The stars were everywhere but in the skies over Central Park’s Delacorte Theater Sunday night for the celeb-packed opening of “The Seagull,” directed by Mike Nichols. Ultimately, a thunderstorm KO’d the performance after two valiant tries by Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline & Co. to perform in the rain.
Pre-performance, Nichols and the Public Theater’s George C. Wolfe paced the open-air stage as the producer kept murmuring, “We’ll be OK. We’ll be OK,” despite light precipitation. Nichols’ wife, Diane Sawyer, played unofficial hostess and worked the aisles as Candice Bergen dispensed an umbrella to Nathan Lane, who came with Mario Cantone, and a sweater to Sarah Jessica Parker, who arrived with her husband, Matthew Broderick. Also enduring the inclement weather on decidedly damp seats were Mayor Rudy Giuliani, David Auburn, Richard Avedon, Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Eric Bogosian, Barry Diller, Phil Donahue, Carrie Fisher, Mike Myers, Cynthia Nixon, Leontyne Price, Frank Rich, Gerald Schoenfeld and Carly Simon.
Finally, the show began, albeit 15 minutes late, but not before Nichols announced that due to the electrical storm, use of cell phones was potentially hazardous and that they had to be turned off.
The pouring rain, however, could not be. Five minutes into the production, Christopher Walken as Chekhov’s dissolute Sorin had real problems lighting his cigar when the heavy mist turned into a downpour. He and Philip Seymour Hoffman soon left the stage as the audience put up umbrellas to wait it out. As if on cue, the rain immediately ceased and the show continued after stagehands mopped the performing area. Center stage once again, Walken asked his co-star, “Where was we?”
Streep, Kline and John Goodman made their collective entrance to much applause, but enjoyed no more than 15 minutes onstage together with Marcia Gay Harden and Natalie Portman. Shortly before 9 p.m. the performance was interrupted a second time as lightning flashed repeatedly and even heavier rains fell.
First celeb to bail was Leontyne Price, who had been reprimanded by a fellow theatergoer for putting up her umbrella during the performance, obfuscating the view. More gracious Mike Myers took top honors when he offered his umbrella to an elderly couple who had come unprepared.
In the end, Wolfe took the stage to call it quits for the evening.
A post-perf party at the nearby Belvedere Castle was also canceled. A spokesman for the Public Theater said the gala opening would not be rescheduled.
It was the first performance of the Public’s 2001 season to be rained out at the Delacorte Theater. “The Seagull” performs through Aug. 26. The production is expected to move to a Broadway theater this fall.