a scene in which a man devised a way to hang himself without dying. The next morning, when Hepburn went to wake her brother, she found him hanging dead in his upstairs bedroom. Hepburn’s father told the press that his son was merely trying to emulate the false hanging, but to this day there is a belief that he committed suicide, as he had a history of depression.
A modest musical hit called The Blue Kitten, by Otto Harbach and William Clay Duncan, opened on January 13, 1922. It starred two old-timers—Joseph Cawthorn and Lillian Lorraine—and told of a headwaiter who tries to conceal his station in life so his daughter can marry a socialite. Although the score was pronounced inferior, the musical ran for 140 performances.
The famous actress Alla Nazimova appeared here in 1923 in a turgid drama called Dagmar, by Louis Anspacher, adapted from a French play. The sexually promiscuous heroine (Nazimova) promises her latest lover that he can kill her if she is ever unfaithful to him. Sure enough, she winds up with her throat slit. This turkey played 56 times.
An improbable drama called The Guilty One opened on March 20, 1923. Written by Michael Morton and Peter Traill, it told of a married woman who gets involved in the murder of her lover. It lasted only 31 performances.
A short-lived drama (15 performances) opened at the Selwyn on April 17, 1923. Called Within Four Walls, by Glen Macdonough, it depicted a man who returns to Greenwich Village the day before his family home is to be demolished, which leads to a lot of nostalgic flashback scenes.
A whimsical musical titled Helen of Troy, New York arrived here on June 19, 1923. Written by two of the century’s greatest wits, George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly, with a score by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, Helen told of a woman (Helen Ford) who works in a collar factory in Troy, New York, but loses her job because she falls in love with the boss’s son. She later invents the semisoft style of collar, which becomes highly commercial and wins back her lover. Paul Frawley and Queenie Smith also glowed in this frolic. It ran for 191 performances. As a promotional stunt, the producers sent out cardboard shirt collars with the name of the show and theatre on them.
A musical comedy called Battling Butler, starring the popular actor Charles Ruggles, arrived on October 8, 1923. Written by Ballard MacDonald, adapted from a British musical, Battling Butler had music by Walter L. Rosemont. The plot told of Alfred Butler, who so strongly resembles a boxer called Battling Butler that he’s able to pass himself off as the pugilist. The real Battling Butler then urges him to take his place in the ring. The New York Times proclaimed that “musical comedies are getting better,” and the show prospered for 288 performances.
Three plays of short duration next appeared. Puppets, a melodrama by Frances Lightner, had two actors in it who would become popular movie stars: Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins. Their play about a puppeteer lasted only 54 performances, in 1925. The Sapphire Ring, by Laszlo Lakatos, starred Helen Gahagan and Frank Conroy. This play about fidelity in marriage disappeared after 13 performances. A comedy thriller called The Gorilla, by Ralph Spence, featured two comic detectives and a gorilla in a spooky house. This one departed after 15 performances, although it was made into several films.
On November 10, 1925, Charlot’s Revue, the second edition of the famed British revue, returned with three of its original stars: Beatrice Lillie, Gertrude Lawrence, and Jack Buchanan. Lillie repeated her hilarious routine called “March with Me,” which had fractured Broadway in 1924, and a new song, “A Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich and You,” proved a hit. Although not as sensational as the 1924 edition, the 1926 Charlot’s still managed to amuse audiences for 138 performances.
On May 25, 1926, something different opened at this theatre. Fakir Rahman Bey, in his first visit to the United States, demonstrated practices of Fakirism, including body rigidity, thought reading, hypnotism, burial alive, and talismans. He cavorted for three weeks.
A minor comedy called The Man from Toronto, by Douglas Murray, opened late in the season and tarried for only 28 performances. It concerned a woman who is forced by a will to marry a man she’s never met, so she pretends to be the maid of the house to see if she likes him. She does.
