Design for Living Is First in NYC Noël Coward Series; Steve Ross, Keith Merrill, Amy Rutberg, Kevin Collins Perform

News   Design for Living Is First in NYC Noël Coward Series; Steve Ross, Keith Merrill, Amy Rutberg, Kevin Collins Perform
The works of playwright-songwriter Noël Coward — and his contemporaries and U.K. successors — will be presented in Manhattan in a monthly reading series dubbed Noël and Company, kicking off with a March 5 performance of Coward's Design for Living.

The series, presented in association with the Noël Coward Foundation's Noël Coward Festival at Lincoln Center, will run at The Gershwin Hotel's "Living Room."

The 6 PM March 5 show will be preceded by a 5:30 performance by cabaret star Steve Ross, known for his light and elegant touch with show music and standards.

Design For Living (1933) follows the love triangle of Otto, Gilda and Leo. Coward, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne originated the roles.

The free-loving trio at the Gershwin Hotel will be played by Amy Rutberg (Charles Busch's The Divine Sister), Kevin Collins (Irish Rep's Dancing at Lughnasa) and Keith Merrill (Camelot with Robert Goulet). The cast will also include Mary Ellen Ashley (Annie Get Your Gun, Yentl), Anthony Newfield (the most recent Broadway revival of Waiting for Godot) and Seth Duerr (the Public's Macbeth). Erin Hill will provide musical accompaniment on the harp.

The Noël and Company series was created by artistic director Keith Merrill and producing director Mary Ellen Ashley. The series performs under an Equity showcase code. "This will be a very special evening — not your typical reading series — consisting of an exciting 'opening act,' as well as live music in the room," Merrill told "The room itself is so very intimate, an Edwardian drawing room complete with paneled walls, vaulted ceiling, a massive Persian rug and an enormous fireplace. I am loosely attempting a kind of 'salon' feel and hope that our audience walks away having enjoyed a truly rewarding experience at a very low cost. I want the patrons to feel they are a part of something. This is about doing great work and my love for this writing — the ultimate goal being to fully produce an Off-Broadway piece once a year."

Expect a range of playwrights to be addressed by Noël and Company: John Osborne, Joe Orton, Terrence Rattigan, Martin McDonagh, Alan Bennett, Harold Pinter, J.M. Barrie and Alan Ayckbourn.

Merrill added, "In addition to our mission, we will strive to visit various arts schools and universities, performing selected readings/productions, fostering the passions of tomorrow's theatre community and in our own small way further ensuring the future's desire for the writers who have so eloquently penned the human condition and enriched our lives."

Tickets are $15 and will be available at the "Living Room" door. The Gershwin Hotel is located at 7 E. 27th Street, in Manhattan. For more information visit or email

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