Thursday, January 21, 2010

Coward's Laughter Presented For Fifth Time On Broadway

Coward's Laughter Presented For Fifth Time On Broadway

What do acting greats Clifton Webb, George C. Scott, Frank Langella and now Victor Garber all have in common with playwright Noël Coward, whose Present Laughter is opening for its fifth time on Broadway this evening?

The answer? Each has portrayed the play's suave, yet egocentric actor Garry Essendine on the Great White Way.

Nicholas Martin directs Garber on his return to Broadway after a 10 year absence. A four-time Tony nominee in his own right, Garber has become a household name over the last decade for his Emmy-nominated work on the little screen, although he's also been in many hit movies, too.

Garber is joined in this incarnation of Present Laughter by Brooks Ashmanskas as Roland Maule, Lisa Banes as Liz Essendine, Nancy E. Carroll as Miss Erikson, Alice Duffy as Lady Saltburn, Holley Fain as Daphne Stillington, Pamela Jane Gray as Joanna Lyppiatt, Harriet Harris as Monica Reed, James Joseph O'Neil as Fred, Richard Poe as Henry Lyppiatt and Mark Vietor as Morris Dixon.

With frequent productions on both sides of the Atlantic since it was first staged in 1942, Present Laughter remains a favorite from the Coward canon. It was first produced on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre, where it ran for 158 after opening October 29, 1946. Webb was its star.

The first Main Stem revival was mounted at the Belasco Theatre in early 1958. Hard to believe it only lasted a scant 6 performances, given that Coward was not only at the helm, but also starring as Garry himself, a role meant to serve as his very own self-caricature. The revival also starred Eva Gabor as Joanna Lyppiatt.

The second Broadway revival, mounted at the Circle in the Square Theatre in July 1982, was significantly more successful and featured a truly stellar cast that could earn its audience members some major bragging rights. Not only did George C. Scott portray Garry, but he also directed this Present Laughter that featured Kate Burton as Daphne Stillington, Dana Ivey as Monica Reed, Christine Lahti as Joanna Lyppiatt and a young Nathan Lane in his Broadway debut as Roland Maule. While the production that lasted 175 performances drew no Tony nominations, Scott, Ivey and Lane would each receive Drama Desk nods, while Burton received a Theatre World Award.

Scott Elliott directed the last Rialto revival of Present Laughter at the Walter Kerr Theatre, where it opened November 18, 1996. Like its predecessor, this revival enjoyed a run of 175 performances. Langella starred as Garry and Allison Janney played his estranged wife Liz; both earned Drama Desk nominations and Janney took home a Theatre World Award. The show itself would be Tony nominated for Best Revival of a Play.

Which brings us back to the present Laughter. Will Martin's latest revival present lots of laughter and mirth? I'll let you know shortly after I see the show within the next few weeks.

The Roundabout Theatre Company's limited run revival of Present Laughter at the American Airlines Theatre is currently slated to close on March 21, 2010.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I have received nothing of value in exchange for this post.

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