West End opens door to B’way ‘Salesman’

Pricey play will open a six-month run May 16 at Lyric

LONDON — The Brian Dennehy/Robert Falls Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” has landed a West End perch nearly five years after the acclaimed production was first discussed for an Old Vic stand that didn’t happen.

Instead, the $2 million-plus venture — arguably the priciest straight play in West End history — will open a six-month run May 16 at the Lyric Theater, Shaftesbury Avenue, now home to “Festen.” Rehearsals start April 4.

The 18-strong company (five understudies included) will mix Brits and Americans. In addition to Dennehy, reprising his Tony-winning perf as Willy Loman, Tony nominee Howard Witt (as Charley) will make the crossing. Leading the Brit lineup is 2005 Olivier nominee Clare Higgins (“Hecuba”) as Willy’s abject wife and Douglas Henshall and Mark Bazely as sons Biff and Happy.

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The revival is being financed from the U.S. by New York producer David Richenthal and his Delphi Prods. With exchange rates favoring the pound, the show, Richenthal noted dryly, “is costing a lot more (now) than it would have five years ago.”

For that reason, the top ticket is expected to crash the £40 ($75) ceiling for nonmusicals on the West End, though Richenthal said there would be student tickets available for less than £10.

Miller’s 1949 “Salesman” is arguably even more revered in Britain than in the U.S. It has been revived twice at the National: in 1979, with Warren Mitchell as Willy, and in 1996, starring Alun Armstrong.

Falls’ 1999 Broadway version got rave reviews and played for nine months. “We want (the London version) to be as good” as the Broadway one, Richenthal told Daily Variety, “and, frankly, our goal is to make it even better.”