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‘Daisy’ starting engines for tour

Producers aim for London, U.S. sked in fall 2012

The producers of the Broadway staging of “Driving Miss Daisy” are laying plans to ride the show into London in the fall, ahead of a U.S. national tour that aims to launch in fall 2012.

Blighty stint, if it comes together, would star Main Stem topliners Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones. Target dates would put the show on the West End for a limited fall run ahead of Jones’ upcoming gig in the Broadway revival of “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man,” skedded for spring 2012.

Redgrave and Jones aren’t expected to star in the road incarnation.

Driving Miss Daisy,” which began perfs Oct. 7, became one of the strongest-grossing non-musicals on Broadway in its first few months on the boards, powered by the name recognition of its two stars as well as the high profile of the title itself, which was adapted into an Oscar-winning 1989 movie.

In more recent weeks, B.O. at “Daisy” has slid in the post-holiday slump that traditionally affects all of Broadway. According to Jed Bernstein, who produces with Adam Zotovich, advance sales have picked up since January and receipts are expected to rise in the coming month.

Casting for the road version of “Daisy” has not yet begun, but producers said they’re considering name actors not just for the two older roles — the title character and her chaffeur — but also for the part of Daisy’s son (played by Boyd Gaines on the Main Stem).

Bernstein and Zotovich considered trying to pull together a tour for next season, but since many presenters’ season skeds were already booked up, they opted to wait. “It’s an evergreen title that doesn’t have to go this minute,” Bernstein said.

Viable touring productions of non-musicals have proven rare in recent years. While prize-magnet “August: Osage County” garnered enough dates at regional presenters to warrant a tour, “God of Carnage,” one of the major play hits of the 2008-09 Broadway season, scuttled a road version when a handful of potential stops unexpectedly dropped out of the sked.

“Daisy,” though, seems likely to attract interest from a wide number of markets, thanks in large part to its well-known title. A recent example of an unusually successful touring play, the Roundabout Theater Company’s “12 Angry Men,” also benefitted from a title familiar from a film version (not to mention regular amateur and stock productions).

12 Angry Men” was out on the road for two seasons, a long time for a non-tuner. “Having a play that has broader exposure and awareness that’s beyond a couple square blocks in Manhattan, that helps,” said Roundabout managing director Harold Wolpert.

Star casting also helps, although road productions tend not to require the kind of top-tier celeb casting that Broadway does to attract robust sales.

The revival of Alfred Uhry’s “Daisy,” helmed by David Esbjornson, ends its extended Gotham run April 9.

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