‘Buffalo’ Joan

LONDON — Stars in your eyes: That’s what to expect on the distaff front at least, with the news that Joan Collins is returning to the West End for the first time in over a decade to headline the London preem of the American comedy “Moon Over Buffalo.”

“Joan is very astute about finding the right things, and this is one of them,” producer Lee Dean remarks of his star, adding that “for her to be away from the stage is a shame.” (Collins last appeared on the West End in the 1990 revival of “Private Lives,” the Noel Coward comedy in which she subsequently did a fast fade on Broadway.)

Ken Ludwig’s backstage farce will cast Collins in the role that brought a 1996 best actress Tony nom for Carol Burnett, with the male lead — originated on Broadway by Philip Bosco — yet to be cast. (Dean is considering candidates from both sides of the Atlantic.) Veteran farceur Ray Cooney (“Run For Your Wife”) has been tapped to direct.


Look for a February 2002 Broadway bow — probably at Circle in the Square — for the multi-award-winning “Blue/Orange,” with Elizabeth McCann in discussion to lead an American producing contingent alongside Dean and fellow Briton Michael Codron in bringing Joe Penhall’s play to New York.

Whereas “Blue/Orange’s” predecessor at the Duchess Theater, Michael Frayn’s “Copenhagen,” was successfully recast with a trio of Americans for New York, the early hope is that the Penhall play’s London threesome (Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln and Chiwetel Ejiofor) can be exported intact across the Atlantic, pending Equity approval.

Back home, the same actors are scheduled to leave director Roger Michell’s production Aug. 18, but “Blue/Orange” will continue on. After all, if you’re doing 80-85% business amid the West End summer doldrums, albeit in a small 450-seat house, why tamper with success?


Add Simon Callow to the list of Britons heading westward. The 52-year-old actor-writer-director is preparing his New York theater stage debut early in 2002 in his solo show “The Mystery of Charles Dickens”; Patrick Garland, currently repped Off Broadway by “The Woman in Black,” will direct as he did last fall on the West End.

No venue has been named, though Broadway’s Helen Hayes is a possibility. (So are various Off Broadway houses.) As in London, Ambassador Theater Group and ACT Prods. will co-produce alongside American partners still to be named.

n It had to happen, and now it has. Eileen Atkins has joined contemporaries Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Diana Rigg as one of Britain’s select theatrical dames. That means she’s Dame Eileen from this point on, and having just turned 67, high time, too.


“Does it dry up like a dream deferred?” Not half as much as “A Raisin in the Sun” feels like a play restored in David Lan’s immensely stirring production of the Lorraine Hansberry classic, which has one week left to run at the Young Vic. (Production is a co-venture between the Young Vic and the Salisbury Playhouse in England’s West Country.)

It’s possible to imagine a self-important, rather too noble take on this play, which Lan forestalls in favor of an incisive empathy that makes a 42-year-old milestone and social document look absolutely of the moment. (The character of the younger sister Beneatha, for instance, could have stepped out of any of several August Wilson plays.)

There will be room elsewhere to explore the unexpected affinities between this text and “The Cherry Orchard,” which Lan adapted last fall for the National Theater, as well as to extol a cast among whom Novella Nelson and Lennie James, playing mother and son, shine most brightly. (American performer Nelson represents an Equity swap for Toby Stephens in the 1999 Lincoln Center revival on Broadway of “Ring Round the Moon.”)

For now, either hurry to the Young Vic or start planning for the fall, when “A Raisin in the Sun” transfers to a West End that could use this play’s aching humanity.

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