A fun musical, Castles in the Air, came to the Selwyn via Chicago in September 1926. Starring Vivienne Segal, J. Harold Murray, Bernard Granville, and Gregory Ratoff, it concerned two college cutups who mistakenly enter an exclusive club, thinking it’s a hotel. In order to stay, one of them pretends to be a Latvian prince, and Segal is smitten. Her wealthy uncle sees through the ruse and, to cure his niece, rents a Latvian castle, where he intends to expose the fake prince. As usual in 1920s musicals, the prince turns out to be real, and he and the niece live happily ever after. The book and lyrics were by Raymond W. Peck and the music by Percy Wenrich. It played for 160 performances.
In 1927-28, during a Broadway season that witnessed the production of a record 270 shows, the Selwyn had its ups and downs. The Mating Season, a farce by William A. Grew, started things badly. It expired after 24 showings. A revue called The Manhatters fared a bit better, running for 68 performances. Three future movie stars—Alison Skipworth, Miriam Hopkins, and Douglas Montgomery—couldn’t save Avery Hopwood’s The Garden of Eden, which was cast out after 23 performances.
Nightstick, a melodrama by John Wray, the Nugents, and Elaine Stern Carrington, ran for 52 performances, then returned for 32 more. In the cast were Thomas Mitchell, Lee Patrick, and playwright Wray. Patrick played a woman who has two love interests: a prisoner (Wray) and a detective (Mitchell). Of course, the detective wins out.
The Selwyn’s biggest hit arrived on December 28, 1927. The Royal Family, by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, was a thinly disguised farce about two royal families of the theatre, the Barrymores and the Drews, although the authors denied this. Suffice to say that Ethel Barrymore took great umbrage at the play and stopped speaking to Kaufman. The family in the play was called Cavendish and, certainly, the madcap Anthony Cavendish, actor, philanderer, alcoholic, and outrageous charlatan, could be no one but John Barrymore. The role was played to the hilt by Otto Kruger. The erratic Jed Harris produced this huge success, which filled the Selwyn for 345 performances. The comedy was revived as recently as 2009, and composer William Finn spent years working on a musical version—in an age when Drew and Barrymore descendant Drew Barrymore is continuing her family’s tradition of acting (and cutting up).
Producer Arch Selwyn was instrumental in bringing some of Britain’s greatest revues to Broadway. In November 1928 he imported Noël Coward’s triumphant This Year of Grace, the first revue in which Coward supplied all the music, lyrics, and sketches. He and Beatrice Lillie headed the show, and it was pronounced the acme of wit and melody. Three Coward classics were sung: “A Room with a View,” “Dance, Little Lady,” and “World Weary,” which Lillie sang sitting on a stool while biting an apple. Under the personal direction of C. B. Cochran, the stylish revue had dances by Tilly Losch and Max Rivers, and sets and costumes by Oliver Messel, G. E. Calthrop, Norman Hartness, and Doris Zinkeisen. Beatrice Lillie’s sketches—at a bus stop and on the Lido—were hilarious. The sophisticated romp ran for 158 performances.
This gem was followed by a dreadful revue called Keep It Clean, in 1929. The tasteless material included a risqué song about the marriage of Charles Lindbergh to Anne Morrow, and a hapless imitation of the great Beatrice Lillie. After 16 performances, this mess expired.
The Selwyn was graced with another stylish London revue, Wake Up and Dream, in 1929. The show starred Jack Buchanan, Jessie Matthews, and the ethereal dancer Tilly Losch, who beautifully interpreted Cole Porter’s song “What Is This Thing Called Love?” This was another C. B. Cochran revue, and it was applauded for 138 performances.
By now, the Selwyn had become a prime house to showcase splendid revues. The next offering, Three’s a Crowd, starring the great trio of Clifton Webb, Fred Allen, and Libby Holman (who had glittered in The Little Show on Broadway), proved that. The skilled cast also included Tamara Geva, Portland Hoffa (Mrs. Fred Allen), and Fred MacMurray. Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz wrote most of the music, but a squad of composers and lyricists contributed such gems as “Body and Soul” (danced by Webb and Geva in a strikingly lighted set by Hassard Short) and “Something to Remember You By.” The sketches were mostly by Dietz. Allen was riotous in a scene ribbing Admiral Byrd at the North Pole. Albertina Rasch staged the memorable dances, and Hassard Short received an award from General Electric for his dazzling lighting. The revue ran for 272 performances.
