Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bringing Back Brighton

Bringing Back Brighton

UPDATE - 10.31.2009: Brighton Beach Memoirs will close just one week after opening due to weak box office demand, thus scuttling the planned revival of Broadway Bound.

Consider the enormous impact the first run of Neil Simon's much beloved semi-autobiographical Brighton Beach Memoirs had on Broadway by the time it closed on May 11, 1986, at the 46th Street Theatre (now Richard Rodgers Theatre).

The Gene Saks-helmed production not only enjoyed a whopping 1,299 performances over a three year-two month period -- pretty remarkable for a straight play -- it also helped launch the career of a young actor named Matthew Broderick.

Broderick would go on to earn his first Tony Award portraying Eugene Jerome. He'd revisit the role via Simon's second portion of his "Eugene Trilogy," Biloxi Blues, which enjoyed a successful concurrent run with Brighton Beach Memoirs from 1985-86. (Alas, Jonathan Silverman would play Eugene in Broadway Bound, the third play in the cycle that ran for nearly two years starting in 1986.)

Broderick was joined in Brighton Beach Memoirs by Elizabeth Franz as his mother Kate, Peter Michael Goetz as his father Jack and Željko Ivanek as his brother Stanley, along with Mandy Ingber, Jodi Thelen and Joyce Van Patten. In addition to Broderick's Tony, Zaks would score one for his direction, while Franz and Ivanek would each receive nominations for their turns.

Now, over a quarter century after the show's Broadway debut comes its hotly anticipated first revival. What makes the revival intriguing is that it's being directed by the super-hot visionary David Cromer, who breathed incredible new life into Our Town. Cromer is adding to the intrigue by ultimately playing Brighton Beach Memoirs in repertory with a revival of Broadway Bound. (Sorry, Biloxi Blues fans -- the middle portion of the trilogy is not included.)

Laurie Metcalf and Dennis Boutsikaris will star in each as Kate and Jack, respectively. Santino Fontana will tackle Stanley Jerome in both, and Jessica Hecht will also be in both installments as Blanche. Noah Robbins is set to make his Broadway debut in Brighton Beach Memoirs as Eugene, Neil Simon's alter ego. The young actor graduated earlier this year from Washington's Georgetown Day School. (In Broadway Bound, Theatre World Award winner Josh Grisetti assumes the role of the older Eugene. More on that portion of the overarching production to come.)

Will Brighton Beach Memoirs create the same lasting memories as the first? While its only real reported buzz has been relegated to behind-the-scenes strife, I'm hearing from my trusted insiders who have already seen early previews that it's a wonderfully solid production.

This first of two Simon Plays opens October 25. I'll offer my SOB Review shortly thereafter.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 14 October, 2009, Blogger Win in Wisconsin said...

Thanks for the memories.....BBM was the first Broadway Show I ever saw in NYC--summer of 1984. Would love to see the revival!

At 14 October, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Sounds like your first visit to Broadway was shortly before mine. My first show was Cats - wish it had been Brighton Beach Memoirs but the bonus for me was seeing Matthew Broderick on the street right after my show got out.

At 14 October, 2009, Blogger JohnnyFox said...

I loved the original, and also the '86 London production which starred Frances de la Tour as the mother ...

At 14 October, 2009, Blogger Esther said...

I know I say I'm excited about every show but I'm really, really excited about this one. After years of watching the movie versions of Neil Simon's plays, I'm finally going to see one onstage!

I had a chance to talk to David Cromer after Our Town and I told him how much I was looking forward to Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound. He made a point of telling me that Laurie Metcalf was going to be in BBM. And he told me there would be no bacon.

At 14 October, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Johnny Fox, I had no idea Frances de la Tour was in the British version. Thanks for sharing!

At 14 October, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther, Like you, I admire David Cromer's work immensely. Can't wait to see this production.


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