Preparations are under way for Rialto revivals of Neil Simon semi-autobiographical comedies “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and “Broadway Bound,” to play in rep at the same theater next season.
According to producer Emanuel Azenberg, auditions will be held next month to find an actor to play the central character of both plays: Eugene, a young writer whose story is based on Simon’s life. The search will focus on finding a thesp suitable to play teen Eugene in “Brighton”; it has not yet been decided whether the same actor will play the character — who is about 10 years older in “Broadway” — in both shows.
Both plays were popular hits in their original Rialto runs in the 1980s, and seem like a solid bet in a risky economic climate that encourages producers to lean toward pre-established crowd-pleasers and well-known brands. Azenberg, a longtime producer of Simon’s work, will produce the revivals with Ira Pittelman (“The Odd Couple,” “Spring Awakening”).
Taken together, the plots of “Brighton” (set in 1937) and “Broadway” (set in the late 1940s) follow Eugene from his upbringing in Brooklyn to his career as a scribe. Both take place in the protag’s family home, a fact that allows them to play in rep on the same stage.
Matthew Broderick played Eugene in the 1983 preem of “Brighton,” while Jonathan Silverman portrayed the character in “Broadway” in 1986. Azenbergproduced both those runs.
Thesp alums of the original productions also include Linda Lavin, Jason Alexander, Zeljko Ivanek and Elizabeth Franz. “To the extent we can duplicate the cast, we will do it,” Azenberg said.
“Brighton” and “Broadway” are the first and third parts of a Simon trilogy that also includes “Biloxi Blues,” which bowed on the Rialto in 1985 in a production in which Broderick again starred as Eugene. Gene Saks originally helmed “Brighton,” “Biloxi” and “Broadway.”
“Brighton” was adapted into a feature in 1986, and “Broadway” into a telepic in 1992.
For the new revivals, Azenberg has targeted an opening of fall 2009 after a rehearsal period in late summer and early fall. Exact venue remains to be determined.