The Selwyn had serious troubles in the Depression years. It housed 11 consecutive flops and, under new ownership, started showing films in 1934. In the 1950s it tried an experiment, attempting to combine films with live drama, but audiences weren’t interested.
The Selwyn continued showing films into the 1990s. But late in that decade, as part of the Forty-second Street renaissance, the Roundabout Theatre Company, the not-for-profit troupe that had been operating out of temporary quarters at the Criterion Center in Times Square, announced that it would take control of the Selwyn from the New 42nd Street redevelopment organization, restore the theatre, and make it the company’s permanent home.
The theatre straddles the block between Forty-second and Forty-third streets. The main auditorium is on the Forty-third Street side, but the main entrance is on the more heavily traveled Forty-second Street side, formerly connected by a promenade auditorium that ran through a small office building. The renovation project proceeded despite the untimely collapse of that building on December 30, 1997. A new office tower, complete with a prime rehearsal space called the New 42nd Street Studios, was built in its place.
Also at this time, Roundabout announced that it would rechristen the Selwyn the American Airlines Theatre, as part of a deal for the patron company to donate $8.5 million over ten years toward the project’s expected $21 million cost.
The former Selwyn was magnificently restored and reduced to a more intimate capacity of 750 seats. A reception area for the exclusive use of subscribers offered a view of the offices of The New York Times, at least until that newspaper decamped to its new headquarters on Eighth Avenue in 2007. The Daily News reported that the restoration wound up costing $25 million but extolled the theatre’s wider seats and expanded leg room, the restored Renaissance-style murals, and the reddish-brown interior with a huge domed ceiling in blue, and little blue domes at the back. Most important, critic Howard Kissel of The News praised the theatre’s acoustics.
The American Airlines Theatre opened on July 27, 2000, with a revival of Kaufman and Hart’s 1939 comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner, starring Nathan Lane as Sheridan Whiteside, a thinly disguised, acerbic portrait of critic Alexander Woollcott. Both the comedy and the new theatre on Forty-second Street were warmly welcomed back.
The old Selwyn Theatre, which had turned its back on the legitimate theatre for so many decades, now seemed eager to make up for lost time. As a subscription house, the American Airlines presented two to five shows a year during its first decade in operation, logging the most new productions of any Broadway theatre during that period. Because all of them were scheduled as limited runs, they tended to run the same length of time whether they were successful or not, though two of them (Twelve Angry Men and The Pajama Game) stayed at the American Airlines Theatre for more than 100 performances, and one (The 39 Steps) transferred to a long commercial run at other theatres.
On November 24, 2000, David Leveaux directed a revival of Harold Pinter’s 1978 drama Betrayal, showing the effects of infidelity on a marriage, with the scenes presented in reverse chronological order. Juliette Binoche, Liev Schreiber, and John Slattery played the love triangle. A variation on that scenario came next, with Jennifer Ehle, Dominic West, and Alan Cumming playing a soigné ménage à trois in a tepidly received March 2001 revival of Noël Coward’s Design for Living, directed by Joe Mantello.
Another revival of a British play arrived in July 2001 when Cherry Jones and David Warner starred as daughter and father in a well-received production of George Bernard Shaw’s critique of capitalism, Major Barbara. Dana Ivey added to her repertoire of acerbic mothers as Lady Britomart, and rising actor Denis O’Hare drew attention as Adolphus.
Scott Elliott assembled a starry all-female cast for his November 8, 2001, revival of The Women, Clare Boothe Luce’s portrait of her gender at its worst and best. The production featured two titillating moments. One was a full-frontal nude scene by the always daring Jennifer Tilly, upon emerging from a bath. The other was the curtain call, in which all the women, including other featured performers Kristen Johnston, Cynthia Nixon, Rue McClanahan, Amy Ryan, and Mary Louise Wilson, took their bows clad in 1930s underwear.
