"A Goodman is hard to find," quipped one theater wag in response to the abrupt firing of Henry Goodman from his leading role of Max Bialystock in The Producers. Hindsight is 20-20 and, since the dismissal was announced yesterday, people have been coming out of the woodwork to wonder aloud how Mel Brooks and Susan Stroman could have made such a huge blunder. But it's worth noting that Goodman's casting was questioned by many observers from the get-go. Acclaimed in London primarily as a classical actor, he had not previously demonstrated any facility with the very specific type of broad, New York Jewish humor that is The Producers' stock in trade. And, regardless of the quality of his performance, his relatively unknown name on the marquee cannot have been expected to sell many tickets to the show on this side of the Atlantic.
At any rate, though Goodman's firing caused much speculation as to whether or not the show's producers would try to replace him with a "name" star, a publicist for the show confirmed today that Brad Oscar--who has been understudying Max since the show opened and who went on many times in lieu of the role's creator, Nathan Lane--has accepted the offer to take over the part on a full time basis, through December 2002 at least. Until now, Oscar's full time role in the show has been that of Franz Liebkind, the nutso Nazi author of the show within a show Springtime for Hitler. His official installment as Max represents the apex of a truly meteoric career trajectory over the past year. In fact, Oscar was not even originally cast as Liebkind; that part was first played during the show's pre-Broadway engagement in Chicago by Ron Orbach, who had to bow out due to health issues. Oscar was most recently seen on Broadway as part of the ensemble of Jekyll & Hyde but, prior to The Producers, he was probably best known for his inspired clowning in one of the many editions of Forbidden Broadway.
Fans of 1980s television sitcoms are giving three Cheers and will soon be hopping Taxis to the Barrymore Theatre. It has just been announced that Rhea Perlman (best known as Carla on TV's Cheers) and Marilu Henner (Elaine from Taxi) will be the replacements for, respectively, Valerie Harper and Michele Lee in Charles Busch's long-running hit comedy The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, beginning May 28. The next actor to play the Tony Roberts role of the allergist has not yet been named. (Would Perlman's husband, Danny DeVito, be too obvious a suggestion?)
Though Henner has worked on Broadway in Grease, Over Here, Pal Joey, Social Security, and Chicago, Perlman's bio in the press release that announced her casting lists no stage credits whatsoever. Those who know her only as the scrappy, vulgar Carla on Cheers may be surprised by her casting as the more sophisticated, affected, intellectually voracious Marjorie Taub in Allergist's. Should make for an interesting performance!
The Tale of the Allergist's Wife opened on Broadway in November 2000 after its premiere run at Manhattan Theater Club and is currently the longest-running comedy on Broadway. Harper, Roberts, and Lee will give their final performances in the New York production on Sunday, May 26 prior to headlining the national tour of the show, which begins in Los Angeles.
Though certain categories of the annual Outer Critics Circle Awards are segregated--e.g., Outstanding Broadway Play and Outstanding Broadway Musical--the awards are set up so that actors, directors, choreographers, etc. of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows may be placed in competition with each other (though, of course, nobody likes the word "competition").
This year's list of nominees, announced yesterday, might at first strike one as quite Broadway-heavy. Indeed, only one actor in a show now playing Off-Broadway has been nominated: Joseph McKenna, as Oustanding Featured Actor for his performance in The Golem. But this apparent imbalance is at least partly due to the fact that four high profile shows represented very well among the nominees began in Off-Broadway venues: Urinetown, Metamorphoses, Topdog/Underdog, and Elaine Stritch: At Liberty.
The 52-year-old Outer Critics Circle association is made up journalists who cover New York theater for out-of-town newspapers, national publications, and other media. This season's winners will be announced on Monday, April 29, and the awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, May 23 at Sardi's Restaurant at 4pm. Below is a complete list of the 2001-2002 nominees:
OUTSTANDING BROADWAY PLAY
OUTSTANDING OFF-BROADWAY PLAY
Franz Kafka's The Castle
OUTSTANDING BROADWAY MUSICAL
Sweet Smell of Success
Thoroughly Modern Millie
OUTSTANDING OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL
The Last 5 Years
The Spitfire Grill
Summer of '42
OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A PLAY
The Elephant Man
Morning's at Seven
OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
Into the Woods
OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A PLAY
Jeremy Sams, Noises Off
Scott Schwartz, Franz Kafka's The Castle
Daniel Sullivan, Morning's at Seven
George C. Wolfe, Topdog/Underdog
Mary Zimmerman, Metamorphoses
OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL
James Lapine, Into the Woods
Michael Mayer, Thoroughly Modern Millie
Trevor Nunn, Oklahoma!
John Rando, Urinetown
Rob Ashford, Thoroughly Modern Millie
John Carrafa, Urinetown
Susan Stroman, Oklahoma!
Christopher Wheeldon, Sweet Smell of Success
OUTSTANDING SET DESIGN
John Lee Beatty, Morning's at Seven
Allen Moyer, The Dazzle
Douglas Stein, 36 Views
Anthony Ward, Oklahoma!
OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN
Santo Loquasto, The Elephant Man
Isaac Mizrahi, The Women
Martin Pakledinaz, Thoroughly Modern Millie
Anthony Ward, Oklahoma!
OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN
David Hersey, Oklahoma!
Donald Holder, Thoroughly Modern Millie
James F. Ingalls, The Elephant Man
David Weiner, 36 Views
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Alan Bates, Fortune's Fool
Ian McKellan, Dance of Death
Liam Neeson, The Crucible
Bill Pullman, The Goat
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Kate Burton, Hedda Gabler
Laura Linney, The Crucible
Helen Mirren, Dance of Death
Mercedes Ruehl, The Goat
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
John Cullum, Urinetown
Brian d'Arcy James, Sweet Smell of Success
Hunter Foster, Urinetown
John Lithgow, Sweet Smell of Success
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Sutton Foster, Thoroughly Modern Millie
Josefina Gabrielle, Oklahoma!
Kerry O'Malley, Into the Woods
Louise Pitre, Mamma Mia!
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
Frank Langella, Fortune's Fool
Joseph McKenna, The Golem
Stephen Tobolowsky, Morning's at Seven
David Warner, Major Barbara
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Katie Finneran, Noises Off
Elizabeth Franz, Morning's at Seven
Julie Hagerty, Morning's at Seven
Dana Ivey, Major Barbara
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Norbert Leo Butz, Thou Shalt Not
Justin Bohon, Oklahoma!
Shuler Hensley, Oklahoma!
Marc Kudisch, Thoroughly Modern Millie
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Laura Benanti, Into the Woods
Angela Christian, Thoroughly Modern Millie
Spencer Kayden, Urinetown
Andrea Martin, Oklahoma!
OUTSTANDING SOLO PERFORMANCE
Kevin Bacon, An Almost Holy Picture
John Leguizamo, Sexaholix
Charles Nelson Reilly, Save It for the Stage: The Life of Reilly
Elaine Stritch, Elaine Stritch at Liberty
JOHN GASSNER AWARD
(Presented for an American play, preferably by a new playwright)
Rebecca Gilman, The Glory of Living
Richard Greenberg, The Dazzle
Naomi Iizuka, 36 Views
Suzan-Lori Parks, Topdog/Underdog
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD WINNERS
Mos Def and Jeffrey Wright for their performances in Topdog/Underdog