LONDON — Jessica Lange may well be “so happy … for a time” on Broadway next spring if she joins the Robert Falls-directed “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” that is shaping up to be the starriest revival Broadway has seen in an age. (Mike Nichols’ imminent, and star-packed, Central Park go-round of “The Seagull” has no Broadway plans — so far.)
“I thought she was quite remarkable,” Falls says of Lange’s West End Mary Tyrone, which the director caught in its final weeks at the Lyric Theater prior to the production’s skedded closing March 3.
Falls adds, “I told her I’d love it if she would consider playing it” again in his revival, which is primed to start a monthlong (or thereabouts) Chicago run in January on the Goodman mainstage before transferring to Broadway.
Robin Phillips’ West End staging marked Falls’ first live experience of O’Neill’s crowning work. He saw the Katharine Hepburn film and both the Laurence Olivier and Jack Lemmon productions on TV and video, respectively.
Whereas Lange was generally considered the crowning glory of producer Bill Kenwright’s London venture — and was the only cast member to get an Olivier nom — Falls’ staging, backed by David Richenthal, is aiming high across the board. His Tyrone Sr. will be Brian Dennehy, marking the fifth collaboration over the past 18 years between the Tony-winning actor-director team behind Broadway’s recent “Death of a Salesman.”
In contention to play the two sons are Philip Seymour Hoffman and Billy Crudup — “probably the two hottest actors in the country right now,” says Falls.
Lange, of course, is no stranger to rethinking the same role for different directors. She played Blanche DuBois on Broadway for Gregory Mosher and 4-1/2 years later in London for Peter Hall, with a TV version in between.
“She’ll need to develop a new family,” acknowledges Falls, “which is a difficult thing to do.” On the other hand, adds the director, Mary Tyrone “is the one role that exists almost independently of the play. She’s the wild emotional center of the piece that the men have to respond to.”
Judi Dench was an early prospect for this production, having befriended Dennehy when she was appearing on Broadway in “Amy’s View” two streets away from his lauded Willy Loman.
But, says the actress, speaking from the Nova Scotia location shoot of Lasse Hallstrom’s “The Shipping News,” “It would be quite difficult for me to do that now. And anyway, it’s been done beautifully.” (Michael Williams, Dench’s husband of nearly 30 years, died in January.)
As for Lange, the two-time Oscar-winner was sounding ready for a long rest, speaking the day before her closing performance during a lunch for the London branch of the international org Women in Film.
“I’m tired; I want to go home,” said Lange, who was on a plane back to Minnesota within 24 hours of her thrilling final descent down the Tyrone staircase. And yet, she maintained, “I’m not through with Mary yet.”
And a good thing, too.
- “Feelgood,” the Alistair Beaton satire that has been a sizable hit at the Hampstead Theater,” is dislodging “An Inspector Calls” from the Garrick Theater and will begin a West End transfer April 21, opening April 26; Henry Goodman once again heads the cast. The co-producers are Lee Dean, Max Weitzenhoffer and Really Useful Theater’s Nica Burns.
Meanwhile, Stephen Daldry’s career-making revival of “Inspector” is by no means calling it quits. After 5-1/2 years at the Garrick and well over eight years since it first stormed the National, the production aims to reopen yet again in August at the Playhouse Theater. (Perhaps surprisingly, that latest venue is some 200 seats larger than the Garrick, so the show will get a full-throttle relaunch.)
Dan Hinde, general manager for PW Prods., the team behind “Inspector,” estimates the cost of the summer move at £50,000 ($72,000) minimum.
- Farley Granger, the 75-year-old American film star of “Rope” and “Strangers on a Train,” has departed the imminent West End bow of Noel Coward’s “Semi-Monde.” (An interview in the March 7-14 edition of Time Out spoke of Granger’s difficulty learning his lines.) Actor-cabaret performer Stefan Bednarczyk — some 35 years or so Granger’s junior — has joined the cast of 29 to take on the role. Opening night remains March 21.
Look for a May 21 start of previews and a June opening at the Shaftesbury Theater for “The Philadelphia Story,” with Calista Flockhart as the ice-maiden heiress inhabited over time by Katharine Hepburn and Blythe Danner, among others.
Arvin Brown and Michael Yeargan are on hand as director and designer, respectively, of the £600,000 ($865,000) West End production, which, lead producer Duncan C. Weldon moans cheerfully, has “16 in the cast and two bloody sets.”
The expectation is for a run of at least 10 weeks and possibly longer, depending on business and reviews and Flockhart’s ongoing commitment to “Ally McBeal.” An eventual American transfer, says Weldon, wouldn’t go amiss either.
Further ahead, Weldon is planning the West End bow in August of Neil Simon’s “The Dinner Party” in a staging independent from the one now on Broadway. Jonathan Church will direct with sets by Rob Howell (London’s “The Caretaker,” Broadway’s “Betrayal”). A July tryout is planned for the spa town of Malvern.
These are just two of the shows planned for Triumph Entertainment, the new consortium inaugurated Dec. 4 between Weldon, West End vet producer Paul Elliott (“Stones in His Pockets”) and theater owner Stephen Waley-Cohen, whose London playhouses include the Savoy and the St. Martins.
“We’re in the autumn — or some might say the winter — of our careers,” says Elliott, who previously partnered Weldon in Triumph Theater Prods. from 1967 to 1977. (Both men turn 60 this year.)
“We’re bookending our careers,” adds Weldon, who is nine months Elliott’s senior. “It’s about doing things together as opposed to on your own.”