Roundabout presented its first original play at the American Airlines Theatre on February 7, 2002: Heather McDonald’s drama about religion and perseverance, An Almost Holy Picture. Kevin Bacon gave a distinguished performance in this solo play about a former minister who in Act I goes on a spiritual journey across America, and then endures Job-like trials with his new family in Act II. John Dosset played the role on Wednesday and Sunday matinees.
Roundabout reached deeply into the playbox and pulled out a bit of history, Arthur Miller’s very first (but rarely revived) Broadway play, The Man Who Had All the Luck, subtitled “a fable,” about a young man who believes his success is due to good fortune of a supernatural nature. The May 1, 2002, production starred Chris O’Donnell, who at the time was known for playing comic-book sidekick Robin in the film Batman and Robin.
High-strung comedian Mario Cantone performed his standup show An Evening with Mario Cantone for four performances on “dark” nights when Roundabout was out of Luck.
A revival of Rodgers and Hart’s uproarious musical The Boys from Syracuse—the first on Broadway since the 1938 original—followed on August 18, 2002, but critics turned thumbs-down on Scott Ellis’s production. The retelling of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors with songs like “This Can’t Be Love” and “Sing for Your Supper” was judged a disappointment, despite game performances by Tom Hewitt, Chip Zien, Lee Wilkoff, Jonathan Dokuchitz, and Erin Dilly.
Joe Dowling, who held artistic directorship of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, staged a January 2003 production of Molière’s Tartuffe with Henry Goodman as the great religious hypocrite, Brian Bedford as Orgon, and J. Smith-Cameron as the mischievous maid Dorine.
The Roundabout went from classic comedy to black comedy with its next play, an April 2003 revival of Peter Nichols’s A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. Eddie Izzard and Victoria Hamilton made their Broadway debuts as the desperate parents of a severely disabled child, the title character, played by nine-year-old Madeleine Martin in the first of several disturbing child roles she would play in coming years in The Pillowman and August: Osage County. Izzard, Hamilton, and the production itself were all nominated for Tony Awards.
The Soviet-born comedian Yakov Smirnoff attempted to modulate his Cold War-era shtick in a solo show, As Long as We Both Shall Laugh, which played on Joe Egg’s “dark” nights. It attracted capitalists for 15 performances.
The Tony-winning musical Big River got an unorthodox but applauded revival in July 2003, courtesy of the North Hollywood-based Deaf West Theatre Company. The cast combined deaf, hearing-impaired, and hearing actors working together to tell the classic American story of Huckleberry Finn and his journey down the Mississippi. Some of the Roger Miller score was sung outright by the characters; some was performed using the graceful beauty of American Sign Language, with others singing the words. Huck was played by a deaf actor, Tyrone Giordano. Jim was played by hearing actor Michael McElroy (Tony nomination). The original 1985 Huck, Daniel Jenkins, returned in the role of Mark Twain, who served as narrator of this production. The show was nominated as Best Revival of a Musical at the 2004 Tony Awards.
Patrick Stewart played a homeless man who tries to work his way into dominance over two men who give him a job and a place to stay in the November 9, 2003, revival of Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker. Directed by David Jones, the three strove for a more humorous version of Pinter’s “comedy of menace.”
Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s classic American farce Twentieth Century got a classy revival March 25, 2004, starring Alec Baldwin as the down-but-not-out Broadway producer Oscar Jaffe, and Anne Heche as the movie star he must woo and sign for his last-chance Broadway comeback. Walter Bobbie directed the frantic action aboard the coaches of the Twentieth Century Limited, a luxury express train from Chicago to New York, with sets designed by John Lee Beatty and elegant period costumes by William Ivey Long.
Arthur Miller’s 1964 drama After the Fall got its first Broadway revival here on July 29, 2004, with Peter Krause as Quentin and Carla Gugino as Maggie in a thinly disguised dramatization of the playwright’s real-life failed marriage to movie icon Marilyn Monroe. Set in a limbo that reminded some critics of an airport waiting area (designed by Richard Hoover), Michael Mayer’s production was judged a disappointment. Ben Brantley of The New York Times wrote, “Peter Krause certainly appears to be feeling no pain. Or joy. Or any of the stronger emotions, pleasant or unpleasant, that crop up in between.”
