J. Smith-Cameron, known for playing tart and funny characters -- most notably Alexa Vere de Vere in Off-Broadway's As Bees in Honey Drown -- will plunge into the shadowy dark of Night Must Fall, replacing Pamela J. Gray as the thriller's suspicious niece.
The Feb. 16 announcement of recasting, a matter of "creative differences" (according to a production spokesperson), has bumped the official opening of the Matthew Broderick vehicle to March 8 rather than Feb. 21. National Actors Theatre previews began Feb. 2 at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre.
Judith Parfitt ("The Jewel in the Crown," "Dolores Claiborne") co-stars as the older woman charmed by Broderick, who plays an apparent murderer in provincial England.
A spokesman for the show said Gray would likely finish the current week of performances, to Feb. 21. Gray's understudy is Seana Kofoed. It was not immediately clear when Smith-Cameron would go on. The actress recently appeared in Manhattan Theatre Club's The Memory of Water.
The limited run of Night Must Fall, through April 18, offers a set by James Noone in tones of black, white and gray, making the experience akin to an eerie, black-and-white movie, according to insiders. Lighting is by Brian MacDevitt. The role of a murderer is new for the fresh-faced, boyish Broderick, best known for movies such as "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "War Games" and Broadway's Brighton Beach Memoirs and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
The 1935 Williams thriller is directed by John Tillinger (Broadway's Getting and Spending and The Sunshine Boys). Parfitt is making her Broadway debut as Mrs. Bramson, a matron who takes suspected-killer Broderick into her home.
National Actors Theatre general manager Fred Walker previously told Playbill On-Line that no matter how positive potential reviews are, there can be no significant extension with Broderick in the role because of the actor's commitment to appear in Horton Foote's The Death of Papa May 27-June 27 at the Hartford Stage in Connecticut.
Broderick won a Tony Award for the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. He has also appeared in Master Harold...and the boys and Torch Song Trilogy.
The Night Must Fall company includes Michael Countryman, Seana Kofoed, Patricia Kilgarriff, Peter McRobbie.
Jess Goldstein designed costumes and Aural Fixation designed the sound.
For ticket information, call (212) 239-6200.
After a London staging in 1935, Night Must Fall premiered at Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theatre in 1936. Director-playwright Williams also played the lead role of Dan (the Broderick role), a bellboy in a resort town hired as a servant by Mrs. Bramson. Mrs. Bramson's niece is suspicious of Dan, following a local murder.
Other plays by (George) Emlyn Williams include The Corn is Green and The Druid's Rest. A 1937 film version of Night Must Fall starred Rosalind Russell.
Tony Randall has singlemindedly and tirelessly boosted the nonprofit NAT, which he founded in the early 1990s as a way of getting the finest contemporary actors to perform seldom-seen classics and stretch their acting muscles.
Some of the productions have been successful, including a recent Randall Jack Klugman teaming on The Sunshine Boys, and Brian Bedford in Shakespeare's Timon of Athens. But the company has struggled. A lauded 1996 revival of Inherit the Wind with George C. Scott and Charles Durning closed prematurely when Scott developed problems with his health and personal life. Randall understudied his part.
NAT's recent revival of The Gin Game performed to half-full houses despite the presence of Durning and Julie Harris. Nevertheless, Gin Game is touring nationally with Durning and Harris, having started Oct. 27 in Raleigh-Durham NC.
The Chicago stop of the show in 1998 earned the leads Joseph Jefferson Awards. The Gin Game travels to a dozen cities through spring 1999.