London and Off-Broadway Hit Frozen Opens on Broadway May 4

News   London and Off-Broadway Hit Frozen Opens on Broadway May 4
MCC Theatre and playwright Bryony Lavery offer Broadway a circled triangle, as the chilling three-hander drama about a missing child officially opens at Broadway's Circle in the Square May 4.
Laila Robins in Frozen
Laila Robins in Frozen Photo by Dixie Sheridan

The play's brief preview period began on April 28, just two weeks after it ended a praised MCC run Off-Broadway.

The Off-Broadway cast of Swoosie Kurtz, Brian O'Byrne and Laila Robins repeat their duties. Critics have singled out the players as turning in some of the finest work of their careers. Sam Kitchin also appears.

Doug Hughes directs. The veteran regional and Off-Broadway helmsman makes his Broadway debut. Hughes' Theatre for a New Audience staging of Engaged opened at Off-Broadway's Lucille Lortel Theatre on April 29. He had a earlier hit this season with Amy Freed's Beard of Avon at New York Theatre Workshop.

Rumors about a quick transfer to Broadway began soon after Frozen opened in early March to largely rave reviews. The show closed April 10 at the East 13th Street Theatre (usually home to Classic Stage Company). The Broadway production is capitalized at $1.5 million.

MCC, which chose to back the venture itself rather than go with commercial Broadway producers, is the leading producer of the production, with some MCC board members also playing producing roles. Frozen is the first commercial Broadway transfer in the nonprofit's history. Wit, another MCC show, almost made it to Broadway, but eventually settled into a long run at the Union Square Theatre. The complete list of producers runs: MCC Theatre (Robert Lupone, Bernard Telsey, artistic directors; William Cantler, associate artistic director; John G. Schultz, executive director), Harold Newman, Zollo/Paleologos & Jeffrey Sine, Roy Gabay, Lorie Cowen Levy & Beth Smith, Thompson H. Rogers, Swinsky/ Filerman/ Hendel, Sirkin/Mills/Baldassare and Darren Bagert.

Circle in the Square's in-the-round space partially mirrors the seating set-up of the CSC venue on 13th Street, which has seats on three sides of the stage. MCC's artistic directors Bernard Telsey and Robert LuPone said they wanted to recapture on Broadway the intimacy of the Off-Broadway mounting.

Broadway observers expect that all three actors will be likely Tony Award nominees, and that the drama itself may give the Best Play Tony's leading contender, I Am My Own Wife, its stiffest competition.

The artistic directors said that, should Frozen become a commercial hit, income from the show would likely fund the creation of a new permanent Off-Broadway space. MCC lost its Chelsea home a couple seasons back and has since rented a series of stages.

Frozen connects the lives of three strangers involved in a child's disappearance: the mother of the child (Kurtz), the kidnapper (O'Byrne) and an American academic studying serial killers (Robins).

Frozen was Lavery's first work to get a production at the prestigious National Theatre and is the British playwright's most significant stage success to date. Hughes directs the trio of actors on a nearly bare stage. Each character frequently speaks directly to the audience, in a series of aria-like scenes. Later on in the drama, the characters interact.

Kurtz made a cameo appearance (via film) in MCC's staging of Kate Robin's Intrigue With Faye last season. Her last stint on Broadway was in the Nora Ephron play with music Imaginary Friends in which she played literary diva Lillian Hellman. She has won Tony Awards for her turns in Fifth of July and The House of Blue Leaves.

O'Byrne starred in the original productions of Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Skull in Connemara and The Lonesome West, as well as the Broadway stagings of the first and latter, which earned him his Tony nods.

Robins has been a regular at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey for each of the last seven seasons, in such works as Three Sisters, Arms and the Man and Twelfth Night. On Broadway, she was seen in The Herbal Bed and The Real Thing and Off-Broadway in Tiny Alice and Mrs. Klein.

The design team for Frozen includes Hugh Landwehr (set), Catherine Zuber (costume), Clifton Taylor (lighting), Angelina Avallone (make-up and tattoo) and David Van Tieghem (sound) — who also provides original music. Rick Sordelet handles fight direction and Stephen Gabis serves as dialect coach.

Brian F. O'Byrne and Swoosie Kurtz in <i>Frozen</i>
Brian F. O'Byrne and Swoosie Kurtz in Frozen Photo by Dixie Sheridan
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