The longest run of any Roundabout show at the American Airlines so far was logged by its October 28, 2004, revival of Reginald Rose’s tense courtroom drama Twelve Angry Men. Boyd Gaines, Philip Bosco, and James Rebhorn led a fine-tuned ensemble of jurors whose deliberations cause them gradually to shift from eleven-to-one in favor of conviction of an alleged murderer, to twelve-to-zero in favor of acquittal. Originally scheduled for a run of a few weeks, the production (directed by Scott Ellis) proved so popular that it was extended multiple times and amassed a total of 228 performances. It was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Revival of a Play and won the Drama Desk Award in that same category.
Kate Burton and Lynn Redgrave played daughter and mother in an austere June 2005 revival of W. Somerset Maugham’s The Constant Wife, with Michael Cumpsty as Burton’s husband. Both actresses earned Tony nominations, as did the production.
Richard Greenberg, who had enjoyed Tony-winning success with Take Me Out, followed it with a less enthusiastically received comedy, A Naked Girl on the Appian Way, on October 6, 2005. Directed by Doug Hughes, it was the story of a cookbook author (Jill Clayburgh, returning after a long absence from Broadway) and her husband (Richard Thomas), who try to cope with (among other things) their adopted children wanting to marry. The production also marked Matthew Morrison’s first Broadway assignment after The Light in the Piazza. Critics said the play lacked focus, and the story’s connection with the eye-catching title proved tenuous.
One of the greatest successes of the Roundabout’s tenure at the American Airlines Theatre arrived on February 23, 2006. Kelli O’Hara and crooner Harry Connick Jr. proved to have sparkling chemistry in the leading roles of The Pajama Game, the 1954 Adler and Ross musical about a strike at a Midwest pajama factory. The revival played an extended run of 129 performances and might have continued longer if the stars hadn’t made other commitments. It won the 2007 Tony Award as Best Revival of a Musical and Best Choreography (Kathleen Marshall).
Swoosie Kurtz donned a wig of red curls and Philip Bosco donned a gray cloud of whiskers to play the roles of Hesione Hushabye and Captain Shotover in what The New York Times called a “rippingly good” revival of Shaw’s Heartbreak House in fall 2006.
Things got mysterious the following March when Annie Parisse and Alan Tudyk starred in Daniel Sullivan’s revival of Craig Lucas’s Prelude to a Kiss, a Twilight Zone-like story of an old man (John Mahoney) who magically switches bodies with a woman in the bloom of youth (Parisse), leaving her husband (Tudyk) to figure out what happened and how to undo the switch.
John Van Druten’s rarely seen 1940 play Old Acquaintance got a polished revival in June of 2007, starring Harriet Harris and Margaret Colin as women whose friendship is tested when one of them goes through a divorce. The lush townhouse sets were by Alexander Dodge. Diane Davis earned favorable notice as the daughter of one of the women, who starts to come between them.
In October 2007 Broadway got to see a rare production of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, a 1913 play that has become overshadowed by its successful 1956 musical adaptation, My Fair Lady. David Grindley directed a cast that toplined Jefferson Mays as Henry Higgins, Boyd Gaines as Colonel Pickering, and film actress Claire Danes making her Broadway debut as the cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle.
One of the longest-running nonmusical plays of the 2000s opened at the American Airlines Theatre on January 15, 2008. It was a transfer of the London hit The 39 Steps, based on the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same title but telling the story with four actors playing dozens of characters through the use of quick-change and a treasure chest of other classic theatrical tricks and techniques. The virtuoso ensemble of Charles Edwards, Jennifer Ferrin, Arnie Burton, and Cliff Saunders played the thriller for pure, high-energy comedy. The show proved so successful that, at the conclusion of its limited run, it transferred to a commercial production at the Cort Theatre, and subsequently at the Helen Hayes, where it ran through January 2010, and enjoyed a simultaneous national tour.
