With the extended run of hit Broadway comedy “It’s Only a Play” necessitating the exit of some of its stars, producers have tapped theater-world favorite Katie Finneran and “30 Rock” alum Maulik Pancholy to step into the show to replace Megan Mullally and Rupert Grint, respectively.
They’ll join the cast in early January, soon after Martin Short rotates in to replace Nathan Lane, who exits for a toplining stint in “The Iceman Cometh” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music later this winter.
Two-time Tony winner Finneran (“Promises, Promises,” “Noises Off”) will play naive first-time theater producer Julia Budder, while Pancholy (“Weeds”) portrays the wunderkind British director of the new Broadway play Julia is producing. The two actors plus Short come aboard a cast that will include original ensemble members Matthew Broderick, Stockard Channing and F. Murray Abraham.
“It’s Only a Play,” Terrence McNally’s broad backstage comedy powered by a slew of familiar faces in the cast, has turned into the fall season’s top-selling non-musical, raking in the kind of elevated grosses that are more common to large-scale musicals. As the new cast rotates into the production, box office observers will be watching to see if the show can maintain its megaselling momentum.
Although Finneran has had plenty of TV work — most recently on NBC’s “The Michael J. Fox” show — she hasn’t achieved the same smallscreen profile as Mullally (“Will and Grace,” “Parks and Recreation”). Pancholy, meanwhile, doesn’t come pre-loaded with the huge “Harry Potter” fanbase that Grint brought to the table. However, the play itself may be able to do some of the heavy lifting in attracting audiences, now that it’s become a head-turning hit.
Finneran and Pancholy kick off their stints in “It’s Only a Play” on Jan. 7, soon before the entire production picks up and moves next door to the Jacobs Theater, where the show begins performances Jan. 23.