Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Send In The Crowds

Send In The Crowds

Today, at long last and after what seems like months of endless speculation came confirmation that what is arguably Stephen Sondheim's greatest lifetime triumph -- A Little Night Music -- is finally coming back to Broadway after a long overdue 35 year absence.

I'm truly not sure what is more remarkable about this Trevor Nunn-helmed import from London.

On the one hand, you have Academy Award-winning actress Catherine Zeta-Jones making her Broadway debut in the coveted role of Desiree Armfeldt. While a Rialto novice, a very young Zeta-Jones made her West End debut in Annie. She also appeared in the London production of 42nd Street -- incredibly, she was cast in the leading role of Peggy Sawyer after both the regular actress and understudy already filling the part fell ill! The rest, as they say, is history. After wowing us as Velma Kelly in the film production of "Chicago," Zeta-Jones indicated shortly thereafter that she would someday love to tackle a musical on Broadway. That day is soon to come.

On the other hand -- and this is a mighty huge hand -- you have the legendary Angela Lansbury. The beloved five-time Tony-winning veteran of 11 Great White Way shows over the last 52 years is defying all odds by agreeing once more to one last crack at a Main Stem stage. This time, she'll be portraying Madame Armfeldt. Could it be that she'll earn her sixth Tony?

Also particularly noteworthy is that this production marks only the very first time A Little Night Music will have been revived on Broadway. Hard to believe for a musical that inspires swoons from virtually all comers who have ever seen it performed.

Regular readers will note that even I was swept away. After seeing Nunn's earliest incarnation of A Little Night Music in London last November, I summed up my rapturous SOB Review by pining:
There's little doubt that the bewitching allure of this excellent revival will follow other Menier productions to the West End, but how about to Broadway?

Well, maybe next year ... or so we can hope!
According to the announcement made today, my complete wish is coming true. A Little Night Music will begin previews at the Walter Kerr Theatre on November 24. Opening night is currently scheduled for December 13.

While complete casting has not been announced, we do know that Alexander Hanson will reprise his London role as Fredrik Egerman. Lansbury, Zeta-Jones and Hanson will be joined by Erin Davie (Countess Charlotte Malcolm), Hunter Ryan Herdlicka (Henry Egerman), Leigh Ann Larkin (Petra), Aaron Lazar (Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm) and Ramona Mallory (Anne Egerman).

The first Broadway production of A Little Night Music was directed by the great Harold Prince. The musical opened February 25, 1973, at the Shubert Theatre. Not only would the show earn a whopping 12 Tony Award nominations, but it would reap of six of the top honors including Best Musical, Best Original Score (Sondheim), Best Book of a Musical (Hugh Wheeler), Best Actress in a Musical (Glynis Johns), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Patricia Elliott) and Best Costume Design (Florence Klotz - a Tony that I have had the thrill of holding myself).

Just seven months after first opening, the tuner transferred to Broadway's Majestic Theatre, where it played until August 3, 1974. All totaled, A Little Night Music enjoyed 601 regular performances on the Great White Way.

While I for one would have loved to have seen both Hannah Waddingham and Maureen Lipman recreate their roles from the London stage, you can bet that as the casting of Zeta-Jones and Lansbury will make this one of Broadway's most sought-after tickets of the year, I will be cueing up enthusiastically. To put it simply -- I can't wait.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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