Laura Linney, Ben Daniels, and Mamie Gummer were featured in the May 1, 2008, revival of Christopher Hampton’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses, a drama about sexual games that turn into cruelty in 1780's France. Some critics said the actors lacked the high style for the parts, but the production proved popular with subscribers.
Frank Langella unfurled a majestic Sir Thomas More in an October 7, 2008, revival of A Man for All Seasons, Robert Bolt’s drama about a man who must choose between his duty to his king and his duty to God. You can tell that story just isn’t going to end well, but Langella earned a Tony nomination for bringing weary grandeur to his inevitable fall.
Critics and audiences were less reverent about the January 2009 revival of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, starring Mary-Louise Parker as an almost sadistic Hedda and Michael Cerveris as a clueless Tesman. Ben Brantley of The New York Times wrote that Parker “traded in her usual air of easy, quirky spontaneity for the robotic petulance of an I-hate-everybody adolescent in a yearlong sulk.”
Matthew Broderick followed in a tepidly received April 26, 2009, revival of Christopher Hampton’s The Philanthropist.
British author Patrick Marber rewrote August Strindberg’s Miss Julie in his October 2009 play After Miss Julie, taking the story of a doomed romance between a male servant and the daughter of his aristocrat boss and moving it to England in the days after World War II when the Labour Party took control of Parliament. Sienna Miller and Johnny Lee Miller (no relation) played the lovers, whose sexual passion is constantly at war with their class-conscious upbringing. Marin Ireland provided a dose of common sense as the man’s heartbroken wife.
A revival of Noël Coward’s Present Laughter greeted 2010 with Victor Garber in the role of the comically put-upon playwright, Harriet Harris as his tart-tongued secretary, and Brooks Ashmanskas leaping across the stage as mad young playwright Roland Maul.
When leading lady Megan Mullally abruptly withdrew from a planned April 2010 Roundabout revival of Terrence McNally’s Lips Together, Teeth Apart, the production was canceled. In its place, subscribers got to see Sherie Rene Scott in Everyday Rapture, an expanded version of her club show, which told how the star of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Last Five Years adapted to life in the big city after growing up in a Kansas Mennonite community.
A revival of Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession opened in October 2010. It starred Tony winner Cherry Jones (newly sprung from her job as U.S. President Allison Taylor on the TV series "24") and British actress Sally Hawkins, best known for her portrayal of Poppy in the film Happy-Go-Lucky. The play did not make a huge splash, but the following one did: a production of Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by and starring, in the role of Lady Bracknell, the incomparable Brian Bedford. The comedy enjoyed a healthy run and a long extension before closing on June 26, 2011.
Terence Rattigan's 1963 drama Man and Boy featured Frank Langella, who received a Tony Award nomination for his portrayal of ruthless businessman Gregor Antonescu. It was followed by the Broadway debut of Athol Fugard's The Road to Mecca, which opened on January 17, 2012. It starred a luminous Rosemary Harris supported by Carla Gugino and Jim Dale, and marked the playwright's 80th birthday.
The next offering at the American Airlines Theatre provided a lighter note: Marc Camoletti's sex farce Don't Dress for Dinner had a Tony Award-nominated performance by Spencer Kayden (Urinetown's Little Sally), who returned to the New York stage after a too-long absence.
British actor Douglas Hodge returned to Broadway in the Roundabout's next revival, Cyrano de Bergerac, less than two years after winning the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for La Cage aux Folles.
William Inge's Picnic, which opened on January 13, 2013, offered a solid cast: Reed Birney, Maggie Grace, Elizabeth Marvel, Sebastian Stan, Mare Winningham and Ellen Burstyn. The ensemble was admired, as was Mr. Stan's robust physique.
Broadway favorite Bobby Cannavale headed up the cast of Clifford Odets' Hollywood drama, The Big Knife. Critics mostly lacerated the play, which was receiving its first Main Stem production since opening at the National Theatre in 1949.
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New York, New York 10036
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