Having started performances on Feb. 17, stars Donald Sutherland and John Rubinstein have consistently brought Toronto audiences to their feet during previews for Enigma Variations at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Playbill On-Line has learned. Now, with the show just opened (Feb. 24) and two of the city's four notices for the show already published, the question remains whether producers will be prompted to move Enigma Variations to Broadway.
The Toronto Star, the city's main circulation paper, has given Enigma Variations a four-star review; and the Toronto Sun tabloid, which took exception to the play itself but lauded the actors, gave the show three and a half stars. Reviews are expected tomorrow from both the Globe and Mail and the National Post.
"The assumption is that if either of these next reviews is very good," a source close to the production said, "then you'll see the show in New York at the Brooks Atkinson sometime in April." The Brooks Atkinson is currently dark.
A call to producer Emanuel Azenberg's office in New York was not returned by press time.
In Toronto, meanwhile, audiences that typically reserve gestures like standing ovations for musicals are said to be "erupting to their feet" at the end of Enigma Variations. Although some of the audience emotion in Toronto could be attributed to the fact that this is Canadian born Donald Sutherland's first stage appearance there in years, the show is a proven audience pleaser -- both in Los Angeles and in Toronto where it continues to sell well. As reported earlier, Enigma Variations, stars Donald Sutherland (Abel Znorko) and John Rubinstein (Erik Larsen) and runs through April 1 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. The strictly limited engagement of Enigma Variations is directed by award-winning stage, film and television director Anthony Page and designed by the legendary Ming Cho Lee.
Enigma Variations was written by French playwright Eric Emmanuel Schmitt. The English language translation being used in Toronto was done by Roeg Sutherland, who is the son of Enigma Variations star Donald Sutherland from an earlier marriage to Francine Racette, one of the producers of the Toronto show.
A prolific and versatile film star, Donald Sutherland was born in St. John, New Brunswick, and studied at the University of Toronto and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in England before launching his career.
"Donald Sutherland is recognized as one of the leading film stars of our time," said producer David Mirvish in a paper statement, "but many people in Toronto haven't had the chance to see him on stage since his days at the University of Toronto, when he performed at Hart House as a student. This production affords us all a rare opportunity."
John Rubinstein won the Tony Award as Best Actor for Children of a Lesser God, as well as the Drama Desk, L.A. Drama Critics Circle and Drama-Logue Awards. Rubinstein also won acclaim for his starring roles in Broadway's Pippin, Love Letters, Hurlyburly, M. Butterfly and, most recently, Ragtime. On television, he starred in the drama series "Family," and has worked with such directors as Steven Spielberg, Herbert Wise and Tony Richardson. His film credits include Ridley Scott's "Someone To Watch Over Me," Sidney Lumet's "Daniel" and John Badham's "Another Stakeout."
In Enigma, Sutherland plays Abel Znorko, a reclusive Nobel Prize winning novelist who publishes a passionate and personal book of letters that earns universal praise. When a journalist, played by Rubinstein, is granted a rare interview, a cascade of twisting, shattering revelations links the two men in a pas de deux.
Playwright Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt is a French-born philosophy professor and author. Among his plays are Le Visiteur and La Nuit De Valognes. He has also translated and adapted the French-language productions of Nine, The Merchant of Venice and many other plays and musicals. In France, he is a best-selling and award winning novelist. He splits his time between Dublin and Paris.
Director Page has worked both on Broadway and the West End, helming productions of A Doll's House (seen on Broadway a few seasons ago, starring Janet McTeer), Three Tall Women, Uncle Vanya and A Delicate Balance. Page has also directed films starring Albert Finney, Nicol Williamson and Richard Burton. On television, he has done many productions for BBC, NBC, CBS, HBO, Showtime and ABC.
Set designer Lee has designed internationally for 40 years and chairs the design department of the Yale School of Drama. Costume designer is Candice Cain, lighting designer is Robert Wierzel and sound designer is Jon Gottlieb.
Enigma Variations is produced by Francine Racette, Emanuel Azenberg, Duncan Weldon, Ira Pittelman, David & Ed Mirvish and The Mark Taper Forum/ Gordon Davidson.
Tickets range from $26.50 - $66.50. The show will run at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King Street West in Toronto. For more information, call (416) 872-1212 or (800) 461-3333, or by visiting www.mirvish.com.
-- By Murdoch McBride