Enron, a Theatrical Dissection of a Famous Crime, Opens on Broadway

News   Enron, a Theatrical Dissection of a Famous Crime, Opens on Broadway
The acclaimed London production of Lucy Prebble's Enron, a docudrama that uses song, movement, projections, video, masks — and naturalistic workplace scenes — to tell the real-life American corporate crime story, opens on Broadway April 27.
Enron star Norbert Leo Butz
Enron star Norbert Leo Butz Photo by Joan Marcus

Featuring an American cast, previews began April 8 at the Broadhurst Theatre. The original U.K. production continues on London's West End.

For the U.S. debut of Enron, Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz, Tony nominee Gregory Itzin, Drama League nominee Stephen Kunken and Tony nominee Marin Mazzie play the four principal wrongdoers at the top of the Enron foodchain in Houston.

The highly theatricalized tale of the financial scandal and collapse of the ambitious American energy corporation is directed by Rupert Goold (Broadway's recent Macbeth starring Patrick Stewart), whose Headlong Theatre in England commissioned the work. British playwright Prebble — who is not yet 30 years old and is known for creating the TV series "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" — didn't want to write a conventional docudrama, so she and director Goold shaped a hyper-theatrical event, wrapping multimedia, surreal images and stylized action around the a series of well-made more realistic scenes. For example, when the term "raptor" is used in reference to the entities that kept millions of dollars of debt off the books, Prebble and Goold put "Jurassic Park"-worthy dinosaur heads on actors to heighten the ruthlessness of the criminals' plans. The department run by chief financial officer Andy Fastow (played by Kunken, of Broadway's Rock 'n' Roll, Frost/Nixon and Festen and Off-Broadway's Our Town) becomes a dark, dank, subterranean world where something menacing and reptilian — primal — is nurtured.

[AUDIO-LEFT]The corporate crime shocked the nation in 2001. The play's action "takes place in Houston, Texas, between 1992 and the present day."

Itzin ("24," The Kentucky Cycle) plays Kenneth Lay, the convicted corporate president; Mazzie (Ragtime, Passion and Kiss Me, Kate) plays vice president Claudia Roe (her character is a composite of several real people); and Butz (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Is He Dead?) plays CEO Jeffrey Skilling. "It's a very well-made play that has all the drama of a great courtroom piece but at the same time it's this highly theatrical vaudeville extravaganza," Kunken told Playbill.com, in between rehearsals. "The play focuses on these four pillars [of the corporation] and then is supported by all of the different people who make up the world of the play; we've got a huge company of great actors who do that. The play, as it goes along, becomes more and more surreal as the events become more and more surreal. As Enron falls apart, so does the structure of the well-made play."

Kunken, whose Broadway credits include the non-musicals Proof and Festen, unexpectedly found himself in dance rehearsals as part of the creation of the Broadway production of Enron.

Stephen Kunken with cast members of Enron
photo by Joan Marcus

"There is an energy and a level to this that is tragic, that is almost operatic," Kunken explained. "When you get to those points, like in a well-made musical, the only place left to go is to break into song or dance. This play is pitched at a level — it doesn't break into dance or song for no reason. It does it because that's the only place left for us to go [emotionally]." Itzin (playing Kenneth Lay) is best known for his Nixon-esque, critically acclaimed turn as President Charles Logan on FOX's action-drama "24," for which he received a 2006 Emmy nomination. Lay was found guilty of multiple charges of securities fraud in May 2006. He died of heart disease in July 2006 before he was sentenced.

The Enron cast also includes Noah Weisberg (George Street Playhouse's Calvin Berger), Rightor Doyle (Broadway debut), Ian Kahn (MCC's Still Life), Mary Stewart Sullivan (Broadway debut), Madisyn Shipman (Broadway debut), January LaVoy (Signature's Two Trains Running), Jordan Ballard (Hairspray), Brandon J. Dirden (Prelude to a Kiss), Anthony Holds (Spamalot, Pal Joey), Ty Jones (Judgment at Nuremberg, Henry IV, Julius Caesar), Tom Nelis (The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, Aida), Jeff Skowron (The Lion King, High Society), Lusia Strus (the upcoming untitled Gus Van Sant project), Ben Hartley (Swan Lake, The Little Mermaid) and Ellyn Marie Marsh (Broadway debut).

Enron features scenic and costume design by Anthony Ward, lighting by Mark Henderson, music and sound by Adam Cork, video and projection by Jon Driscoll and choreography by Scott Ambler.

Enron was commissioned by Headlong Theatre, premiered in summer 2009 at the Minerva Theatre Chichester, and then moved for a six-week run at the Royal Court Theatre in London where it played through Nov. 8, 2009. The play transferred to West End's Noel Coward Theatre Jan. 16, where it continues.

The Headlong Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre and Royal Court Theatre production of Enron is produced on Broadway by Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Matthew Byam Shaw, ACT Productions, Neal Street, Beverly Bartner & Norman Tulchin, Lee Menzies, Bob Boyett, Scott M. Delman, INFINITY Stages, JK Productions, The Araca Group, Jamie deRoy, Mallory Factor, Michael Filerman, Ian Flooks, Ronald Frankel, James Fuld Jr., Dena Hammerstein, Sharon Karmazin, Cheryl Lachowicz, Ostar Productions, Parnassus Enterprise, Jon B. Platt, Judith Resnick, Daryl Roth, Stein and Gunderson Company, Anita Waxman, The Weinstein Company, Barry & Carole Kaye Stewart F. Lane & Bonnie Comley, Fran & Barry Weissler and The Shubert Organization.

Prebble won the George Devine Award and the Critics' Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright for her debut play The Sugar Syndrome at the Royal Court Theatre. On television, her work includes creating the series "Secret Diary of a Call Girl." Enron is her second play.

Goold's previous productions include Minerva Theatre Chichester's staging of Macbeth with Patrick Stewart (that transferred to the West End and Broadway) and Six Characters in Search of an Author. Additional credits include Time and the Conways at the National Theatre, Pete Postlethwaite in King Lear, and West End productions of Pinter's No Man's Land and Oliver! (currently at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane). He most recently directed Turandot for English National Opera which opened at the London Coliseum in October.

Enron tickets are on sale at telecharge.com, at The Broadhurst Theatre (235 W. 44th St. between 8th Avenue and Broadway) or at (212) 239-6200.

Norbert Leo Butz and the company of <i>Enron</i>
Norbert Leo Butz and the company of Enron
Today’s Most Popular News: